"South African slang ~ for your amusement!" South Africa Travelogue by Jenniflower

South Africa Travel Guide: 12,202 reviews and 29,332 photos

South Africa has eleven official languages, English is one of these languages as is Afrikaans, the remaining nine are indigenous and these are: Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho, Sepedi, Ndebele, Tswana, Swati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga. Everyone speaks some English, so there is no need to worry about the locals understanding you. The biggest problem you are likely to encounter is understanding the locals with their use of sland and 'home-grown' words :) Here are some examples:

South African slang

As well (Accent on 'as')
(Also or Me too) A person who says, "Jees, I'm kished bru." (Gee, I'm tired bro) might get this reply, "Ja, I am as well."

Babalas ('Bub-ba-lars')
The hangover from hell, fondly referred to as a "Barbie". Not to be confused with a BBQ! As you know there are no BBQs in SA.

Bakkie ('Buk-ky')
(Pickup truck in US, "Ute" in Australia) Many people own bakkies in South Africa, particularly in the rural areas.

A hobo who hangs out on the streets of Cape Town. The term Bergie originates from the Berg (Mountain), and has connotations, according to prejudice, that Bergies are members of inbred hillbilly clans. This is not really so. It has more to do with alcoholism and tragic social circumstances such as poverty and homelessness.

Jerky (US). This is specially prepared dried raw meat, made from beef, venison or Ostrich. Different farmers and hunters have different recipes and processes for their biltong. Their speciality might be Springbok, Blesbok or Eland. Ostrich is very tasty. The basic ingredient is salt and herbs, and often pepper corns. My husband makes a mean tasting biltong :)

some more...

(Strike, hit, punch) "I'm going to bliksem that doos!"

(Mistake) "Oops, I made a blups."

This Malay dish is made with spicy mince, raisins, spices and yellow rice. It is baked in the oven with a couple of eggs broken on top. Delicious. You must try it.

(Afrikaans farmer)

Farmstyle sausage or "wors". (Literally, "Farmers Sausage"). It is a spicy sausage made from hundreds of secret recipes all over the Platteland and beyond. It is consumed in vast quantities on braais all over the country.

Black Taxi
These are not black at all nor are they taxis in the conventional sense. When talking about taxis people generally refer to the Minibus Taxis that ply their trade down all the main roads. These mini busses are the preferred mode of transport for people without cars. They are cheap, fast and very regular. They are also incredibly dangerous and should be avoided at cost, either as mode of transport or as a moving traffic violation. Taxis are not required to stop at any demarked area and will stop without any form of warning, hoot alot, block traffic and generally cause mayhem.

Barbecue (US) or Barbie (Aus). Probably the biggest semantic gift given to the world by South Africa. You make a braai with wood in a metal drum or between bricks. You cook your boerewors, lamb chops and sosaties on it. With your meal you eat mielie pap, salads, rolls and other stuff. You drink a Castle beer, or maybe a spook and diesel. A braai is only ever over wood or charcoal/brikkets a gas braai is something very different and is called a skotel.

Broer ('Broo')
(Brother, friend) A variation of brah. Variations in tone emanate from all over South Africa. It is now spelt Bru by most Sef Efrikens .

Bunny Chow
Indian or Malay curry inside a hollowed out loaf of white bread. You get served the curry in the bread, with a square chunk taken from the inside, which you can use to dunk in the curry. Best when the bread is fresh. Bunny chow can also refer to 'slap' (soft) chips in bread.

Cape Doctor
The south-easter which howls across the Cape Peninsula in summer, often forming a whispy, creamy white cloud that rolls over Table Mountain in the shape of a "table cloth". The name is self explanatory. Because it blows for up to a week or more at a time, often at gale-force strength, it blows all the pollution away.

(Tease or make fun)

(Look, do you see?) "You check" (See what I mean? Do you follow? Are you with me?) or "Check this out" (Look at this).

(A friend) And a colleague or acquaintance, or someone you don?t know at all. It can be used aggressively. "Are you tuning me kak China?" (Are you giving me ***, mate?).

