Hottentots, a people of South Africa, including the original inhabitants of the territory now occupied by Cape Colony. Van Kie-beek, the founder of this colony in 1652, states that they called themselves, according to the various dialects, Koi-koin, Tkuhgrub, Quenau, and Quaquas. It is supposed that the name of Hottentots was given them by the Dutch, probably in imitation of the clicking sounds in the language of the natives. The general characteristics of the Hottentots are a peculiarly livid and yellowish brown skin, crisp and tufted hair, a narrow forehead, projecting cheek bones, a pointed chin, a body of medium height and rather tough than strong, small hands and feet, and a flat and narrow skull. The Griquas are half-breeds descended from Hottentot mothers and Dutch fathers. The Hottentots are skilled in horsemanship, and are intelligent and courageous. They are of a mild disposition, but given to lying, stealing, drunkenness, and sensuality. They are ruled by chiefs who are controlled by councils. Their religious notions are centred in a supreme being, who is little else than a deified chieftain. They believe in a future life, and fear the return of spirits. They have various superstitions.
They refuse to have their photographs taken lest it should deprive them of a portion of their life. They sometimes mutilate their hands as a protection against evil influences. As an example of their intellectual capacity may be mentioned the Hottentot Andreas Stoffles, who was master of several languages, and could make a good speech in English. The Damaras, a nomadic warrior tribe who came to South Africa from the central regions of that continent about the middle of the 18th century, are now almost extinct. Nearest related to the Hottentots are the Bushmen. See Bushmen, And Ethnology ; also Fritsch, Die Eingeborenen Sud-afrilcas (Breslau, 1872;, and Perty, Anthropologic (2 vols., Leipsic, 1873-'4). - The Hottentot language has four dialects. The Nama dialect is spoken by the Namaquas (properly Nama-kha or Nama-na, Kha and na being plural suffixes, the one of masculine, the other of common gender), N. W. of Cape Colony, and also by the Damaras, N. of them, but it does not seem to be their original tongue. It is the oldest and purest of the dialects, but, like the speech of all savages, it may be subdivided into several sub-dialects according to tribes and even families.
The Khora dialect is spoken by the Koraquas (better Khora-kha or Kora-na), N. of the upper Orange river, and is in age and purity greatly inferior to the Nama. The Cape dialect is the least cultivated of all, and no grammar of it has been published. The same is the case with the dialect of the eastern races. The Hottentot is, generally speaking, of a monosyllabic structure. It is rich in diphthongs and remarkably delicate in the use of inflectional final sounds, which contrast strangely with the constantly recurring initial clicking sounds. Flectional forms are produced by suffixes to the verbal root. Masculine, feminine, and common genders, and singular, dual, and plural numbers, are distinguished, and in case of pronouns not only in the third, but even in the first and second person. These distinctions, however, are not as clear as in other languages. The Bushman language also is considered a form of the Hottentot. Missionaries speak of it as hard and rough, and as represented by numerous dialects among the races of the desert and mountains of the interior. - See Tindall, " Grammar and Vocabulary of the Namaqua-Hottentot Language" (no date); Bleek, "Comparative Grammar of the South African Languages" (2 vols., Capetown and London, 1862-'9); and F. Muller, Reise der Oesterreichischen Fregatte Novara: Linguistischer Theil (Vienna, 1867).