Ovaneumbo vange

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Chapter 5

Ovaneumbo vange

Edina lange oSalom.
Onda dja kOshikwiyu. Ondi na eedula omilongo
mbali na hetatu. Ohandi kala 
novakulunhu vange.

Meme wange edina laye oSaima. Oku na
eedula omilongo nhano na nhano.

Tate wange edina laye oTangeni. Oku na
eedula omilongo hamano na imwe.

Ondi na ovamwameme yatatu, 
omumwamemekadona umwe
novamwamememati vavali. Ame

Omumwamemekadona edina laye
oTresia. Oku na eedula omilongo nhatu. 
Ye oshiveli. Oha kala nomushamane 
waye kOshakati.

Omumwamememati edina laye
oNangolo. Oku na eedula omilongo
mbali nanhano. Oha kala novakulunhu
yetu kOshikwiyu. Naye onowele.

Onghelo yetu oFrans
oku na eedula omilongo mbali nambali. Oha kala
kOvenduka kouniveesiti. 

Meekulu wange oha kala nafye. Oku na 
eedula omilongo hetatu na imwe.

Naave, oove lye? 
English Oshikwanyama
Family Ovaneumbo / Edimo
My father Tate
Your father Xo
His/her father Xe
My mother Meme
His/her mother Ina
My sibling Omumwameme
My brother Omumwamememati
My sister Omumwamemekadona
Your sibling Omumwanyoko
Omumwanyoko Omumwaina
Little brother or sister Okandenge
Grandmother Me(m)ekulu
Child Okaana (plural: Ounona)
Baby Okaana / Okahanana
First-born Oshiveli
Middle-born (neither first nor last) Onowele
Last-born Onghelo
Friend Kaume
Female friend Kahewa
Visitor Omweenda / Omutalelipo
Neighbor Omushiinda
Husband / Man Omus(h)amane
Wife / Woman Omukulukadi
Fiancé (man) Omuvaleki
Fiancée (woman) Omuvalekwa
I am engaged. (woman) Onda valekwa.
Parents Ovakulunhu
Young person Omunyasha
Younger person (than you) Omunini
Elder person Omukulunhu
Who’s that? Olye oo?

Quick Tips

  • As you can see, the Oshikwanyama words for “sister” and “brother” are just specialized forms of “sibling”. So to make “his brother”, you would say omumwaina + mati = omumwainamati.
  • The words for “mother” and “father” depend on the person to whom you are referring. However, it is acceptable to use meme and tate to speak of any mother or father. For example, to say “his mother”, you can say ina, or you can simply say meme waye (literally, “his 'my mother'”).


~ Oshififinwa ohashi shikula omhadi. ~ The heel follows the foot. (You follow the behavior of your family.)

Grammar Corner: Noun Classes: Singular and Plural

In English, nouns can be divided into two groups, singular and plural. In Romance languages, nouns can have genders, and adjectives have to agree with nouns in gender and number. In Oshikwanyama, there are many different classes of nouns, which are determined by the prefix that the noun has. Each class makes plurals in a different way, as shown in the chart below.

Noun class Prefix of singular nouns Prefix of plural nouns
1* omu- ova-
1a** (none) oo-
2*** omu- omi-
3 e- oma-
4 oshi- oi-
5**** o- ee-
6 olu- omalu-
7 oka- ou-
8***** ou- omau-
9 oku- omaku- / oma -

* Noun class 1 only contains nouns that refer to people.

** Noun class 1a only contains nouns that refer to people, but that do not begin with omu-, e.g. Tate, Meme, Kuku, as well as people’s names.

*** Noun class 2 has nouns that begin with omu- but do not refer to people.

**** If a noun cannot be a member of any other class, it belongs to noun class 5.

***** Ou- as a singular prefix generally refers to abstract concepts, e.g. oufiku (night) and outalala (cold). The plural form is used rarely.

You will probably begin to notice that certain noun prefixes are used for certain kinds of things. For example, names of trees have the prefix omu- (class 2), and small things start with oka-.

Exercise 1

Translate the following Oshikwanyama words into English, then form their plural in Oshikwanyama.

Example: Omumwameme => Sibling => Ovamwameme

Oshikwanyama Noun English Meaning Plural in Oshikwanyama

Grammar Corner: Questions Listed below are some common question words.

