Terms of Respect in Botswana

imageI’m currently reading a series of books that takes place in Botswana called  The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.

When reading the first book, you quickly come upon the term "Mma" (pronounced "ma") used before a woman’s name and "Rra" (pronounced "ra" with a rolling "r") used before a man’s name.  I was curious and looked them up.  They’re both terms of respect used in the Setswana language. "Mma" is like "Ma’am" or "Madam", or a more respectful form of "Mrs."  "Rra" is like "sir", or a very respectful form of "Mr."

"Dumela" can be used before "Rra" and "Mma" to say, hello sir or ma’am. 

You can hear a Botswana Greeting Song called Dumela below…

This article was posted on Wednesday, January 11th, 2012 at 11:09 pm and is filed under Books & Stories, Botswana, Customs and Traditions, Greeting Customs, Hello Songs, Setswana, Songs by Theme, Tswana, Words & Phrases. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

7 Responses to “Terms of Respect in Botswana”

  1. Jan Says:

    I just finished reading same and wondered about how to pronounce Mma and Rra, thanks for helping!

  2. Debbie Says:

    Thankyou for this explanation it was very useful.

  3. JoseK Says:

    What I found is there is an emphasis on respect in Botswana not encountered in places like the US. For example, entering a shop or dental offuce, say, it’s important to acknowledge those who are already present.

    The easiest way to do this is to say “dumelang”, a plural form of dumela that is something like saying “hello, you all”. That will establish you as a respectful person.

  4. Cindy Says:

    I’m listening to the audio book, and the “m” sound in Mma is prolonged, as if someone was saying “mm, good”.

  5. Anna Says:

    Iā€™m wondering about the use of Rra and Rre. Sometimes they use one, sometimes the other. What is the difference? Is it young and older, married and unmarried for example?


    Reading Morality for Beautiful Girls. Could not continue reading with out knowing how to pronounce in my head. Thank goodness for Google. LOL

  7. Shelley Rowe Says:

    I have read the books too! I love them! The TV series is currently on Starzplay, Amazon Prime šŸ˜

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