Ever wondered what the name of the capital city of Namibia, Windhoek, mean? To me, thinking about the English beginning ‘Wind‘, I wonder if its name has something to do with wind, even though Namibia was never a British colony? However the end part ‘Hoek‘ does not sound English at all. Could the name be a European ‘deformation’ of a local name, the way Yaoundé or Abidjan are?
Well, imagine my surprise when I found out that Windhoek stand for ‘wind-hoek‘ or “Wind Corner” in Afrikaans (Windhuk in German). Knowing that the country was a German colony, why will it have an Afrikaans’ name? The two languages being so close together, maybe the name was first German, and later on Afrikaans, given that the country fell under South African ‘administration’ after Germany lost first world war. Well, it is said that the city was founded in 1844, by Captain Jonker Afrikaner who named it Windhoek after the Winterhoek Mountains at Tulbagh in South Africa, where his ancestors originated from.
In its history, the city of Windhoek has had at least 7 different names: “Aigams” for hot springs as named by the local nomadic Khoekhoe people; “Otjomuise” for the place of steam as named by the local Herero people; both names referring to the hot springs located near today’s city center. It was later named “Queen Adelaide’s Bath” by English explorers in 1836. Then it was named “Concordiaville” by Rhenish Missionaries. In 1840, it was named “Winterhoek” by Jonker Afrikaner and his group of Nama people who were emigrating from the Cape. It became “Windhuk” in 1890 with the German colonization of the country, and it has been “Windhoek” since 1920 under South African administration and has remained so after independence in 1990.
Located in the Khomas Highland plateau area, in central Namibia, Windhoek stands at around 1700 m above sea level. It is the social, economic, political, industrial, and cultural center of the country. It is a bustling, growing city, and tourism is playing a big part in the city’s life as well. Enjoy the video below about Windhoek.
12 thoughts on “Why the Name: Windhoek?”
Is it pronounced like the German where W has the sound of a V?
Yes… it is pronounced in German with the W as a V
thanks for that insight. i almost went to Windhoek last year – sadly my holiday had to get cancelled when my husband fell ill. another year maybe
Yes… indeed. Another year… I do hope your husband is better now. So… there will be lots of trips in the future.
Thank you for posting this. It is extremely educational. They have great things going on in Windhoek! It is good to see this!
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Thanks… I totally agree with you.
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Its not German, Windhoek is made up by two dutch words: “wind” and “hoek”, which indeed means wind corner. The Netherlands have had a profound influence on the South-African language. If you examine the spelling of Afrikaans carefully, you’ll find more similarities with the dutch language rather than german. The word corner in German is called Die Ecke. Jonker Afrikaner was born near the dutch cape colony, which explains why he would choose the name Windhoek. Coincedentally, at the time german priests did settle in Windhoek, whilst the dutch did not.
Thanks for your comment.
I wasn’t that familiar with Namibia until about last year (I’ve heard of the country for a long time since I like geography though). It was strange how the city has a Germanic-sounding name and it makes sense that it would be in Afrikaans. To be fair, there are certainly multiple cities with non-African names across the continent, but it still felt weird. Besides that, Windhoek does look like a beautiful city.
Yes… there are still a lot of cities in Africa, and in the world with names inherited from colonial times.
Yes… Windhoek is beautiful! I was fortunate enough to visit it. It is beautiful, dry (in the desert), and gorgeous, and of course with streets named after their great olympian Frankie Fredericks, and great heroes.
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It’s something I’ve noticed. Windhoek certainly looks amazing and I would like to visit there. It’s awesome that you got to visit there. Good on them for naming a street after Frankie Fredericks.
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