Journal of
African Studies and Development

  • Abbreviation: J. Afr. Stud. Dev
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-2189
  • DOI: 10.5897/JASD
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 197

Full Length Research Paper

A survey of university students’ views on the nature and significance of nicknames to the Shona people of Zimbabwe

Felix Petros Mapako
  • Felix Petros Mapako
  • Department of Curriculum Studies, Faculty of Education, Great Zimbabwe University, Box 1235, Masvingo, Zimbabwe.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 26 August 2015
  •  Accepted: 03 November 2015
  •  Published: 31 August 2016


Nicknames are an integral part of human experience in many cultures in the world over, and some scholars believe that they have a cultural significance to the relevant society. This study is a report of a survey of a purposively sampled group of fifty Great Zimbabwe University students’ views, gathered through a questionnaire, on nick-name usage among the Shona-speaking people of Zimbabwe. The group of respondents comprised students, in their first semester at university, drawn from across the Zimbabwean social and dialectical divide. In this study, only nick-names used by the Shona people were predominant because the researcher’s first language is Shona and it was, therefore, felt that interpretation would be easier. Some people may think that nicknames are a trivial phenomenon of human existence but this survey revealed that they are significant to both bearers and users and are an indispensable aspect of human existence. Some may be used for convenience of usage while others may reflect the bearer’s behaviour, physical appearance, social status in life or simply an important incident in a person’s life. Yet others have personality traits of their carriers embedded in them. It could also be argued that some of these names are used arbitrarily while others are an important reflection of and offer important insights into the relevant people’s norms, values and history and the cultural intrusion of the West, particularly with short forms of actual names which bearers were given at birth.

Key words: Nicknames, semiotics, onomasticon, dialectical, significance, Shona-speaking.