This is a list of words saffers (South Africans) use regularly, particularly English, Afrikaans, or Eng-Afr bilinguals. I am quite nervous about how I’ll cope when I eventually start traveling. Looking through this list convinces me that no non-South African will ever understand the words coming out of my mouth unless I make a concerted effort.
Please note: South Africa has 11 official languages with many dialects and varieties. This is not even including all of the languages spoken in SA. “South African” is not a language, just a funny term used to refer to the amalgamation of slang from a bunch of languages. The terms in this list are predominantly from Afrikaans.
Aangenaam ‘n kenis – Pleasure to meet you. Formal greeting. Usually accompanied with a firm handshake.
Arvie – afternoon
Ag man – oh man
Aweh – (ah-weh) used to acknowledge something or greet someone.
Amped – excited
All of a skielik – All of a sudden
Bobotie – a traditional food with yellow rice, mince and spices
Babbelas – hangover
Bakgat – used to describe something good. “Dit was bakgat!”
Bakkie – pickup truck
Bejags – totally insane. PE slang. “Is jy bejags in jou kop?”
Biltong – hard, dry meat
Biscuit – cookie
Bliksem – expression similar to “Heck!” Also used as a synonym for “hit.” For example. “Ek gaan jou bliksem.”
Bitter Koud/Blerrie Koud – very cold
Boer – white farmer
Boerewors – a highly seasoned traditional sausage made from minced or pounded meat
Boerie – Boerewors roll. Similar to a hotdog.
Boetie – brother
Bokkie – girl (can be viewed as derogatory and sexist by some)
Bra – buddy, mate, friend
Bru – buddy, mate, friend
Braai – barbeque
Befok – A South African and particularly Cape Town word for really good! Can also be used to describe someone crazy. Contains the F word in Afrikaans, so use at your discretion. “That was totally befok!”
Bergie – homeless person
Bill – restaurant check
Baas – boss
Bakvissie – a giggly teenage girl
Bail – to leave. Variety of terms used to mean the same thing. “bail, fade, chuck, chaila.”
Betty – a pretty girl
Buggered – tired
Blimmin – exclamation similar to “damn.”
Cell – mobile phone
Chommie – buddy, mate, friend. To be friendly. “He was chommie with me.”
China – buddy, mate, friend
Cherry – pretty girl, usually belonging to someone. “My cherry.”
Choon – song (tune)
Chow – eat
Cozzy – swimming costume
Chick – girl (can be viewed as sexist by some)
Check – look.
Chips – look out. french fries. crispy potato chips.
Dik Bek – thick mouth. To be upset or miserable about something.
Doss – sleep, nap
Dorpie – small town
Dagga – weed, pot, ganja
Dinges – things
Donder – beat up
Doos – derogatory term for female genitalia. Often used to describe someone who is acting like an idiot.
Dof – stupid
Dop – alcoholic drink
Dik – thick. If someone is dik. If you are full after a meal.
Duidelik – clear
Dankie – thank you
Dwaal – mentally lost. zoned out. “in ‘n dwaal.”
Dwars – “You’re being dwars.” Others. Deliberately confused.
Dak nat gooi – house warming
Daarsy – silent ‘r.’ There we go.
Droewors – dried meat.
Eina – ow
Eish – expression of awe, similar to “wow”
Ek se – I say
Entjie – cigarette, generally the stump of the cigarette that people smoke.
Fundi – expert
Fed-up – finished, done with it, over it
Flip – exclamation. Gee wiz.
Gatsby – style of deli sandwich very similar in content and method of preparation as a hoagie in the USA.
Gesuip – drunk
Graze – to eat
Gomgat – bumpkin, redneck
Goof – if you’re in Durban this means taking a swim. If you’re in Cape Town it means to smoke weed
Gooi – throw
Gatvol – finished, done with it, over it
Gelukkige Verjaarsdag – Happy Birthday
Gogga – bug, beetle, insect
Highway – freeway
Howzit/Howsit – How are you? A good reply is a repetition of the word, “Howsit? Howsit!” Generic friendly greeting.
Hundreds – great. “How are things here? Hundreds! Great.”
Hectic – heavy, intense
Isit/ izzit – is it? generic phrase, similar to “really?”
In sy moer – messed up. “That guy was in sy moer in.”
Ja – yes
Jags – horny
Ja-nee/Ja-no/Ja-no-well-fine – Yes no. Generically means “ok.” We don’t really know what the last one means but we enjoy using it a lot anyways.
Just now – variable meaning, time reference. Similar to “in a bit”
Jislaaik – Jesus. Exclamation
Jol – party. Also used to mean a great time. “Dit gaan a jol wees.”
Kombi – Volkswagen mini-bus
Kwaai – standard usage means “angry.” Colloquially means something similar to “hectic.”
Kak – shit
Kief – cool (kiff)
Kiesche – Port Elizabeth slang. Means buggered. Tired.
Klap – slap
Keen – eager, interested
Laaitie – lightie. A young boy.
