oorlam, noun and adjective

oerlam, orlamShow more Also oerlam, orlam, urlam.
oorlams, unchanged, or orlammen.
South African Dutch, MalayShow more South African Dutch, adaptation of Malay orang lama, orang person + lama long (of time), ‘one who has been in a place (originally the East) a long time’, hence ‘one with long and wide experience’. There have been other explanations of the etymology, see e.g. quotations 1889 (sense A 1), 1881 (sense A 2), also 1928 (sense B 1).
A. noun Obs. exc. historical.
1. Usually with initial capital. A name formerly given to a member of an indigenous people who, as a result of long contact, was familiar with the customs, standards, and language of the Dutch colonists. See also sense B 2.
1815 J. Campbell Trav. in S. Afr. 284In his kraal there are, of persons who speak the Dutch language, and who are called Orlams — 215.
1846 I. Reid in Imp. Blue Bks Command Paper 786–1847 88We are happy to hear that Booy, who is at the head of the few Oorlams at the Bushman station, as also the Fingoes connected with it,..have made up their minds..not to fire a single shot, nor to throw a single assegai unless it be in self-defence.
a1867 C.J. Andersson Notes of Trav. (1875) 79The Oerlams (people born or bred in the colony, or in a wider sense, simply brought up by white men).
1868 W.R. Thomson Poems, Essays & Sketches 207Throughout the whole of India, they call those who have either been there before, returned to Europe and come back again, or those who have lived in those countries for several years, Orlammen; while newcomers, or those who have not been there long, are called Baaren. These two names are corrupted words, taken originally from the Malay language, in which Oranglami means an old person or acquaintance, and Orang-baru, a new person. An Orlam, therefore, who conducts himself properly, and is known as a steady and honest person, has many and good opportunities of earning something among the burghers; the Baaren, on the contrary, are not trusted at once because there is no saying what sort of characters they may be.
1882 S. Heckford Lady Trader in Tvl 78He had several families of what are called Urlams, or civilized Kaffirs, living in mud houses on his property. These families dressed like Europeans, and had food like Europeans, even to the drinking of early coffee.
1889 F. Galton Trav. in S. Afr. 41Oerlam was a nickname given by Dutch colonists to the Hottentots that hung about their farms; it means a barren ewe — a creature good neither for breeding nor fattening, a worthless concern.
1889 F. Galton Trav. in S. Afr. 70Oerlams are like children.
1939 R.F.A. Hoernlé S. Afr. Native Policy 174They were the first truly ‘detribalized’ Natives; and they and their descendants, the so-called ‘Oorlams,’ became so completely assimilated, in a hereditary master-servant relationship, into the structure of Afrikaner society that their very mother-tongue became Afrikaans, and they took over..their masters’ religion, dress, food, ways of life.
1980 D.B. Coplan Urbanization of African Performing Arts. 55The majority of professional Coloured musicians..belonged to a broader social category known as oorlams.
2. [see quotation 1980.] Usually with initial capital, and in the plural, used collectively: the members of a predominantly Khoisan people of Namibia, displaced from the Cape Colony in the mid-nineteenth century; Afrikaner noun sense 3; Overlam. See also Bondelswart.
a1838 A. Smith Jrnl (1975) 289All the Orlam went to Barend.
1846 R. Moffat Missionary Labours 22A mixed multitude of Namaquas and Bastards from the colony (called on that account Oorlams)...They stood high in their own estimation, and despised the aborigines.
1881 T. Hahn Tsuni-‖Goam 153The Orlams..are Bastard Hottentots, who say that a trader, by the name of Orlam, came about a hundred years ago to Little Namaqualand, and afterwards stayed amongst the Namaquas and married a Hottentot girl. The truth is, that about 1720 there was a man at the Cape of the name of Orlam, who had come from Batavia. He was a trader, and visited chiefly Little Namaqualand and the Khamiesbergen.
1889 F. Galton Trav. in S. Afr. 41‘Oerlams’, or Namaquas born in or near the colony, often having Dutch blood and a good deal of Dutch character in their veins.
1922 Report of Administration on Bondelzwarts Rising (UG30–1922) 1The Bondelzwarts..originally came from the Cape, and like all Orlams, are not pure Hottentots.
