English, South African DutchShow more Probably attributive use of English water, applied to persons who live near water and who depend on food sources found in water (cf. general English waterman mariner, seaman); or from South African Dutch (which derivation would explain the plural forms ending with -mans).
1639W. Bayley inR. Raven-HartBefore Van Riebeeck (1967) 146We sent our shallopp to Penguin Iland to carry Thomas with whom we lefte our lettres with the Rest of his family of watermen therre to resyde the whole number Consisting of 20 p[er]sons menn, weomen and Children.
1847J. SutherlandOrig. Matter Contained in Sutherland’s Mem. 589Three tribes of people, similar in dress and manners. First, the Strandloopers or Waterman, who lived on muscles [sic] which they found on the rocks, and on roots.
1913W.W. ThompsonSea Fisheries of Cape Col. 33The Strandloopers, or Watermen, comparatively few in numbers..eked out a more or less precarious existence roaming the shores of the bays, fishing after a fashion, and ever on the look-out for edible flotsam and jetsam.
1967R. Raven-Hart(tr. of J.A. von Mandelslo) inBefore Van Riebeeck 152Some..live very miserably by the waterside...They live on herbs, roots and fishes...They are called the Watermen, because they live by the shore.
1968E.A. WalkerHist. of Sn Afr. 36The ‘Watermans’ had killed the herdboy, David Jansen, and stolen forty-four head of Company’s cattle.
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