English Oshikwanyama
Where? Peni?
When? (which day) Naini?
When? (what time) Efimbo peni?
Who? (O)lye?
Why? Omolwashike? / Oshike?
What? (O)shike?
How? (O)ngaipi? / (O)ngahelipi
How many? -ngapi?
Which? -lipi?

Questions are formed in two ways. The first way is to put the question word at the end of the sentence:

Where are you going? Oto i peni?
What are you doing? Oto ningi shike?
Where is Meme Sylvia? Meme Sylvia oku li peni?

The second way is to put the question word at the beginning of the sentence. In this case, the initial o on the subject concord shifts to go in front of the question word:

Who is singing? Olye ta imbi?
Why are you crying? Omolwashike to lili?

Informal questions are often followed by hano, as in oto i peni, hano? There is a tendency to drop the final o, so it is often pronounced ’to i penyan?Translations of "how many" and "which" are given here for your information. Using them is a bit tricky. For more information, see chapter six.

Exercise 2

Answer the following questions about Salom’s family.

  1. Salom oku na ovamwaina vangapi?
  2. Meekulu waye oku na eedula ngapi?
  3. Omumwainakadona waye oha kala peni?
  4. Salom okwa dja peni?
  5. Frans ota ningi shike kOvenduka?
  6. Oshike Tresia iha kala na Salom?


~ Oshi ya twa mumwe noshima. ~

A fish is cooked with a tortoise. (You have to take the bad things with the good.)

Grammar Corner: Noun Classes: Possessives

Take another look at the beginning of this chapter: Edina lange oSalom. Literally, “My name is Salom.” At the end of the same paragraph, we have ovakulunhu vange, “my parents”. You may already see that the words that indicate possession (“my”, “your”, etc.) depend on what is being possessed: “my” can translate as lange, or yange, or even other words. The root of all these words, -ange, denotes “my”. The prefix must agree with the possessed object.

Noun prefix Possessive pronoun prefix
omu- w-
ova- v-
omu- (not people) w-
omi- d-
e- l-
oma- -
oshi- sh-
oi- y-
olu- l(w)-
oka- k-
ou- (plural) v-
ou- (singular) w-
oku- kw-
o- (anything else - group 5 singular) y-
ee- (group 5 plural) d-

To form a possessive pronoun, select the proper prefix from the chart above and combine it with the root of the person you want:

English Oshikwanyama person Possessive Root
My Ame -ange
Your Ove -oye
His/Her/Its Ye -aye
Our Fye -etu
Your (plural) Nye -eni
Their Vo -avo

For now, focus on groups 1 and 5 and “my” and “your”. Use w-/v- with people and y-/ d- with things. This is a lot of information right now, so try to break it into the pieces that you will use most often. With enough practice, this will come to you naturally.

My learner omulongwa w-ange
Your elders ovakulupe v-oye
My pen opena yange
Your pens eepena doye

Exercise 3

  1. Draw up your own family tree. Present it to a friend.
  2. Ask who the members of an Owambo family are and how they relate to each other. Then draw up their family tree. Good lucky!

Exercise 4

Match each noun with the correct possessive concord.

meme (my) loye
ongobe (your) wange
kaume/kahewa (his/her) vaye
omatako (my) yange
okaana (our) yavo
oihauto (their) yoye
omiti (y’all’s) ange
ovanhu (his/her) yoye
omhadi (my) koye
olukaku (your) ketu
omakutwi (their) letu
oikombo (their) yavo
okayaxa (your) kaye
ohema (your) deni
eumbo (our) avo


  • Having many members in the family is regarded as a good thing, because the workload in the household can be divided amongst everyone.
  • All my mother’s sisters (aunts) are my mothers.
  • All my father’s brothers are my fathers.
  • Cousins are sometimes known as brothers and sisters.
  • If you can figure out how everyone on a homestead is related, you are a genius. Or, the family speaks very good English.
  • If a meme calls you, you should respond Meem’. If you are summoned by your Tate, say Taat’. If it is by an older person, say Mee’ku or Tatee’ku. Otherwise, say ee.

Oshikundu Shetu by Papa François

Oshikundu shetu Omalodu etu Omaongo etu Oikulya yo moNamibia Oshifima shetu Omungome wetu Omahola etu Oikulya yo moNamibia