Hamba kahle old friend!

by oneafrikan on April 21, 2006

As a white person speaking Zulu, you kinda stick to the basics, especially when communicating with real Zulu people. Hamba kahle means to “go well” or “stay well”, not really goodbye.

Today a good friend of mine leaves sunny London to join his wife in Durban, South Africa, and although I know I’m going to miss him. Mainly because he is one of those guys in life who you will always have time for, and likewise he will always have time for you. We were at the same secondary school together (he was a few years ahead of me), so we have some sort of background, but we didn’t really know each other then. It was only after coming to London all those years ago and meeting him at a party that we started being friends. Since then we’ve done some crazy things and had some good times, and this is what I’m going to miss – playing hockey together, being able to pick up the phone and catch up, or go for a beer after not seeing each other for months, then catch up on the important things in an evening.

Some of the fondest memories I have of Alun are of the words he/we used to describe things, so I’m gonna share them here ‘cos they are kinda funny:
hamba kahle – (humba gaghle) – stay well, see you soon, good bye
zulufoet – (zulu-fooet) – hurry the hell up, you got a piano on your back?
malacca – (malacca) – don’t ask ;-)
amanzi – (a-maan-zi) – water
poesa poesa – (poezza) – drinking, we’re going for a drink
madoda – (ma-doda) – a mark of respect, talking about older people or family
bru – (brew) – Durban slang for “brother”
More zulu references here…

So, so long old friend, hamba kahle madoda. See you in Durban!


I was born in Durban and my parents lived there for most of their time in South Africa. My favourite Zulu word that was widely used was always “muti”, for medicine. When we moved to the Western Cape it really bugged my mum that all the tannies used to look at her askance for encouraging me to take my muti when I was ill…

by Meri on April 21, 2006 at 12:40 pm. Reply #

Hey Meri

Hehe, that’s a good one ;-) Muti has so many connotations…

Another word we used was “jambuti” which for us meant “the drinking medicine” – not sure where that comes from but it sounds cool enough! ;-)

by Gareth Knight on April 24, 2006 at 3:38 pm. Reply #

So … What is muti in English?
Joking, but it is like many words, we did not even realise we used. Ahhh … The good Ol’ days!

by Liz on March 9, 2016 at 10:47 am. Reply #

Hamba Kahle means go well. You will say it when you know you will not see someone for a long time, or ever. We in particularly use it when bidding farewell to the dead.

SALA KAHLE means stay well – not Hamba Kahle.

by Charlene Smith on March 14, 2016 at 11:37 am. Reply #

Hey, Mom’s from north of Durban – thanks for this – I’ve known the phrase:

hamba kahle – (humba gaghle) – stay well, see you soon, good bye
all my life, but the spelling has always been illusive.


by Colin on November 8, 2018 at 3:54 pm. Reply #

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