Native toNamibia, Botswana, Angola
RegionKunene, Omaheke Region and Otjozondjupa Region in Namibia; Ghanzi in Botswana; Namibe, Huíla and Cunene in Angola
EthnicityHerero, Himba, Mbanderu, Tjimba, Kwisi, Twa
Native speakers
250,000 (2015–2018)[1]
Latin (Herero alphabet)
Herero Braille
Language codes
ISO 639-1hz Herero
ISO 639-2her Herero
ISO 639-3her Herero
Glottologhere1253  Herero
R.30 (R31,311,312); R.101 (Kuvale)[2]
The disparate distribution of the Herero language in Namibia, showing the concentration of Herero speakers on the Kalahari boundary in the east, as well as the outlying Herero-speaking Himba people of the Kaokoveld in the far north-west.
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
OmuHerero, OmuHimba, OmuMbanderu
OvaHerero, OvaHimba, OvaMbanderu
OtjiHerero, OtjiHimba, OtjiMbanderu
A Herero speaker, recorded in Namibia.

Herero (Otjiherero) is a Bantu language spoken by the Herero and Mbanderu peoples in Namibia and Botswana, as well as by small communities of people in southwestern Angola. There were 250,000 speakers in these countries between 2015 and 2018.[1]


Its linguistic distribution covers a zone called Hereroland, which is constituted of the region of Omaheke along with the Otjozondjupa and Kunene Regions. The Himba people, who are related to the Herero and Mbanderu, speak a dialect very close to Otjiherero. Many Herero-speakers live in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.



Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ
plain p t k
prenasal ᵐb ⁿd̪ ⁿd ⁿdʒ ᵑɡ
Fricative voiceless (f) θ (s) h
voiced v ð
Trill r
Approximant w (l) j

The sounds /f s l/ are found in loanwords.[3]


Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid ɛɛː ɔɔː
Open ɑɑː


Because of the translation of missionary Gottlieb Viehe (1839–1901) of the Bible into Herero, at the end of the 19th century, the spoken language was transcribed to an alphabet based on the Latin script. Father Peter Heinrich Brincker (1836–1904) translated several theological works and songs.


Long vowels are doubled.

f and l are only used in loanwords.


Main article: Otjiherero grammar


Otjiherero is taught in Namibian schools both as a native tongue and as a secondary language. It is included as a principal material at the University of Namibia. Otjiherero is also one of the six minority languages that are used by the Namibian State Radio (NBC). Gamsberg Macmillan, as of 2008, has published the only dictionary in Otjiherero.


The Hakaona variety is now considered a separate Bantu language, as sometimes is Zemba (Otjizemba).[5] Maho (200) also removes Kuvale to Bantu Zone R.10, while differentiating North-West Herero (Kaokoland Herero, including Zemba and presumably Himba and Hakaona), R.311, and Botswana Herero (including Mahalapye Herero), R.312, as distinct from but closely related to Herero proper. Within Herero proper, he recognizes two dialects: Central Herero and Mbandero (East Herero).

Northwest/Zemba is found on either side of the Namibian–Angolan border. Central Herero covers a large area in central Namibia, with East Herero and a few islands to the east but still in Namibia. Botswana Herero consists of a few scattered islands in Botswana, with about 15% of the population of Herero proper.[2]

Ethnologue separates Zimba as a distinct language but retains Himba, East Herero, and Botswana Herero within the Herero language. However, it no longer recognizes Kuvale as a dialect but as a separate language.[6]



  1. ^ a b Herero at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  2. ^ a b Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  3. ^ Möhlig, Marten, Kavari, Wilhelm J. G., Lutz, Jekura (2002). A Grammatical Sketch of Herero (Otjiherero). Köln, Germany: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ "Herero alphabet, pronunciation, and language". Omniglot. Retrieved 31 August 2021.
  5. ^ Bantu Classification Archived 2012-06-24 at the Wayback Machine, Ehret, 2009.
  6. ^ Kuvale at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon