Windhoek has had several names the earliest of which were the Damara /Ais //Gams (/ indicates a click in Nama spelling) which means “firewater” and the Herero “Otjimuise” or place of steam. The area was also called Queen Adelaide's Baths for a (mercifully) brief time. Many believe that the current title, Windhoek, came from before 1840 when Jonker Afrikaner, a Nama leader, named the area Winterhoek, after the farm in South Africa where he was born. Windhoek, which translates “windy corner”, is a corruption of this name.

Windhoek was originally the main administrative center for a Nama chief who defeated the Herero inhabitants in the 19th century. Then in 1885, Namibia was colonized by Germans; by the late 19th century, it became the formal protectorate of Germany, called German South West Africa. The German government set up a colonial government in Africa called the Schulztruppe, which fought in a bloody and gruesome war against the local Nama and Herero people for control in the early 20th century.

During World War I, South Africa was given the rights to run the administration of Namibia after World War I. South Africa took over the country after World War II (in contravention of a mandate by the United Nations).

It was not until 1990 that Namibia finally gained its independence with the assistance of the United Nations and the International Court of Justice. To this day, after 11 years of independence, there are still many war memorials honoring British and German victories on foreign soil, all built to commemorate the colonizers.