1930 I. Schapera KhoiSan Peoples 49A great number of men also spoke Dutch, and the general culture had in many ways been influenced by contact with the Dutch and other colonists. These groups are collectively termed Orlams by the indigenous tribes.
1961 O. Levinson Ageless Land 27The Orlams were Hottentots, who for various reasons, ranging from a desire for freedom to flight from the police, had left the Cape in small groups. Their leaders were mostly of mixed European and Hottentot blood.
1968 G. Croudace Silver Grass 14He had picked up enough of the Dutch dialect that the Oorlams spoke to be able to read Witbooi’s letter, for Witbooi himself was an Oorlam, the name meaning ‘clever’ or ‘handy’ and referring to the group’s superiority over the ordinary Hottentots.
1969 J.M. White Land God Made in Anger 57Jonker was head of the Afrikaners, who in turn were one of the three tribes of a branch of the Nama people known as the Oorlam.
1975 W.F. Lye Andrew Smith’s Jrnl 1834–6Index, Orlam, Oorlam, Name for the mixed Hottentot and European peoples who were well acquainted with European customs. Possibly of Malay origin meaning ‘old and trusted servant’ (Orang lami), or from the Dutch, meaning ‘foreigners’ (Oorlandse mense) as applied by the Nama to late arrivals from the colony.
1976 Cubitt & Richter South West 8In the early 1800s five clans of mixed Dutch-Hottentot descent crossed the Orange River and settled among the Nama in the south. Called the Orlams, or ‘Smart Guys’, they were considerably more sophisticated than their hosts...Among the Orlams were the Afrikaner and Witbooi clans which were to play a prominent part in South West Africa’s strife-torn history.
1980 D.B. Coplan Urbanization of African Performing Arts. 55A fondness for drink and clever manipulation of those in authority became closely associated with Khoisan oorlams, and the Nama Hottentots used it as a name for themselves, reputedly because they delighted in their own shrewdness and joked that many drinks make a person clever.
1986 W. Steenkamp Blake’s Woman 5A number of these clans were pure-bred Khoikhoi, while others — commonly known as ‘Oorlams’ — were people of mixed blood who had trekked northwards out of the Cape Colony from the late 18th Century onwards.
1991 [see Nama noun sense 1].
B. adjective
1. Obsolete except in historical contexts Always with initial capital. Of or pertaining to the ‘Oorlam’ people of Namibia (see sense A 2); oorlams sense 1.
1838 J.E. Alexander Exped. into Int. I. 137He and the hunter were captured some months after by the Orlam Namaquas.
1842 J. Tindall Jrnl (1959) 40The Great Namaqua and Oorlam tribes commenced oppressing them (the Great Damaras).
1877 Sel. Comm. Report on Mission to Damaraland p.ixThere I met with some Namaquas, who said they were Orlam Hottentots belonging to the Gobabis people.
1928 H. Vedder in Native Tribes of S.W. Afr. 116The Orlam tribe, containing many hybrids of Dutch descent, who had adopted something of European civilization, possessing horses and supplied even with firearms, made on the Nama who had never been in contact with civilization, the impression that they were a highly developed people. That the meaning ‘Oorlandse mense’ is also attached to the word Orlam by the Nama would lead one to believe that the word means foreigners, people coming from across the Orange River, ie. people who are ‘further off’.
2. obsolete. Clever, shrewd, knowing; experienced, worldly-wise; crafty; oorlams sense 2. Cf. baar adjective.
Used especially of indigenous people long exposed to, and familiar with, the customs, standards, and language of the Dutch colonists.
1881 T. Hahn Tsuni-‖Goam 153If..they give a traveller a man as a servant, they say, ‘He is very orlam; he is not baar’ (he is very handy; he is not stupid).
1913 C. Pettman Africanderisms 349Oorlam,..Also used of a coloured servant whose laziness prompts him to a variety of scheming either to dodge or to scamp his work.
Usually with initial capital. A name formerly given to a member of an indigenous people who, as a result of long contact, was familiar with the customs, standards, and language of the Dutch colonists. See also B 2.
the members of a predominantly Khoisan people of Namibia, displaced from the Cape Colony in the mid-nineteenth century; Afrikanernoun3; Overlam.
Of or pertaining to the ‘Oorlam’ people of Namibia (see A 2); oorlams1.
Clever, shrewd, knowing; experienced, worldly-wise; crafty; oorlams2.

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