dolos, noun

Forms:
Also dollas, doll oss.
Plurals:
unchanged, or dolosse /ˈdɔlɔsə/, dolosses, and formerly dolossen.
Origin:
19th century Afrikaans, Dutch, Show more Etymology unknown; recorded in 19th century Afrikaans (1880) as dollossie knuckle-bone, perhaps adaptation of dobbelos (from Dutch dobbel to gamble + os ox); or from dol mad, wild, or dollen to romp about + os ox; or perhaps adaptation of medical term talus knuckle-bone. Found in modern Xhosa as dolosi dice, divining bones (cf. older Xhosa indawule divining bones).
1. One of a set of carved divining dice, knuckle-bones of various animals, and other objects used by a traditional healer in divination; bone sense 1; dolossie sense 2. Also attributive. See also to throw (the) bones (throw sense 2).
[1860 J. Sanderson in Jrnl of Royal Geog. Soc. XXX. 243I had here a specimen of native divination, performed by casting on the ground four pieces of bone, or horn, of several shapes..called altogether ‘daula.’]
1873 Queenstown Free Press 9 Sept.A Kafir Doctor gave a lecture to an admiring audience...The subject..was..the merits of two ‘dol ossen,’ two shank bones of a sheep and sundry paraphernalia which lay spread out before him.
1897 J.P. Fitzpatrick Outspan 98An old fellow, a witch-doctor, brought the pocket-book. He said he found it by divination — casting the dollas.
1901 D.M. Wilson Behind Scenes in Tvl 85No reference to Kaffir lore would be complete without an allusion to the doll oss, or fetish used by the witch doctors in the practice of divination. Throwing the doll oss is the Kaffir equivalent to consulting the cards.
1905 Native Tribes of Tvl 126The most familiar ‘properties’ of the witch-doctors are the ‘knuckle-bones’, known to the natives as ‘daula’ and to the Boers as ‘dolos’. They may consist of pieces of bone, or wood or stones or almost any substance. They are much in evidence whenever a witch-doctor is consulted, as from the manner in which the bones fall when thrown, he decides the answer to the question asked him.
1937 C.R. Prance Tante Rebella’s Saga 186Each night the Kafir had said that the spirits would not let his ‘doloss’ talk to him tonight, so that they had to pay again every night.
1941 N. Devitt Celebrated S. Afr. Crimes 161At the woman’s request he had given her a love potion...He had also thrown cards and dolossen, in order to discover if he did love her.
1947 F.C. Slater Sel. Poems 30The Rain-maker manipulated His dry dolosses in vain.
1958 S. Cloete Mask 89He turned out his bones, his dolos as they are called...Most of them were the astragalis or the knuckle-bones of various animals...But there were also cowrie shells, two ancient ceramic beads, an oblong of ivory, a double marula pip, the pyramid points of ox hoofs, stones from the stomach of the crocodile, hair balls from calves and the beak of a vulture.
1974 A.P. Brink Looking on Darkness 230He opened his grey-striped bag of wildcat skin, and shook out his smelly dolos-bones to read our fortunes.
1982 Drum Mar. 38Turf history has no record of all punters backing the winner. Could all these pluralstanians have been to the same inyanga whose dol osse had predicted the winner?
1985 J. Mason in Cosmopolitan May 154My consultation had begun. The child..gave me a greasy leather pouch containing the bones. ‘You are to blow your spirit into the bag, then throw the dolos on to the grass mat,’ I was instructed.
1994 G. Pretorius in Weekend Post 14 May 5We throw the dolosse (a bag containing an assortment of bones, shells, domino pieces and coins) and then tell them what the problem is.
2.
a. The knuckle-bones (or vertebrae) of sheep or goats, formerly used by children as imaginary oxen and in other games; any other bones used similarly; dolossie sense 1 a. Also attributive.
[1900 B.M. Hicks Cape as I Found It 151Out of his (sc. the traditional doctor’s) bag he took his doll-oxen as the bones are called that the children play with.]
1965 C. Van Heyningen Orange Days 14We put empty cotton reels on sardine tins..and we inspanned ‘dolosse’ (sheep vertebrae)..and we spent many happy hours carting sand and stones in them to build little houses.
1977 Weekend Post 23 Apr. (Suppl.) 5Made of an ox jawbone, it has ‘dolosse’ (knuckle joints) to serve as oxen with each ox named for his place in the team.
1989 D. Briscoe in Motorist Nov. 4Whether it’s the massive sombre hearse of bygone days or a bar of homemade soap or a child’s ‘dolosse’ wagon, there’s a story to be told.
b. Any of several games formerly played by children, using the knuckle-bones of sheep or goats; dolossie sense 1 b.
1974 J.M. Coetzee Dusklands 122The farmer’s son and the servant’s son playing dolosse together in the yard graduating with adulthood into the more austere relation of master and servant.
3. Engineering. [So called from its resemblance to a knuckle- or ankle-bone (see quotations 1970 and 1976).] A large concrete anchor block which, when interlocked with other identical blocks, prevents erosion of the coastline and of harbour walls.
1970 E. Merrifield in Daily Dispatch 25 Mar. 29I wanted a name for the interlocking blocks that would always identify them with South Africa. I chose the name dolosse myself because the shape I designed reminded me of those little bones taken from the ankles of animals that Voortrekker children used to play with, pretending they were oxen (hence the name) and which are still used today by African witchdoctors when they ‘throw the bones.’
1970 E. Merrifield in Daily Dispatch 9 Oct. 13Mr Merrifield produced the first prototype dolos seven years ago. The block has since proved to be five to six times more stable than any other block in use in the world and also 40 percent cheaper to manufacture and handle.
1976 Illust. London News (U.K.) Nov. 24The outer wall of the eastern coffer dam faces the South China Sea, which stretches unbroken for thousands of miles to South America. Huge concrete dolosse protect the dam, absorbing the force of the breakers..each weighing 25 tons and shaped like a giant letter H with one arm twisted through 90°.
1982 E. Prov. Herald 1 June 4 (caption)This young fishing party took advantage of mild winter weather for a spot of angling from Port Elizabeth’s artificial rocks, the dolosse.
1989 Stanger Mail 7 July 8Another freak accident happened at the Dolosses at Richards Bay recently. An angler was casting when an onlooker popped his head from behind one of the dolosses.
1990 E. Prov. Herald 16 Oct. 4Van Greunen..was fishing from the ‘dolosse’ at 3.30pm.
One of a set of carved divining dice, knuckle-bones of various animals, and other objects used by a traditional healer in divination; bone1; dolossie2. Also attributive.
The knuckle-bones (or vertebrae) of sheep or goats, formerly used by children as imaginary oxen and in other games; any other bones used similarly; dolossie1 a. Also attributive.
Any of several games formerly played by children, using the knuckle-bones of sheep or goats; dolossie1 b.
A large concrete anchor block which, when interlocked with other identical blocks, prevents erosion of the coastline and of harbour walls.
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