Khoikhoi

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Khoikhoi (koi´koi´), people numbering about 55,000 mainly in Namibia and in W South Africa. The Khoikhoi have been called Hottentots by whites in South Africa. In language and in physical type the Khoikhoi appear to be related to the San (Bushmen), i.e., they speak a variation of the Khoisan, or Click, language (see African languages. Both are generally much lighter in complexion than the neighboring Bantu, and genetic studies suggests that both became isolated from other humans around 100,000 years ago. Historically a pastoral people, inhabiting the coast of the Cape of Good Hope in historic times, the Khoikhoi were the first native people to come into contact (mid-17th cent.) with the Dutch settlers. As the Dutch took over land for farms, the Khoikhoi were dispossessed, exterminated, or enslaved, and their numbers dwindled. They were formerly divided into 10 clans, each ruled by a headman and councillors elected by universal male suffrage. The Khoikhoi have largely disappeared as a group, except for the Namas (see Namaqualand) of SW Africa, who still live as pastoral nomads. Most Khoikhoi now are settled in villages, living as farmers and laborers.

See I. Schapera, The Khoisan Peoples of South Africa (1930, repr. 1965); P. Heap, The Story of Hottentots Holland (1970).

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Hottentot used to refer to Khoikhoi peoples of South Africa and Namibia. The term comes from Dutch, perhaps a repetitive formula in a Nama dancing-song, transferred by Dutch sailors to the people themselves, or from German hotteren-totteren ‘stutter’ (with reference to their click language).

The word Hottentot is first recorded in the late 17th century and was a name applied by white Europeans to the Khoikhoi. It is now regarded as offensive with reference to people and should always be avoided in favour of Khoikhoi or the names of the particular peoples. The only standard use for Hottentot in modern use is in the names of animals and plants.

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Hottentot (Khoikhoi) Khoisan-speaking people of s Africa, now almost extinct. Traditionally nomadic, many were displaced or exterminated by Dutch settlers. Descendants have mostly been absorbed into the South African population.

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Hot·ten·tot / ˈhätnˌtät/ • n. & adj. used to refer to Khoikhoi peoples.

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