mamba, noun

Also imamba, momba.
Xhosa, ZuluShow more Xhosa and Zulu imamba.
1. Either of two deadly snakes of the genus Dendroaspis of the Elapidae, with a bite that is almost invariably fatal: a. D. polylepis, noted for its aggressiveness; black mamba, see sense 2 below; or b. D. angusticeps; green mamba sense (a), see sense 2 below. Also attributive, and figurative.
1860 D.L.W. Stainbank Diary. (Killie Campbell Africana Library KCM8680) 23 Apr.A large snake rushed by me into the hut...It proved to be a large mamba (black) between 8 and 9 feet long and two or three inches in diameter.
1878 T.J. Lucas Camp Life & Sport 104The imamba, a small species of boa, is the most dangerous.
1890 P. Gillmore Through Gasa Land 23The mamba frequently grows to the length of ten or eleven feet...There are two varieties, the green and the brown.
1905 W.L. Sclater in Flint & Gilchrist Science in S. Afr. 148The justly-dreaded mamba (Dendraspis angusticeps) is only found in Natal and the low country in the east. It is more of a tree-snake than the others, and sometimes reaches a length of 10 feet.
1926 E. Prov. Herald 11 Mar. 3On ploughing through an ant heap he cut a large mamba in two. Unfortunately the mamba, before dying, bit Botha on the leg. Botha expired within two hours.
1937 C. Birkby Zulu Journey 113A mamba-bite remedy made by the natives from pounded root of the inkwakamuti bush mixed with the dried powdered spleen of the mamba.
1940 V. Pohl Bushveld Adventures 147There is little doubt that the mamba is the most dangerous snake in existence.
1953 R. Campbell Mamba’s Precipice 19Mambas can move with the speed of a galloping horse. Their bite is absolutely fatal and there is no remedy for it.
1965 P. Baragwanath Brave Remain 133She was a woman who was going to do battle with the mamba, the lion, the raiding Swazi!
1982 C. Hope Private Parts 17Grannie to him of her great-grandfather who died with Retief at the hands of the mamba, Dingaan, King of the Zulus.
1982 Sunday Times 19 Sept. (Mag. Sect.) 25Just sit and watch the fun with a vetkoek in one hand and a fizzy mamba-green cooldrink in the other.
1988 J. Michell in Style Mar. 46Anyone who lives in Africa is sooner or later going to meet a mamba in the bathroom.
1991 Best of S. Afr. Short Stories (Reader’s Digest Assoc.) 168About 1 — 1,5 m long, the boomslang resembles a mamba, except for its very large eyes, which are grey or brown in adults and iridescent green in hatchlings.
1993 A.P. Brink First Life of Adamastor 28This rearing mamba in my loins.
2. With defining word:
black mamba, see sense 1 a above; also figurative;
green mamba, (a) see sense 1 b above; (b) figurative, colloquial [see quotation 1980], a nickname for a Putco commuter bus; also attributive; see also Putco;
Groen Mamba figurative, colloquial [Afrikaans groen green; referring to the colour and potency of the drink], the liqueur crème de menthe; Jangroentjie sense 2.
1878 P. Gillmore Great Thirst Land 346A black mamba — a description of snake common in Natal, and reported to be very deadly — I killed to-day.
1897 J. Bryce Impressions of S. Afr. 23The black momba, which is nearly as large as a rattlesnake, is a dangerous creature.
1910 J. Buchan Prester John 80A black mamba might appear out of the tangle.
1928 L.P. Greene Adventure Omnibus 691A black momba passed very close to him. He struck at it, missing, and the snake..turned, incensed.
1938 F.C. Slater Trek 113Warnings from those who knew Black-mamba-Dingaan, that the king was bent On treachery and murder.
1955 A. Delius Young Trav. in S. Afr. 118There were vivid red and black coral snakes, the green lash-like boomslang which was as poisonous as the dreaded black mamba.