Dinges ('Din-gus')
Thingamabob, a wotzit or a whatchamacallit. In any rural town in South Africa, you might overhear the mechanic say to his colleague, "Johannes, pass me the dinges wot you screw on the top of the carburettor."

Doff ('Dorf')
Stupid. Dunce. Someone who is dof, is not necessarily that way all the time. It is often used to describe a temporary loss of brain cells. "Don?t be dof"

Dop ('Dorp')
(Booze, or to fail school) "One dop too many" (One drink too many). The word dop is used in its most common context when referring to drinking, the national pastime in South Africa next to Cricket and Rugby.

Dorp ('Dorrrp')
(Small town) Don?t be confused when someone says, "Let?s go for a dop in that dorp."


Dwaal ('Dwarl')
(Dreamlike state) This word describes that vacuous, blank, state a person gets into sometimes, especially after sleep deprivation. "I have been in a dwaal today after downing that half-jack of whisky last night."

(Ouch) Widely used. Derived from Afrikaans. Pronounced "aynah", you can shout "Eina!"

and some more...

Ek se ('Ek sair')
(I tell you) A affirmative phrase to add impact to what you are communicating. Used in a fascinating variety of contexts all over the country. "Let?s hit the jol ek se."

Gatvol ('G*at-fawl')
(Fed up) Another Afrikaans word. Literally, "Hole full" (constipated)

Gesuip ('G*esayp')

Used for emphasis or on its own as a way of saying "excuse me?" or "pardon?"

The famous South African greeting. Short for "How is it?" Try and refrain from saying, "It's fine, thanks". This will only lead to a funny look. A suitable reply is: "No, fine", which actually means "Yes, I am fine". The word "no" is often taken to mean "yes". A real Afrikaner might reply to a "Howzit", with this bewildering response: "Ja, well, no fine". This is merely a more emphatic but long-winded version of "No, fine"

(Gee whizz)

Jol ('Jawl')
The word jol, like the word kief, is a generic South African word. It refers to having a good time and is used in any context. "I am going on a jol (party)." "I am having a jol (good time)."

Just now
Universally used, it means "eventually", sometimes "never". If someone says he will do it "just now" it could be in 10 minutes or tomorrow or never. "I'll clean my room just now, Ma."

Kak ('Kuk')
(Sh*t) This is used in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways, in exactly the same way as the word "sh*t". Hence, "Don?t talk kak." or "Don?t give me kak.

Kief ('Keef')
Something that?s nice. Like "nice", it can be used in any context. "This chow is kief ekse." (This food is delicious I tell you).

Klap ('Klup')
(Slap) "Ek sal jou a snotklap gee" (I will hit you hard enough to make the snot fly)

Klippies and coke
(Brandy and Coke) Named after Klipdrift, a popular, cheap brandy.

(A lot) "There are lank people in the water."

(Fancy, designer clothes, snob, friend) A number of variations on a word denoting someone who is well-dressed, or designer clothes, or a well-to-do function. The person can be larney. The clothes can be larney as in "Jees, you are wearing larney clothes." or "Why are you dressed so larney?" or a high-class dinner do as in "We went to a larney party that had caviar for pudding." For coloured people in the Cape, it means "Friend". "Hoesit my larnie!" (Hello there my friend!)

An Afrikaans word meaning nice, this word is used by all language groups to express approval. If you see someone of the opposite sex who is good-looking, you can exclaim: "Lekkerrr!" while drawing out the last syllable. But that use is now thought politically incorrect in some areas.


The clan name for former President Mandela that has become universally used as an affectionate nickname. His full name is Nelson Rolihlahla (Roli-shla-shla) Mandela. His clan name is used widely, even by the press.

(Mad) "That ou is mal".

Moer ('Moor-r')
(Hit, punch) Another Afrikaans word meaning to hit someone. "

Moffie ('Moffee')
(Gay, queer) A derogeratory term for a gay person.

(Mosquito) "That mozzie is powered by a lawnmower engine."

Nooit ('Noy-t')
(No way) Another way of saying no, but also a sign of incredulous response.

Oke ('Oak')
(Guy, chap, bloke) You can also say "ou", pronounced "Oh."

