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Nelson Mandela had six names

india Updated: Dec 06, 2013 23:50 IST
Nelson Mandela

Though the world knew him as Nelson Mandela, South Africa's anti-apartheid hero had five other names, including "Tata".

Some of the monikers date from his childhood, while others reflect the respect bestowed on the 95-year-old the country's first black president.

At birth he was given the name Rolihlahla Mandela by his father, Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Henry, according to the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

In Xhosa, one of the official languages of South Africa, "Rolihlahla" means "pulling the branch of a tree." More commonly, it is said to mean "troublemaker."

The name "Nelson" first made an appearance when the young Mandela was at primary school. This name was given to him by his teacher on the first day of school in the village of Qunu.

But it is unclear why she chose that particular name, CNN reported.

It was the early 1920s and, at that time, it was customary to give African children English names to make them easier for British colonials to pronounce, the report said.

In South Africa, Mandela is most commonly referred to as Madiba, the name of the Thembu clan to which he belongs.

Madiba was the name of a Thembu chief who, in the 19th century, ruled over a region called the Transkei in the country's southeast.

Referring to Mandela as Madiba is a sign of endearment and respect, according to the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Mandela is also referred to by many as simply "Tata," the Xhosa word for "father."

The Xhosa language also offers another term of endearment for Mandela. "Khulu" is the shortened word for "uBawomkhulu," which means "grandfather." The word also means "great, paramount, grand," the Foundation said.

At the age of 16, Mandela, like other Xhosa boys, was formally initiated into manhood through a traditional Xhosa ceremony. At the time, he was given the name of Dalibhunga, which means "creator or founder of the council" or "convenor of the dialogue," the Foundation said.