South African Slang

I pulled a few of these off of the net…   it is indeed a colorful country 🙂 For you, my friends that don’t understand me when I leave comments 🙂

South Africans speak English, but that doesn’t mean you’ll always understand us. Our “robots” are nothing like R2D2, “just now” doesn’t mean immediately, and “babbelas” is not a shampoo. South African English has a flavour all its own, borrowing freely from Afrikaans, which is similar to Dutch and Flemish, as well as from the country’s many African languages. Some words come from colonial-era Malay and Portuguese immigrants. Note: In many words derived from Afrikaans, the letter “g” is pronounced in the same way as the “ch” in the Scottish “loch” or the German “achtung” – a kind of growl at the back of the throat.

ag: [agh] Generally used at the beginning of a sentence, to express resignation or irritation, as in: “Ag no man! What did you do that for?”

babbelas: [bub-buh-luss] A hangover.

Bagel: [bay-gell] An overly groomed materialistic young man, and the male version of a kugel.

biscuit: In South Africa a cookie is known as a “biscuit”. The word is also a term of affection, as in, “Hey, you biscuit”.

bliksem: To beat up, hit or punch; or a mischievous person.

boet: [like “book”, with a t] A term of affection, from the Afrikaans for “brother”.

bru: Relax, my mate. Take it easy.

china: To most people, China is the world’s most populous country, but to a South African it can mean something entirely different. China means “good friend”, as in, “This oke’s my china”. It’s one of the few Cockney rhyming slang words to survive in the country, coming from “china plate” = “mate”.

chommie: Friend, from the English, “chum”.

deurmekaar: [dee-oor-muh-car] Afrikaans for confused, disorganised or stupid, as in, “He’s a bit deurmekaar“.

dinges: [ding-us] A thing, thingamabob, whatzit, whatchamacallit or whatsizname, as in, “When is dinges coming around?”

donga: A natural ditch resulting from severe soil erosion. From the isiZulu for “wall”.

donner: [dor-nuh] Beat up. From the Afrikaans donder, meaning “thunder”.

dop: [dawp] An alcoholic drink: “Can I pour you a dop?” It can also mean failure: “I dopped the test.”

dwaal: [dwarl] Lack of concentration or focus: “Sorry, I was in a bit of a dwaal. Could you repeat that?”

eina: [ay-nuh or ay-nar] Ouch! Can also mean “sore”.

eish: [aysh] Used to express surprise, wonder, frustration or outrage: “Eish! That cut was eina!”

Fixed up: Used to mean “that’s good” or “sorted”. Example: “Let’s meet at the restaurant.” The reply: “Fixed up.”

flog: No whips implied. South Africans use flog to mean “sell”, as in, “I think it’s time I flogged this old car.”

fundi: [foon-dee] Expert. From the Nguni, umfundisi, meaning “teacher” or “preacher”.

gatvol: [ghut-foll] Taken from Afrikaans, this means “fed up”, as in “Jislaaik, my china, I’m gatvol of working in this hot sun.” Translation: “Gee, my friend, I’m fed up with working in this hot sun.”

gogga, goggo: [gho-gha or gho-gho] Insect, bug. From the Khoikhoi xo-xon.

gogo: [goh-goh] Grandmother or elderly woman, from isiZulu.


hang of: Very or big, as in, “It’s hang of a difficult”, or, “I had a hang of a problem”.

hap: [hup] Taste, bite, as in, “Take a hap of this”.

hey: This popular expression can be used as a standalone question meaning “pardon” or “what”, as in, “Hey? What did you say?” Or it can be used to prompt affirmation or agreement, as in, “It was a great film, hey?”

ja: [yaa] Yes.

jawelnofine: Literally, “yes, well, no, fine”, all scrunched into a single word and similar to the rhetorical expression, “How about that?”

jislaaik: [yis-like] An expression of outrage or surprise: “Jislaaik, I just saw Elvis!”

jol: [jawl] A versatile word with many meanings, including “party”, “disco”, “having fun”, or just “thing”.

just now: If a South African tells you they will do something “just now”, they mean they’ll do it in the near future – not immediately, as in, “I’ll do the dishes just now.”

khaya: [k-eye-ya] Home. From the Nguni group of languages.

kif: Cool, neat, great or wonderful. From the Arabic kayf, meaning enjoyment or wellbeing.

laatlammetjie: [laart-lum-et-chie] The youngest child of a family, born [mostly by accident] to older parents and many years younger than its siblings. The word means “late lamb” in Afrikaans.

laduma!: [la-doo-mah] A popular cheer celebrating goals scored at soccer matches, from the isiZulu for “it thunders”.

lekker: [lekk-irr with a rolling r] Nice, good, great, cool or tasty.

make a plan: devise a way to overcome difficulties. “Leave it to me, I’ll make a plan.”

mal: [mull] Mad, from Afrikaans. Crazy.

mampara: [mum-puh-rah] An idiot, a silly person. From the Sotho languages.

moegoe: [moo-ghoo] A fool, buffoon, idiot or simpleton.

muti : [moo-ti] Medicine, typically traditional African medicine. From the isiZulu, umuthi.

now-now: Shortly, in a bit, as in, “I’ll be there now-now.”

Oke, ou: A man, similar to “guy” or “bloke”. The word “ou” [oh] can be used interchangeably.

pasop: [pus-orp] An Afrikaans word meaning “beware” or “watch out”.

sangoma: [sun-go-mah] Traditional healer or diviner.

sarmie: Sandwich.

scale, scaly: To “scale something” means to steal it. A “scaly person” is not to be trusted.

shame: Broadly denotes sympathetic feeling. A South African admiring a baby, kitten or puppy might say, “Ag shame!”, to emphasise its cuteness.

sharp: Often doubled up for effect as sharp- sharp! , this word is used as a greeting, a farewell, for agreement, or just to express enthusiasm.

shebeen: A township tavern, illegal under the apartheid regime, often set up in a private house and frequented by black South Africans. The word is originally Gaelic.

skebenga: [ska-beng-gah] Gangster, crook, criminal. From the Nguni word for gangster. See also skelm or skollie.

skelm: [skellem] A shifty or untrustworthy person; a criminal.

skinner: [skinner] Gossip, from Afrikaans. A person who gossips is known as a skinnerbek:

skollie: [skoh-li] Gangster, criminal, from the Greek skolios, meaning crooked.

skop, skiet en donner: [skorp, skeet en donner] Action movie. Taken from Afrikaans, it literally means “kick, shoot and beat up”.

skrik: Fright. “I caught a big skrik” means, “I got a big fright”.

skrik vir niks: Scared of nothing.

smaak stukkend: Love to bits. In Afrikaans smaak means “like”, and stukkend means “broken”.

spaza: Informal township shop.

stompie: A cigarette butt. From the Afrikaans stomp, meaning “stump”. The expression “picking up stompies” means intruding into a conversation at its tail end, with little information about its content.

stroppy: Difficult, unco-operative, argumentative or stubborn.

struesbob: [s-true-zz-bob] “As true as Bob”, as true as God, the gospel truth.

tsotsi: A gangster, hoodlum or thug – and the title of South Africa’s first Oscar-winning movie.

tune grief: Cause trouble.

vrot: [frot] Rotten or smelly.

windgat: [vint-ghut] Show-off or blabbermouth. Taken from the Afrikaans, it literally means “wind hole”.

yebo: Yes. Used to show agreement or approval.

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