AskDefine | Define Muti

Extensive Definition

This article is about southern African traditional medicine. For other uses including the family name 'Muti', please see Muti (disambiguation).
Muti is a term for traditional medicine in Southern Africa as far north as Lake Tanganyika. The word muti is derived from the Zulu word for tree, of which the root is -thi. African Traditional medicine makes use of various natural products, many of which are derived from trees. For this reason, medicine generally is known as muti, but it is also applied to formulations used in traditional medical dispensing. In Southern Africa, the word muti is in widespread use in most indigenous African languages, as well as in South African English and Afrikaans where it is sometimes used as a slang word for medicine in general.

Correct form of the word

This noun is of the umu / imi class, consequently the singular (tree) is rendered Umuthi and plural (trees) is Imithi. Since the pronunciation of the initial vowel of this umu / imi class of Zulu noun, is unstressed, the singular Umuthi is sometimes heard as 'Muthi'. The word is rendered as muti due to the historical effects of British Colonial spelling.

Colloquial use

In colloquial English and Afrikaans the word may be used as per the following example:
  • "My doctor gave me some muti for my sore throat"
  • "My dokter het vir my muti verskaf vir my seer keel"


Occasions of murder and mutilation associated with some traditional cultural practices, in Southern Africa are also termed Muti killings. Muti killings, more correctly known as medicine murder are not human sacrifice in a religious sense, but rather involve the murder of someone in order to excise body parts for incorporation as ingredients into medicine and concoctions used in witchcraft.
Muti murders are not part of history. They are an on going fact of life in Southern Africa, and a search of the popular online media in South Africa for example, will pop-up a great deal of current muti slaying, many involving the murder and mutilation of children. Take for example: "Muti killings on the rise in KZN - October 31 2007" and also "Police find body parts in walls of hair salon - December 13 2006"
Muti in Portuguese: Muti
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