The IsiXhosa National Lexicography Unit, (formerly Xhosa Dictionary Project) is a culmination of a project of the University of Fort Hare which started in 1968, under the late Prof W H Pahl, as its first Director and Editor-in-Chief. His editorial team included the likes of Mr. J B M Jubase, Mr. G Nkonki, Mrs. G Jamba, Rev. W S Gawe and IsiXhosa Literary Legend Rev. J J R Jolobe. This editorial team passed the baton to the other exceptional generation of lexicographers that included Legendary Writer, Chief S M Burns-Ncamashe, Mr. T A Ndungane, Mr. H Nabe, Mr. A P Sotashe, Mr. T A Mfaxa and Ms. N G Nduneni under the stewardship of Mr. X L Time who was succeeded by esteemed writer, Prof Rev. P T Mtuze and Prof. B M Mini respectively. The late Mr. S L Tshabe, assisted by Ms. F M Shoba, Ms. Z Guzana and Mrs. A B B Nokele sailed the ship to completing the 3 volume publication of the Greater Dictionary of IsiXhosa (1989, 2003 & 2006) and later the publication of first of its kind, IsiXhosa monolingual dictionary, IsiChazi-magama sesiXhosa (2008).
The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB), a body established by an Act of Parliament under the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, set up eleven national lexicography units, i.e. one for each of the official languages of South Africa. The IsiXhosa National Lexicography Unit is governed by a Board of Directors. Dr. Lesoetsa, the first Chairperson, was a University Representative and was succeeded by Dr M Yoyo who served as its Chairperson from 2001 until May 2007. Mr. M-W Jadezweni has since been at the helm of leadership.
The Unit has to date published a three volume Greater Dictionary of IsiXhosa (letters Q-Z) published in 1989, Volume 2 (letters K-P) published in 2003 and Volume 1 (letters A-J) published 2006. In 2008, the Unit published IsiChazi-magama sesiXhosa and is the first ever monolingual dictionary of IsiXhosa, which breaks the myth that 'IsiXhosa asitolikwa' to provide comprehensive meanings that would assist both learners and those who take special pride in this language.
Since 2008, the Unit embarked on a technical schools dictionary project in Mathematics and Science targeting school learners and is currently undergoing quality assurance.The Unit is both the public and academic centre where students, researchers, learners, language practitioners and ordinary citizens are welcome to utilize it on language related matters.
The Unit's ethos is to develop quality lexicographic products in IsiXhosa such as monolingual dictionaries, bilingual dictionaries, glossaries and term banks. It strives to ensure that the culture, values and the philosophy of IsiXhosa and AmaXhosa are preserved for the generations to come. It further exploits the technological innovations to further the development of IsiXhosa while contributing to broader social capital and development at large.