A Beginner's Guide to Speaking South African Slang

South African Slang Talking Around A Braai
••• Relaxing With a Beach Braai, South Africa. Klaus Vedfelt/ Getty Images

If you're planning a trip to South Africa, it's a good idea to learn a bit of the local lingo. South Africa has 11 official languages, but the easiest place to start is with South African English. Given the country's rich linguistic heritage, South African slang borrows from a range of different influences, including Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa. 

Knowing even a few of these words can help break the cultural ice, making potentially tricky tasks like renting a car or ordering traditional food that much easier.

 

An A-Z of Essential South African Slang

A

Ag shame (pronounced ach shame): used to express sympathy or pity, e.g. "Ag shame, she couldn't come because she's sick". 

B

Babelas (pronounced buh-be-las): a hangover, e.g. "We went out last night and now I've got such a babelas". 

Bakkie (pronounced buh-key): a pick-up, e.g. "Mine's the white bakkie over there".

Biltong (pronounced bil-tong): dried meat, similar to jerky, e.g. "Won't you pick me up some biltong from the shop".

Bliksem (pronounced blik-sem): to beat someone, e.g. "I'm going to bliksem you". 

Boet (pronounced to rhyme with 'put'): Afrikaans for brother, can be used for any male friend e.g. "I know him, he's my boet".

Boerewors (pronounced bor-e-vors): South African sausage, literally translates from the Afrikaans for 'farmer's sausage', e.g. "Have you ever tried warthog boerewors?".

Braai (pronounced bry): barbecue, both a noun and a verb e.g "Come on over, we're having a braai", or "Come on over, we're going to braai".

 

Bru (pronounced brew): similar to boet, though it can be used casually for men and women, e.g. "Hey bru, what's up?".

C

China (pronounced china): friend, e.g. "Hey china, it's been a long time". 

Chow (pronounced chow): food, e.g. "I'll see you later for some chow".

D

Dof (pronounced dorf): stupid, e.g. "Don't be so dof, man".

Dop (pronounced dop): alcoholic drink, e.g. "He's had one too many dops".

Doss (pronounced doss): sleep, e.g. "Don't you want to doss at my place tonight?".

Droëwors (pronounced droy-vors): dried boerewors, similar to biltong, e.g. "I don't need dinner, I filled up on droëwors".

Dwaal (pronounced dw-ul): spacey, not concentrating, e.g. "I was in such a dwaal I didn't even see her".

E

Eina (pronounce ey-na): ouch, both an exclamation and a noun, e.g. "Eina! That hurt!", or "I've got an eina".

Eish (pronunced eysh): an exclamation, usually used to express dismay, e.g. "Eish, that bill is expensive".

G

Gatvol (pronounced hat-fol, with a guttural sound at the beginning): fed up, e.g. "I'm gatvol of your nonsense". 

H

Hectic (pronounced hectic): extreme, usually stressful, e.g. "That conversation was hectic".

Howzit (pronounced hows-it): used to ask someone how they're doing, e.g. "Howzit my china?".

J

Ja (pronounced yah): Afrikaans for yes, e.g. "Ja, I want to got to the braai". 

Jislaaik (pronounced yis-like): an exclamation of surprise or disbelief (can be positive or negative) e.g. "Jislaaik, we had a good time". 

Jol (pronounced jol): party or good time, can be a noun or verb, e.g. "That was such a jol", or "Are you coming to the jol tonight?".

 

Just now (pronounced just now): sometime, any time, soonish, e.g. "I'll get around to it just now".

K

Kak (pronounced kuk): crap, e.g. "That was a kak game". 

Kif (pronounced kif): cool, awesome, e.g. "The waves were kif today".

Koeksister (pronounced cook-sister): plaited dough deep-fried in syrup, e.g. "I'm going to treat myself to a koeksister)

Klap (pronounced klup): slap, e.g. "You deserve a klap for that". 

L

Lallie (pronounced lallie): informal settlement, township, location, e.g. "He lives in the lallie".

Lank (pronounced lank): lots of, very e.g. "There were lank bars at the beach", or "It's lank cold today".

Larny (pronounced lar-nee): fancy, posh e.g. "This hotel is larny".

Lekker (pronounced lak-kerr): great, cool, nice e.g. "It's a lekker day today", or "You look lekker in that dress".

Lus (prounced lis): craving, e.g. "I'm lus for a cool beer right now".

M

Mal (pronounced mul): crazy, e.g. "Watch out for that guy, he's a bit mal".

Moer (pronounced mo-urr): hit, beat up, e.g. "Be careful he doesn't moer you". 

Muthi (pronounced moo-tee): medicine, e.g. "You better take some muthi for that babelas".

N

Now-now (pronounced now-now): similar to just now, but usually more imminent, e.g. "I'm on my way, I'll see you now-now". 

O

Oke (pronounced oak): male person, usually a stranger e.g. "I was waiting in line with a bunch of other okes". 

P

Padkos (pronounced pat-kos): snacks for a roadtrip, e.g. "Don't forget the padkos, it's a long way to Cape Town".

Pap (pronounced pup): maize porridge, e.g. "Pap is a staple of traditional African cooking".

Potjie (pronounced poi-key): meat stew, e.g. "We're all getting together for a lamb potjie later"

Posie (pronounced pozzie): home, e.g. "Come over to my posie when you're ready".

R

Robot (pronounced robot): a traffic light, e.g. "Don't stop at the robots after dark".

S

Scale (pronounced scale): to steal or take something, e.g. "I can't believe he scaled my lighter again".

Shebeen (pronounced sha-been): a drinking establishment in the township, e.g. "The liqor store is closed but you can still buy beers from the shebeen". 

Shot (pronounced shot): cheers, thanks, e.g. "Shot for the tickets, bru". 

Sies (pronounced sis): an expression of disgust, can be an adjective for gross, e.g. "Sies man, don't pick your nose", or "That meal was sies". 

Sjoe (pronounced shoh): an exclamation, e.g. "Sjoe, I'm excited to see you!".

Skinner (pronounced skinner): gossip, e.g. "I heard you skinnering about me the other night".

Slap chips (pronounced slup chips): fries, e.g. "Can I get some tomato sauce with my slap chips?".

Smaak (pronounced smark): fancy, e.g. "I really smaak you, will you go out with me on a date?.

T

Takkies (pronounced takkies): sneakers, e.g. "I wore my jeans and takkies and everyone else was in black tie".

Tsotsi (pronounced ts-otsi): thief, e.g. "Keep an eye out for tsotsis on your way home".

Tune (pronounced tune): tell off, talk, e.g. "Don't tune me, it wasn't my fault", or "What's that you're tuning me?"

V

Vetkoek (pronounced fet-cook): Afrikaans for 'fat cake', a deep-fried ball of dough usually served with a filling, e.g. "Vetkoeks are the ultimate cure for a babelas".

Voetsek (pronounced foot-sek): an Afrikaans expletive that translates to f**k off, e.g. "If anyone bothers you, tell them to voetsek".

Vuvuzela (pronounced vuvuzela): a plastic horn or trumpet, typically used at soccer matches, e.g. "Those vuvuzelas make a hell of a noise".

Y

Yussus (pronounced yas-sus): an exclamation, e.g. "Yussus bru, I miss you".

Article updated by Jessica Macdonald on August 11th 2016.