vu·​vu·​ze·​la ˌvü-vü-ˈzā-lə How to pronounce vuvuzela (audio)
plural vuvuzelas
: a simple plastic noisemaker in the form of a straight trumpet usually between 2 and 3 feet in length that produces a single note and is used principally at sporting events
An inexpensive plastic horn is to become the unofficial symbol of the football World Cup to be held in South Africa in 2010. … It is raucous, loud and reminiscent of a trumpeting elephant. It is the vuvuzela—a 60-centimeter, brightly colored plastic horn that has become both the sound and the symbol of South African football.Delia Robertson, Voice of America News, 9 Aug. 2004

Word History


of uncertain origin

Note: According to Point (Issue 2, May 2010), the newsletter of the South African intellectual property firm Spoor & Fisher, a number of individuals applied to the South African Registrar of Trade Marks beginning in 2003 for the legal rights to vuvuzela; apparently none of these applications were accepted. The history of the word prior to the trademark claims is obscure. According to press reports from 2010, a fan of the Kaizer Chiefs football club of Johannesburg, Freddie Maake, claimed to have invented the horn and publicized it in a 1999 ten-track album called "Vuvuzela Cellular." Note that "Vuvuzela" was earlier (1995) the name of a popular song by the musician Arthur Mafokate, a pioneer of kwaito (a South African dance music genre); it is not clear if there is a more precise link between the song or its lyrics and the horn. The hypothesis that the word has been borrowed from Zulu has not been substantiated. Words similar in form, as vumvuzela, a benefactive form of vumvuza, "scatter, sprinkle," have no evident semantic relation.

First Known Use

2003, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of vuvuzela was in 2003

Love words?

You must — there are over 200,000 words in our free online dictionary, but you are looking for one that’s only in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary.

Start your free trial today and get unlimited access to America's largest dictionary, with:

  • More than 250,000 words that aren't in our free dictionary
  • Expanded definitions, etymologies, and usage notes
  • Advanced search features
  • Ad free!

Dictionary Entries Near vuvuzela

Cite this Entry

“Vuvuzela.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jul. 2024.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!