A Guide to South African Slang

A Guide to South African Slang

Every country has their unique colloquial language, sort of like an insider language. Well, if you’re South African – you are definitely familiar with these slang words and if you’re traveling to South Africa, learn and throw in these words with the locals and you’ll definitely make an impression! If you want to know more about South African languages, check out 11 Official Languages of South Africa.

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Original South African Slang

    • Chop – idiot
    • Dop – Drink or to drink, primarily when talking about alcohol, from the Afrikaans “dop”
    • Higher grade – a bit too complicated (from the South African matric division of exams into standard grade and higher grade.)
    • Just now – sometime in the near future or the near past, not necessarily immediately. Expresses an intention to act soon, but not necessarily immediately, or expresses something that happened in the near past.
    • Now now – an immediate but not literal declaration of impending action, may be past or future tense.
    • Nca – meaning something is nice (the nc is a nasalised dental click)
    • Robot – traffic-light
    • Traffic circle – roundabout (road)
    • Takkies – sports shoes
  • Voetsek – impolite way to say “go away”, commonly used with animals or as derogatory term. (from Dutch voort seg ik via Afrikaans)

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Xhosa, Zulu and other Nguni Languages

Used as slang

    • Aikona! – a strong refusal/disagreement, meaning “No!”
    • Donga – ditch of the type found in South African topography.
    • Eish! – an interjection expressing resignation
    • Gogo – grandmother, elderly woman (from Zulu, ugogo)
    • Hayibo! – wow! (from Zulu, ‘definitely not’)
    • Indaba – conference (from Zulu, ‘a matter for discussion’); has become a mainstream word in South African English
    • Laduma! – a popular cheer at soccer matches, “he scores!” (literally: “it thunders”, in Zulu)
    • Spaza – an informal trading-post/convenience store found in townships and remote areas (also a term referring to something cheap and nasty – i.e. of poor quality)
    • Toyi-toyi – (more commonly spelt toi-toi) protest-dancing; used in mainstream South African English
  • Ubuntu – compassion or kindness, humanity

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South African Indian Slang

    • Cake – idiot
    • Cameway – to go with someone, like come with me. Used in Durban.
    • Charo – a person of Indian origin.
    • Guzzie – friend (from the Zulu guz’lam)
    • Kassam – serious, not joking. From Islamic meaning “oath”.
    • Ou – person (Roti Ou / Bread Ou Hindi person; Wit Ou – a White person)
    • Paining – having pain
    • Potter-marie – means a dumbass (Hindu language roots)
    • Right – an affirmation, mostly used while giving traffic directions, as in “Go straight, Right. Turn Left, Right.”
  • Sheila – an ugly woman

Kasi / Township slang

    • Ayoba – expression of excitement
    • Fong Kong – cheap and fake products that one can buy from vendors on the streets
  • Moegoe – a fool, idiot or simpleton.

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Afrikaans Slang

    • Ag shame – both an expression of pity and sorrow, depending on context: Ag shame, daardie baba is te oulik! (Awe that baby is so cute!); Ag shame, die arme hond is dood. (Ah shame, the poor dog died.)
    • Babelaas / babbelas – hangover (of Zulu origin)
    • Bakkie – a utility truck or pick-up truck, now a mainstream word in South African English.
    • Boer – literally “farmer” in Afrikaans. (pronounced boo-(r)). boer maak ‘n plan – “farmer makes a plan” is an expression used to refer to a creative solution, often low-cost and rather innovative.
    • Boerewors – a very popular mixed-meat spiced sausage in South Africa. In Afrikaans, literally “farmer’s sausage”, used as a mainstream word in South African English. Due to the large variety of home recipes for the sausage, a local commission was set up to ensure the meat was labelled correctly by butchers as “Boerewors”, in order to preserve the original base-recipe.
    • Bro/bra/bru/boet/boetie – a close male friend and a term of affection used by one male to another. All words are variations of the word “broer” in Afrikaans meaning “brother”. Boetie (Pronounced ‘Boet – tea’) specifically means little brother in Afrikaans because of the “ie” diminutive suffix.
    • Braai – a barbecue, to barbecue (from braaivleis – grilled meat), used as a mainstream word in South African English. Specifically to grill meat on an open fire. As a noun, it is also the literal area/object used for the grilling of the meat (in that case, the barbecue grill and stand) as well as the social gathering around it.
    • Chommie – a friend (similar to English “chum”); also refers to the perineum area between vagina and anus. Also spelled tjommie.
    • Fokkol – lit. “fuck-all”. Literally means “absolutely nothing” (vulgar): Ek het fokkol geld (“I’ve got no money”).
    • Gatvol – lit. annoyed enough to the brink of getting angry: Ek is gatvol vir jou kak. (I’ve had enough of your shit.)
    • Hoesit, hoezithowzit – derived from “How is it going? – contracted to how’s it? In South African English context, howzit is more a greeting of “hello” rather than “how are you?”, similar to South African black slang’s “eta” or “ola”
    • Kak – Literal translation: shit, crap, rubbish, nonsense (vulgar), of very wide usage. Also used as a way of further expressing one’s feeling in language, for example, instead of “that girl is pretty” one can say emphatically “that girl is kak pretty!”
    • Koeksister – A sweet pastry that’s been fried and dipped in a honey syrup, and shaped in the form of a French-braid.
    • Laanie, larny – (n) boss, used in a different tone. (adj.) fancy
    • Lekker – (lit. tasty) It means pleasing, tasty, nice, good, great, delicious. Lekker is used for just about anything you find nice. “How was the party? Lekker“, “I met a lekker chick last night”, “local is lekker, a popular slogan promoting South African culture and produce”, “How is that steak? Lekker bro”. Unlike it’s English counterpart “nice”, use of the word “lekker” is actually promoted instead of frowned upon despite being very commonly used. It is speculated that “lekker” will never become Clichéd.
    • Potjiekos – lit. “small pot food”. Is a meat and vegetable dish that is specially cooked in a potjie. It is traditionally slow-cooked over an open fire for a couple of hours before being served during a Braai (social gathering). Though it is similar to a stew, the main differences are: a stew has lots of water/sauce, while a potjiekos has very little water/sauce; and you stir a stew, you don’t stir potjiekos as it is intended to not have the individual ingredients’ flavor mixing.
    • Sies, “sis” – expression of disgust, disappointment, annoyance, as in: Ag sies man.
    • Skyf – cigarette, a puff, and also less commonly marijuana or dagga
    • Slaptjips/ slapchips – (pronounced as “slup chips”) similar to thick-cut British chips; usually soft, oily and soaked in vinegar. Slap is Afrikaans for “limp”. French fries refers to thinly cut chips. Crispy potato/corn chips are referred to as ‘chips’.
  • Yoh – an expression of surprise e.g., “Yoh, that was rude” “Yoh, you gave me a fright!”, (Police-chief talking about the poor physique of his policemen) “They should look at our men and say “yoh!”.
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org

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