Rethabile Masilo, a Lesotho national living in Paris, has blogs On English and On Sesotho, the latter dedicated to the Southern Sotho language of Lesotho and South Africa; from a recent post I learned the etymology and pronunciation of the name of Gauteng Province:

Go Tang? Anyway, that’s what it sounded like. I was lazily watching a Q&A TV show this morning before going to work when the guy suddenly asked, “What is the capital city of South Africa’s Go Tang province?” I speak French, so I immediately caught on (not that it was hard to do so), and realised he was talking about Gauteng, or as we prefer to write it in Lesotho, Khauteng.

That first sound, Gauteng or Khauteng, is the same sound you find in Lochness, or Vereeniging, or Khomeini…—it is aspirated and should be felt on the upper palate when correctly said. But how could the guy know? One of the favourite questions on such shows here in France is: Quelle est la capitale du Lesotho?

Gauta or Khauta is ‘gold’; in Sesotho we add the –eng or –ong or –ing suffix, depending on the noun class involved, to indicate ‘place of’. Gauteng or Khauteng is thus the place of gold, morohong is where we go to pick greens (eg dandelions), bolong is the stadium, for example, where football is played, sekolong is at school, Mangaung is the Sesotho name for the town of Bloemfontein, and means the place of leopards.


  1. LH, thanks for a fascinating article. The links are excellent – from a history of Sesotho literature to an article on witchcraft. And how much more appropriate the name Gauteng (place of gold) than Johannes’s mountain (Johannes who?). Brilliant.

  2. I thought you’d like it, Eliza!

  3. Pas de quoi! And I will add “Katiba ea Puo” to my list of multilingual LH equivalents.

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