Pap ('Pup')
(Boiled corn meal) It is the staple diet of many South Africans. Eaten mostly in the townships, it is often found at braais. It has the appearance of wet plaster, but is delicious when scooped through gravy. Pap is versatile. It's eaten as sweet porridge, or as part of a main course.

(The sticks) The Platteland is where people milk cows and grow mielies (corn). Although it means literally "flat land", it also applies to mountainous and hilly regions such as the wine-growing region near Cape Town.

(Traffic light) Peculiar way of describing a traffic light. But then, we only got TV in the mid 1970s.

and lastly...

(Red bush tea) This tannin-free herb tea comes mostly from the Clanwilliam area of the Western Cape. It is made from the Aspalathus linearis bush. Homesick South Africans buy it from gourmet stores around the world, even if they don't like it.

Naartjie ('tjie' spoken as 'chi')
Known in England as clementines, this small orange-like fruit has an easy-to-peel skin, and is juicy and yummy!

An African food made from rough corn. It is starchy and is often eaten with haricot or red beans, dunked in gravy stew. Delicious.

(Sandwich) Kids sometimes take a sarmie to school in the morning. Called a Sarnie in the UK.

(Thanks) "Shot my broer." Also, "Shot Dot".

Sif ('Suf')
(Disgusting thing, see mif) A shortened version of syphillus, sif doesn?t necessarily refer to disease, but could refer to a gangrenous wound.

Sis ('Sus')

Sjoe ('Shoe')
(Expletive) "Sjoe broer, that was awesome."


Skolly ('Skaw-llie')
(Sleazy ruffian). Also referred to as a "skommie" or a "skate". Can be used almost affectionately when talking about a roguish friend. Choose carefully whom you call a skolly. Related to the word skelm.

Slip Slops
Mostly called "slops", they are what Australians call thongs, or sandals. The proper slops are made from rubber and have a strap between your big toe and its partner.

This is a fierce fish found in the sea off Cape Town. It has sharp teeth and is long and narrow like a barracuda. It is the staple diet and source of income for many Malay fisherman on the peninsula. It is pronounced "snook", as in "look". It tastes great when fresh. Dried, salted snoek can be eaten as is, or served in a stew called "smoor-vis", or better still, braaied :)

(Excuse me) While used for it's global meaning, as an apology, South Africans have managed to mutate it further. "Sorry, can I just get past."

(Kebab) Made from either chicken, lamb or beef, this is often interspersed with pieces of tomato, green pepper, onion and sometimes fruit, especially apricot, and is found on a stick (not like the English kebabs).

(Cantaloupe) A delicious orange coloured melon. Apparently, it is from the Old Dutch phrase meaning Spanish Melon.

Spook and diesel
(Cane spirits and coke) A favourite mixture of a pale liquor and dark coca-cola.

Sukkend ('Stuk-int')
(Broken, ruined, finished, wrecked, to the extreme) There are a number of variations, such as "I'm going to moer you stukkend if you do that again" (I am going to beat you senseless if you do that again". "When she left me my heart was stukkend" (struck numb by despair), "I was stukkend last night" (wrecked) or "I smaak you stukkend" (I love you).

(Sneakers, trainers, running shoes) Often refers to the cheap, hip kind bought in a mass clothing chain called Pep Stores. This word is also used to describe car tyres. If someone has "Fat takkies" they have a suped up car with wide-brim tyres.

The moer in (roll the r)
(Very angry) "You make me the moer in!

Tune ('Choon')
(To tell, to talk, to provoke) For instance, "Don?t tune me grief" (Don?t give me your ***) or "Are you tuning me kak?" (Are you giving me ***?). "Tune me the ages" (Tell me the time). Not be confused with the Australian use - to chat up.

Vloek ('Flook')
(coincidence, lucky break, by chance) If you need a bullseye on the dart board to win, and you hurl the dart at the board without aiming, and it hits the bullseye, then it's a vloek.

Vrot ('Frort')
(Rotten, putrid) Used by all language groups to describe something highly undesirable, or smelly, or rotten. It can also mean drunk to the point of being completely paralytic. "I was vrot last night"

  • Page Updated May 24, 2005
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