Laduma – yelled when someone in soccer scores a goal
Larney – fancy, upper class, posh
Lekker – nice
Lank – very (not to be confused with Afrikaans “lank” which means “long”)
Las – a hassle, annoyance
Lift – elevator
Lights out – to punch someone so hard they pass out. “I’ll punch your lights out.”
Monkey’s wedding – raining while the sun is shining
Mielie – corn
Mik – to fake-move towards something. To feint. “He was mikking for my chips.”
Ma se poes – such a generic Afrikaans derogatory phrase that it’s become a standard term. “Your mother’s genitalia” <– to put it lightly.
Mal – mad
Mamparra – an absolute idiot
Moegoe – similar to mamparra
Moerse – huge
Mos – Difficult to describe out of context. “He was walking mos down by the taxi-rank when that chick mos ran up to him.” A sort of filler word to add emphasis to a situation.
Moer – beat up “Om iemand to moer.” moermygesig – a face that wants to be punched
Naartjie – loose-skinned South African citrus fruit
Ne – a generic tag question, like “hey?”
Nogal – too, or as well
Nooit – never. Often used as an exclamation.
Now now – similar to “Just now.”
Ou – old
Ou Ballie – old man
Ou Toppie – old man. Term of endearment. Could refer to a family member, such as your grandfather, father, or father-in-law. Recently it was used to describe Neil Diamond’s performance in Cape Town. “Ou toppie’s still got it.”
Oke – a guy
Oom – uncle
Plakkies – sandals
Padkos – roadtrip food
Pap/mielie meal – maize meal (“pap” can also mean “limp” or “weak”)
Pavement – sidewalk
Plaas – farm
Plank – derogatory term for an Afrikaans person (there are many of these, such as rockspider and clutchplate)
Pomp – derogatory term for sex. Sometimes used as “Wat pomp?” as in “what’s happening?”
Robot – traffic light
Rad – used as a synonym for cool
Rock up – to arrive
Rondavel – traditional African-style house. Round or oval in shape made from materials which can be locally acquired such as stones, mud etc.
Sangoma – witchdoctor or spiritual healer. Traditional
Shongololo – centipede
Siff – gross
Skinder – gossip
Slap chips – thick french fries
Slip slops/slops – (see “plakkies”) sandals
Spaza shop/cafe – corner convenience store
Stoep – porch
Sosatie – kebab
Swak – used to generally mean, “unlucky” or “hectic.”
Sies – gross
Skeef – to look at someone in a way that they wont like, or so that they can see you disapprove of them or have a problem with them. To skeef someone.
Skelm – sneaky. Or to have a floozy/mistress. “I’m going to meet my skelm.”
Skraal – skinny
Skrik – To get a fright. To describe someone really ugly.
Smaak stukkend – to like something a lot (literally: taste to pieces)
Sorry – This does not actually mean sorry. We use it for virtually everything and everywhere. When we say, “excuse me,” we are generally about to pick a fight.
Stompie – last bit of a cigarette
Shame – used a lot by South Africans. Generally doesn’t denote pity, used more generically and more frequently, although in a similar standard context. “Shame, his hat fell off into the crowd.”
Skew – askew.
Sat (‘sut’) – satiated. Can apply to a situation that you are tired of or a meal.
Sommer net – just because
Suid Afrika – Afrikaans for South Africa
Saffer – A South African
Stoked – Excited. Similar to “amped.”
So ja – Used when starting a sentence that changes the subject or reverts back to a subject previously being discussed. Or used pretty much wherever you want really, depending on how truly South African you are. “So ja, as I was saying.”
Tannie – aunt
Takkies – sneakers
Toy-toy – protest dance done in the streets. Often done at times of excitement as well, such as during the Soccer World Cup.
Tokoloshe – In Zulu mythology, Tokoloshe is a dwarf-like water sprite or zombie. They are considered mischievous and evil spirits and are widely believed in.
Tsotsi – thief, criminal
Tune – to “kak someone out.” To tune someone. To berate someone.
Veld – field
Veldskoens/vellies – shoes often worn when walking through a field or long distance. Often made of animal hide/leather.
Voetsek – Go away. Bugger off
Vetkoek – traditional Afrikaner pastry. It is dough deep-fried in cooking oil and can be eaten plain or filled with mince or jam, depending on taste.
Vuvuzela – stadium horn, blowing horn. Approximately one metre in length, commonly blown by fans at soccer matches in SA. They require some lip and lung strength to blow and emit a loud monotone like a foghorn or an elephant.
Vasbyt – hang in there
Viva – hooray. “Viva, South Africa, viva!” Generally repeated twice in a sentence.
Vrot – when something goes off it is declared vrot. Rotten.
Wat Pomp – Made popular by an Afrikaans pop group, Die Antwoord, this simply means, “What’s happening?” or “What’s up?”
Windgat – a show-off
Yebo – yes. Sometimes said as “yebo yes.”