impi, noun

Also impee, impey.
a. An army or regiment (usually of Zulu warriors); a ceremonial Zulu regiment. Also attributive. See also commando sense 3.
1836 N. Isaacs Trav. (1937) II. 77In the evening one of my boys ran away, and joined the ‘impee’ (army) which had lately passed.
1846 Natal Witness 24 Apr.Mr Hans de Lange,..having learned that an impey (commando) had been sent out by Panda, very promptly and properly returned to town and informed the authorities of the fact.
1862 G.H. Mason Zululand 200There is always an ‘Impi’, (or army,) preparing for an attack on some neighbouring district.
1881 E. London Dispatch 5 Jan. 3Chief Dunn was written to by the Cape Government as to the expediency of raising a Zulu impi for service against the Basutos.
1900 H. Blore Imp. Light Horseman 142The black muzzles of the guns gaped vengefully, ready to shatter the dense crowds of scurrying Boers, when the whole impi was signalled to cease fire.
1907 J.P. Fitzpatrick Jock of Bushveld 193Ketshwayo, after years of arrogant and unquestioned rule, had loosed his straining impis at the people of the Great White Queen.
1925 D. Kidd Essential Kafir 400No one who has happened to get in the way of a Swazie or Zulu impi, when it was on the warpath, will be inclined to call the natives lazy.
1941 C.W. De Kiewiet Hist. of S. Afr. 60Not even the power of Matabele and Zulu impis, the scourge of all the High Veld and Natal, could prevail against the Boers.
1947 C.R. Prance Antic Mem. 44Quarter and his amateur cavalry, spread out in Zulu-impi ‘horns’ already threatened to cut off all hope of retreat from McGlusky and his awesome Mule Artillery.
1964 G. Campbell Old Dusty 32Yes, Inkosi,..I was a soldier in the impis of the amaZulu. Ah! that was an army. To be a soldier in those impis was to be a man.
1971 Rand Daily Mail 4 Dec. 3Dressed in full tribal regalia of leopard skin and feathers he led the dancing and singing impis who paid homage to their king.
b. figurative.
1953 P. Lanham Blanket Boy’s MoonNot only did he notice the already familiar fumes of petrol and oil, but a whole impi of unidentified odours attacked his nostrils.
1986 S. Harris in Sunday Times 26 Jan. 15Rugger impis set for kick-off.
1990 P. Gregson in New African 9 July 12Amazulu plunged to a disastrous 3–1 defeat at the hands of lowly Pretoria City in an NSL Castle Soccer league game. The green impi went in search of those both points [sic] but unexpectedly came empty handed.
2. An armed band (especially one made up of Zulu men) involved in urban or rural (political) conflict.
c1948 H. Tracey Lalela Zulu 19In recent time the Zulus have brought firearms to their faction fights instead of assegais only. The sound of fighting was heard far off and the ‘impis’ were in at each other over by the hill, Mthashana.
1970 Daily News 29 JulyFaction Fight Arrests. Two well-armed impis assembled, but were dispersed by a police mobile unit before they clashed.
1973 Sunday Times 11 Mar. 3A common sight in Durban during the strikes as a factory ‘impi’ of Zulus takes to the streets to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with their low rates of pay.
1980 Weekend Post 24 May 2Thousands of uniformed Inkatha members lined the entrance to the campus to welcome their president, Chief Buthelezi. There were also several Zulu impis present in an apparent attempt to prevent the students from disrupting the ceremony.
1985 Financial Mail 18 Oct. 35There have even been charges that Zulu (not necessarily Inkatha) ‘impis’ have been deployed by the police in regions such as the Cape Flats to bring recalcitrant, youth-led populations in upheaval to a standstill.
1988 J. Sikhakhane in Pace Nov. 61In other townships around Durban notably KwaMashu and Lamontville, vigilante groups called ‘amabutho’ or impi, were allegedly responsible for deaths and attacks on the amaqabane, mostly youths belonging to the UDF, or politically neutral.
1990 M. Tyala in Sunday Times 12 Aug. 2Inkatha-phobia is increasing in Transvaal townships as the Zulu cultural group’s adversaries portray it as a terror force, impis who run amok attacking ANC sympathisers and township residents at random.
1990 Sunday Times 10 Mar. 1Angry ANC supporters confronted police while Inkatha impis with sticks, pangas and dustbin-lid shields assembled near their hostels.
An army or regiment (usually of Zulu warriors); a ceremonial Zulu regiment. Also attributive.
An armed band (especially one made up of Zulu men) involved in urban or rural (political) conflict.
Entry Navigation

Visualise Quotations

Quotation summary