kehla, noun

Forms:
kehle, keshlaShow more Also kehle, keshla, kethla, khehla, ukhehla.
Plurals:
kehlas, occasionally ‖amakehla.
Origin:
ZuluShow more Zulu ikhehla a man with a head-ring, a man turning grey.
1. A Zulu headman; one entitled, because of age, to the dignity of wearing the traditional head-ring; also used as a respectful form of address. See also ringkop sense a.
1850 J. & M. Churchill Merchant Family in Natal (1979) 11A short active fellow with his head close-shaven with the exception of a narrow circle closely pressed down to the Crown like a cow-whip cord (He was a Kehle or ‘ringed’ man).
1875 D. Leslie Among Zulus 24I..reached Machian’s. He is a famous fellow — a tall, black ‘Kehla’ (top-knotted).
1885 H. Rider Haggard King Solomon’s Mines (1972) 46I observed..that he was a ‘Keshla’ (ringed man), that is, that he wore on his head the black ring, made of a species of gum polished with fat and worked in with the hair, usually assumed by Zulus on attaining a certain age or dignity.
1894 B. Mitford Gun-Runner 182The excited savages fell back, yielding place to a couple of tall amakehla, or head-ringed men, who, grim and ferocious of aspect in their war dresses..advanced to the fore.
1907 J.P. Fitzpatrick Jock of Bushveld 248One day..there came to us a grizzled worn-looking old kaffir, whose head ring of polished black wax attested his dignity as a kehla.
1953 R. Campbell Mamba’s Precipice 22He..wore..a big black ring of beeswax, like a black pudding, round the top of his head to signify his rank of kethla, or head-man.
1964 Drum Nov. 25The old Zulu ‘khehlas’ and councillors felt that it was improper for a king of the Zulu nation to marry a divorcee.
2. transferred sense. An elderly man; also used as a (respectful) mode of address.
1970 P. Gwala in Ophir Apr. 11‘Khehla, we don’t own the day.’ ‘Son if I didn’t know, I wouldn’t have come so early’.
1974 J. McClure Gooseberry Fool (1976) 148An old keshla who handed spanners to the mechanic.
1975 J. McClure Snake (1981) 132Ach, I’m not here to do your work for you — ask the keshla over there,’ said the foreman.
1977 P.C. Venter Soweto 172An old man pushes a broom on the stoep. ‘Ukhehla.’ He stops the broom. And seems surprised to hear a white man address him as ‘the old grey one’.
1986 Drum Aug. 55Any old khehla in the ghetto who pulled rank on you and reminded you that you were still too wet behind the ears could not get away with it.
1987 O. Musi in Drum May 47A former British rail porter, Robert Kimberley...at the ripe old age of 53, is one khehla who really went off the rails.
1987 O. Musi in Drum Dec. 32Christmas is when an old khehla named Santa Claus comes over the roof-tops riding a sled.
1990 R. Malan My Traitor’s Heart 41Some friends and I had a passing encounter with such a wise one — an old, yellow-eyed kehla who sold us some zol and invited us to sit down for a smoke outside his hut.
A Zulu headman; one entitled, because of age, to the dignity of wearing the traditional head-ring; also used as a respectful form of address.
An elderly man; also used as a (respectful) mode of address.

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