1978 C.J. Reitz Poisonous S. Afr. Snakes 22Two drops (± ¼ ml) of venom is regarded as fatal for man and an adult black mamba has a capacity of 20 drops or more per venom fang.
1987 R. Patterson Reptiles of Sn Afr. 91Rarely black despite its name, it is dull olive, gun metal or leaden coloured...The Black Mamba inhabits bushveld and tropical areas.
1988 M. Gwala in Staffrider Vol.7 No.1, 91In ‘The Black Mamba Rises’ the lethal black mamba becomes a metaphor for the strategic astuteness of the organized workers’ movement.
[green mamba: sense (a)]
1862 J.S. Dobie S. Afr. Jrnl (1945) 44He called it a green mamba and [it] was about 9 feet long.
1864 A Lady Life at Natal (1972) 37Having just killed a large green ‘mamba’ that was taking its siesta in an oleander bush opposite my window. These snakes are the deadliest known.
1913 L. Lyster Ballads of Veld-Land 69Back and forth that deadly bay’net swung Like the green mamba’s swiftly darting tongue When o’er her hole she battles for her young.
1925 D. Kidd Essential Kafir 189If the person had been bitten by a green mamba, then he would have to be treated with green mamba-head dried and powdered.
1946 H.C. Bosman in S. Afr. Opinion Dec.Jurie Steyn’s mind seemed to have grown all curved like a green mamba asleep in the sun.
1979 C. Endfield Zulu Dawn 19Mamba, deadly green mamba! But if it really had been there, it failed to show itself during the beating-out he had ordered.
1990 Weekly Mail 2 Feb. 21Asbestos is like a green mamba. It is very dangerous.
[green mamba: sense (b)]
1975 S. Roberts Outside Life’s Feast 12Having Johannesburg in a tiny house..on a busy street down which incessant traffic and ‘green mambas’ screamed.
1980 C. Hope A Separate Development (1983) 44Racketing kikuyu green buses jammed to the eyeballs with blacks from the Location. The buses were called Green Mambas. I think because they appeared from nowhere and hit you without warning.
[1981 Frontline Sept. 15I have seen changes. For example Putco buses are no longer mamba green but light blue.]
1985 Frontline Sept. 15Domestic servants..have been crowding the pre-dawn Green Mamba buses with their shopping baskets laden with fresh Umlazi bread for The Madam.
1987 S. Roberts Jacks in Corners 61Wobbly buses known as Green Mambas would woosh by spewing diesel fumes.
1968 W. Kempen in D.J. Opperman Spirit of Vine 281Words denoting liquor: Chwala,..Groenmamba (Peppermint liqueur).
1978 Pace Dec.The lunch menu: Crayfish cocktail, filet mignon..Van der Hum, Drammie, Groen Mamba.
3. figurative. An unusually talented, skilful, or intelligent person.
1978 L. Barnes in The 1820 Vol.51 No.12, 19A mamoo — known also as a ‘mamba’ or ‘a good thing’ one who excels in academics, sport or some special skill.
1992 E.R.A. Essery Informant, DurbanShe sews like a mamba; she’s really good...You have to be a mamba of a bricklayer to make a circular wall.
4. figurative. slang. A home-brewed alcoholic drink. Cf. mbamba.
1981 B. Fairbrother in Sunday Times 15 Nov. 41In the jungle the mighty mamba rules. Only this ‘jungle’ is on the outskirts of Arlington race-course...And mamba is the name of a potent homebrew made by squatters.
D. polylepis, noted for its aggressiveness; black mamba, see 2 below; or
D. angusticeps; green mamba sense (a), see 2 below. Also attributive, and figurative.
An unusually talented, skilful, or intelligent person.
A home-brewed alcoholic drink.
Hence mamba adjective (slang), big.
1983 A. Goldstuck in Frontline Oct. 61I tune you, mate, if I can get one mamba chow a day, I scheme life is kif.
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