Guide to South African Slang
South Africa is home to several different cultures and people including the Europeans (Dutch, English and French), the Malaysians, the Indians, as well as the local Africans. This great variety of cultures and languages has resulted in a unique slang which can only be found in South Africa.
The South African slang reflects many different linguistic traditions found in South Africa. These “Afrikanerisms” referred to as “funagalore”, which is a language used in the gold and coal mines of South Africa, was used to ensure workers from various language backgrounds could communicate.
So let’s say you’ve got everything lined up – Your flight is booked, hotels in Johannesburg registered, rental car ordered, a great restaurant list prepared, etc… But you want to fit in as best as possible. We have compiled a list below with the most common slang words used in South Africa and have subdivided these into the following categories:
- South African slang
- Special Use slang
1. South African Slang
Ag is a multi-purpose word which is pronounced like the ach in German. A typical use would be “Ag, no man” (sign of irritation) or “Ag, I don’t know.”
Aikona can be translated as “No way, absolutely not.” This expression stems from the indigenous Nguni language meaning “No”.
This word describes a terrible hangover from too much alcohol consumption. Babalaas comes from the Zulu word ibhabhalazi.
Afrikaans “farmer” used to refer to any conservative Afrikaans speaking person.
The Africans word ‘braai’ is a very important South African word which refers to Barbecue. South African’s make their braai with wood in a metal drum or between bricks. You cook your boerewors, steak, lamb chops and sosaties on it. With your meal one eats mielie pap, salad and rolls along with a cold beer.
This word has three meanings, namely:
1. Warning. “Look out!” or “keep a look out” warning.
2. French Fries: also referred to as “slap chips”
3. Potato Crisps
This Afrikaans word can be translated as “not bright”,“dull”. Someone who is dof is not necessarily that way all the time. It is often used to describe a temporary loss of brain cells.
Afrikaans word for “Ouch”; widely used. You can shout “Eina!” when you see someone get hurt or when you get hurt yourself.
This is a Zulu expression which relates to being surprised, bewildered and shocked. Can be used as follows: “Eish.Voetsek! = leave me alone, “Eish! you gave me a fright”.
The famous South African greeting. Short for “How is it?”
Afrikaans world for nice, pleasant, fun, lovely, good, pretty. It is used by all language groups to express approval, often to cover up a limited vocabulary.If you see someone of the opposite sex who is good-looking, you can exclaim:”Lekkerrr!”while drawing out the last syllable. Cars can be lekker. You can have a lekker time. You can feel lekker. Holidays are lekker.
Afrikaans word meaning loose head, absent minded, forgetful.
Skinner is the Afrikaans word for gossip, news. It refers to the kind of gossip that goes on behind your back.
2. Special-use slang:
These phrases are mostly specific to local townships with less international influence.
- 411: giving someone the latest news and gossip
- Ayoba: expression of excitement
- Fong Kong: cheap and fake products that one can buy from vendors on the streets
- Yebo: a Zulu word which means “yes”
South African Indian slang
Many of these terms occur mostly in Cape Townand Durbanareas, as well as in Indian areas in Gauteng.
- Bunny Chow: type of food, made with a loaf of bread filled with a curry stew
- Cover: an insurance policy; as in: Hey laanie, can you organise me a cover for my grannie?
- Tannie: female version of toppie, from the Afrikaans word for “Aunty”.
This post was written by Ryan Mackie of www.south-african-hotels.com. Ryan is based in Cape Town and regularly contributes to travel blogs about the vast array of travel opportunities to his home country.