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A guard with assegai in South Africa, 1943.

Alternative forms[edit]


From French azagaie (now zagaie) or Portuguese azagaia, Spanish azagaya, and later in the forms that have become most common borrowed from Afrikaans assegaai, from colloquial Arabic اَلزَّغَايَة(az-zaḡāya), from Proto-Berber *zaġāya (spear).



assegai (plural assegais)

  1. A slim hardwood spear or javelin with an iron tip, especially those used by Bantu peoples of Southern Africa.
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 8, in The Celebrity:
      My client welcomed the judge […] and they disappeared together into the Ethiopian card-room, which was filled with the assegais and exclamation point shields Mr. Cooke had had made at the sawmill at Beaverton.
    • 1902, Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, Tank Form 2007, p.99:
      Native mats covered the clay walls; a collection of spears, assegais, shields, knives was hung up in trophies.
    • 1922, James Joyce, Ulysses:
      A birdchief, bluestreaked and feathered in war panoply with his assegai, striding through a crackling canebrake over beechmast and acorns.
    • 1994, Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, Abacus 2010, p. 32:
      Without a word, he took my foreskin, pulled it forward, and then, in a single motion, brought down his assegai.
  2. The tree species Curtisia dentata, the wood of which is traditionally used to make assegais.



assegai (third-person singular simple present assegais, present participle assegaiing, simple past and past participle assegaied)

  1. To spear with an assegai.

See also[edit]