Feature Names and Identity in Zimbabwe

  • Emmanuel Chabata University of Zimbabwe


This paper is about feature names in Zimbabwe. It focuses on the role played by place names in defining Zimbabwe, both as a physical entity and as a community of speakers with a remarkable history and a sense of nationhood. The paper thus focuses on two types of place names, that is, those that refer to the natural landscape, such as mountains and rivers, as well as those that refer to man-made features such as roads and streets, hospitals and schools. Regarding names that are bestowed onto the features of the natural landscape, we will look at how some place names vividly describe the outstanding features or characteristics of particular geographical features, that is, the extent to which the names are used as tools in describing the features; the way the eye meets the landscape. We will also look at how some names of physical features are coined in response to the landscape's 'behaviour' or in relation to the link the landscape has with historical event(s). The paper will also look at how the bestowal of commemorative names on Zimbabwean features has been used in concretising the Zimbabwean people's link with the country's history, that is, how Zimbabweans have tried to define themselves as a people through naming some of their popular places after names of the country's heroes and heroines, both living and dead.