"호텐토트"라는 말은 1650년대에 네덜란드령 케이프 식민지를 건설한 네덜란드인 정착민들로부터 비롯되었고, 17세기에 네덜란드어에서 영어로 유입되었다. 하지만 네덜란드인들이 처음 사용했다는 것 외에 이 말의 정확한 의미는 알려져 있지 않다. 네덜란드인들이 원주민의 언어 나마어의 흡착음을 두고 "말더듬이"라는 뜻으로 사용했다는 것이 통설이지만, 이 설을 뒷받침할 만한 물증은 존재하지 않는다. 코이코이인이나 산인들이 연호하는 구호 소리에서 비롯되었다는 설도 있지만 이것 역시 딱히 증거는 없다.
- "The old Dutch also did not know that their so-called Hottentots formed only one branch of a wide-spread race, of which the other branch divided into ever so many tribes, differing from each other totally in language [...] While the so-called Hottentots called themselves Khoikhoi (men of men, i.e. men par excellence), they called those other tribes Sā, the Sonqua of the Cape Records [...] We should apply the term Hottentot to the whole race, and call the two families, each by the native name, that is the one, the Khoikhoi, the so-called Hottentot proper; the other the Sān (Sā) or Bushmen." Theophilus Hahn, Tsuni-||Goam: The Supreme Being to the Khoi-Khoi (1881), p. 3.
- "A very large number of different etymologies for the name have been suggested ... The most frequently repeated suggestion ... is that the word was a spec. use of a formally identical Dutch word meaning ‘stammerer, stutterer’, which came to be applied to the Khoekhoe and San people on account of the clicks characteristic of their languages. However, evidence for the earlier general use appears to be lacking. Another frequent suggestion is that the people were so named after one or more words which early European visitors to southern Africa heard in chants accompanying dances of the Khoekhoe or San ... but the alleged chant is rendered in different ways in different 17th-cent. sources, and some of the accounts may be based on hearsay rather than first-hand knowledge. "Hottentot, n. and adj." OED Online, Oxford University Press, March 2018, www.oed.com/view/Entry/88829. Accessed 13 May 2018. Citing G. S. Nienaber, 'The origin of the name “Hottentot” ', African Studies, 22:2 (1963), 65-90, doi 10.1080/00020186308707174. See also Rev. Prof Johannes Du Plessis, B.A., B.D. (1917). “Report of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science”. 189–193쪽. 2010년 7월 5일에 확인함..