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Counting in Zulu

Enter a number and get it written in full in Zulu.

Language overview

The Zulu language (isiZulu) belongs to the Niger–Congo languages family, and more specifically to the Bantu branch. It is spoken in South Africa (where it is co-oficial with ten other languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, and Xhosa), but also in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, and counts about 10.3 million speakers.
Due to lack of data, we can only count accurately up to 1,000,000 in Zulu. Please contact us if you can help us counting up from that limit.

Clicks in Zulu

Zulu is a language with clicks, borrowed from the neighboring Khoisan languages from South and East Africa, such as Taa (or !Xóõ), !Kung (or !Xũ), Juǀʼhoans (or Zhuǀ’hõasi), and Khoekhoe (or Nàmá). Other Bantu languages like Xhosa and Sotho use clicks. A click is a sound produced with the tongue or the lips without using the lungs. The Zulu language counts three of them: the dental click, the palatal click, and the lateral click.

  • The dental click is produced by placing the tongue against the upper teeth and by removing it abruptly, like in the tsk! tsk! onomatopeia. Noted ǀ in the International Phonetic Alphabet, it is transcribed by the letter c.
  • The palatal click is produced by placing the tip of the tongue in contact with the palate and by lowering the tongue. Noted ǂ in the International Phonetic Alphabet, it is transcribed by the letter q.
  • The lateral click is produced by placing the tongue against the upper teeth, the air escaping from the sides, like in the tchick! sound used to spur on a horse. Noted ǁ in the International Phonetic Alphabet, it is transcribed by the letter x.

Body language counting

The Zulus count on their fingers starting with the little finger of the left hand to the left thumb, and continuing with the thumb of the right hand. The digits from six to nine keep the meaning of that way of counting: the word for six, isithupha, means “thumb”, the word for seven, isikhombisa, means “the one that points out”, eight, or isishiyagalombili, means “two remain”, and finally nine, or isishiyagalolunye, means “one remains”.

Zulu numbering rules

  • Digits from zero to nine are specific words, namely iqanda [0], kunye [1], kubili [2], kuthathu [3], kune [4], kuhlanu (or isihlanu) [5], isithupha [6], isikhombisa [7], isishiyagalombili [8], and isishiyagalolunye [9]. The one to five digits are actually roots prefixed with ku when used in general counting, such as the digits five (its second form) to nine, which are prefixed with isi.
  • When compound, the unit root is prefixed with either na, nam, nan or nes depending on its first letter. Thus the compound digits are: nanye [1], nambili [2], nantathu [3], nane [4], nanhlanu (or nesihlanu) [5], nesithupha [6], nesikhombisa [7], nesishiyagalombili [8], and nesishiyagalolunye [9].
  • The tens are formed by putting the word amashumi (plural form of ishumi, ten) before the multiplier digit separated with a space, except for ten itself: ishumi [10], amashumi amabili [20], amashumi amathathu [30], amashumi amane [40], amashumi amahlanu [50], amashumi ayisithupha [60], amashumi ayisikhombisa [70], amashumi ayisishiyagalombili [80], and amashumi ayisishiyagalolunye [90].
  • Compound numbers are formed by saying the ten, then the compound unit form, separated with a space (e.g.: ishumi nesikhombisa [17], amashumi amahlanu nesishiyagalolunye [59]).
  • The hundreds are built stating the word for hundred (ikhulu, and amakhulu in plural), then the multiplier digit root prefixed with either ama or ay depending on its first letter, separated with a space, except for one hundred itself: ikhulu [100], amakhulu amabili [200], amakhulu amathathu [300], amakhulu amane [400], amakhulu amahlanu [500], amakhulu ayisithupha [600], amakhulu ayisikhombisa [700], amakhulu ayisishiyagalombili [800], and amakhulu ayisishiyagalolunye [900].
  • The thousands follow the same structure, the word for thousand being inkulungwane (which plural is izinkulungwane), the unit prefix being either ezim or ezin: inkulungwane [1,000], izinkulungwane ezimbili [2,000], izinkulungwane ezintathu [3,000], izinkulungwane ezine [4,000], izinkulungwane ezinhlanu [5,000], izinkulungwane eziyisithupha [6,000], izinkulungwane eziyisikhombisa [7,000], izinkulungwane eziyisishiyagalombili [8,000], and izinkulungwane eziyisishiyagalolunye [9,000].
  • One million is isigidi (plural form: izigidi).

Books

Complete Zulu with Two Audio CDs: A Teach Yourself GuideComplete Zulu with Two Audio CDs: A Teach Yourself Guide
by , editors McGraw-Hill (2011)
[Amazon.com Amazon.com]

Collins Zulu Phrasebook: The Right Word in Your PocketCollins Zulu Phrasebook: The Right Word in Your Pocket
editors HarperCollins UK (2008)
[Amazon.com Amazon.com, Kindle - Amazon.com Kindle - Amazon.com]

Compact Zulu Dictionary: English-Zulu, Zulu-EnglishCompact Zulu Dictionary: English-Zulu, Zulu-English
by , editors Educa Books (2006)
[Amazon.com Amazon.com]

Le Zoulou de pocheLe Zoulou de poche
by , editors Assimil (2008)
[Amazon.com Amazon.com]

Numbers list

1 – kunye
2 – kubili
3 – kuthathu
4 – kune
5 – kuhlanu
6 – isithupha
7 – isikhombisa
8 – isishiyagalombili
9 – isishiyagalolunye
10 – ishumi
11 – ishumi nanye
12 – ishumi nambili
13 – ishumi nantathu
14 – ishumi nane
15 – ishumi nanhlanu
16 – ishumi nesithupha
17 – ishumi nesikhombisa
18 – ishumi nesishiyagalombili
19 – ishumi nesishiyagalolunye
20 – amashumi amabili
30 – amashumi amathathu
40 – amashumi amane
50 – amashumi amahlanu
60 – amashumi ayisithupha
70 – amashumi ayisikhombisa
80 – amashumi ayisishiyagalombili
90 – amashumi ayisishiyagalolunye
100 – ikhulu
1,000 – inkulungwane
one million – isigidi
Source

Sources

  • Le zoulou de poche, by Irène Roussat, editors Assimil (2008)
  • Zulu phrasebook, Wikitravel

Bantu languages

Lingala, Mwani, Punu, Shona, Swahili, and Zulu.

Other supported languages

Supported languages by families
As the other currently supported languages are too numerous to list extensively here, please select a language from the following select box, or from the full list of supported languages.