You know why I was prompted to look this word up. You know what’s recently been in the news.

This word is mentioned once in Vilakazi & Doke’s dictionary, and it is prefaced by (Mod.), meaning that in 1958 it was a ‘Modern’ term. Here’s what the entry says:

a private lover (of either sex); a paramour

It’s related to a verb, too – shendeza. The verb means:

have a paramour; flirt

I’m unsatisfied by the thinness of etymology for the word, so I go searching for something more. In Mbatha (2006), the definition of ishende is:

umuntu enithandana naye ngokufihla; isincanakazana

tr. a person with whom you have a love-relationship in secret; {this word isn’t cross-referenced in Mbatha, although it probably just means ‘your little female bit on the side’ as it’s derived from the adjective -ncane meaning ‘small’}.

So I’m still not satisified, and I head for Nyembezi (1992). I’m disappointed again, as it appears that Mbatha simply borrowed the definition from his dictionary.

However, Nyembezi does have a definition for isincanakazana:

owesifazane othanda owesilisa, isincinza, isingane, ishende

a female person who loves a male person, a concubine, a very special friend, a paramour

Incidentally, the word for concubine (isincinza) is derived from the word for ‘taking a pinch of snuff’. Yoh.

Looking for some redeeming feature in the sea of acceptable infidelity, I give up when I find Mbatha offering the following example sentence for the verb shendeza:

Ungacabangi ukuthi ukushendeza lokhu kusha, kudala kabi

Don’t think that having an ishende is something new, (as) it’s (actually) terribly old.

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