SA slang


South African Slang Words

If you have ever visited Africa’s southern-most country, you are sure to have heard at least a few South African slang words before. With its diversity of cultures, people and influences, South Africa has developed a rich language that combines Afrikaans, English, Malay, Indian, Xhosa, Zulu and many other dialects.

While you will be forgiven for getting confused when hearing some local South African phrases, having a better idea of how to get your message across is sure to go a long way in helping you enjoy this often colourful dialect that is 100% unique.

An A to Z of South African Slang Words

Not sure how to tell your boerewors from your braai, or you lekkers from your einas? We’ve put together a handy A to Z of the most commonly used (and heard) South African slang words. Now you won’t have to be left behind when the Van Der Merwe jokes come out during that next night on the town.



Pronounced a bit like ‘ugh’ with a soft G, this multi-purpose word can be used to show annoyance (“Ag, no man!”) or it can be used randomly in almost any sentence (“Ag, really? I didn’t know that.”).


This greeting is especially popular in coastal towns such as Cape Town and Durban, often by surfers and young people. It is also an easy way to catch somebody’s attention in a crowded bar (“Ahoy, Johan! Come over here, boet!”).


Pronounced ‘eye-konna’, this tern comes from the Nguni language, and means no way. It is usually used to express dismay (“Aikona… you can’t do that, man.”).


This greeting is pronounced 'ay-tah'. It took off in the townships at first, but is now used to such an extent that local telecoms provider Telkom launched a cellular network called 8ta, based on the greeting.


(Abbreviation for Avocado)


Another favourite among the surfer types, awah is pronounced ‘Ah-wear'. Part greeting, part affirmative, it can often be heard preceding ‘my bru’, which is the local term for bro.


The South African slang word for epic hangover, babalaas is pronounced 'Bub-ba-lars'. But this is not to be used lightly. If you feel like you are close to death’s door and cannot remember much of the night before, you can use this Zulu originated term.


Rhyming with ‘lucky’, the bakkie is South Africa’s answer to the US pickup truck. These vehicles are a common sight across the country – particularly in the rural parts. Nissan bakkies are especially popular.


Pronounced ‘bur-gee’ with a hard G, this term comes from the Afrikaans word for mountain (berg) and describes the homeless people that live in Cape Town – many of whom are often alcoholic. Many of these homeless folk used to live on the mountain, and some still make their home in the lower caves and bushes of Table Mountain.


Meaning just a little bit, this term rhymes with icky. It is used in various instances, mostly involving comparisons, sizes or moods. As per Afrikaans grammar, it is preceded by ‘n with means ‘a’ (“I’m ‘n bietjie tired now.” “Just wait a bietjie!”).


You don’t know what you are missing until you try biltong (‘bul tong’, roughly meaning bulls’ tongue in Afrikaans). Not actual bull tongue, this dried meet comes in all flavours, including beef, kudo and ostrich. It’s a bit like the South African version of US jerky.


In SA, biscuits are cookies. In places like the United States, biscuits are what South Africans call scones, only without the jam and cream. Just to add even more complication to the equation, biscuit can also be used as an adjective, usually to describe someone who is a bit of a fool (only in South Africa, we call fools chops).


Blaps (Blups) 

(Afrikaans – “Mistake”) "Oops, I made a blaps."  


This delicious Malay dish has become a staple in many Afrikaans, Coloured and Indian homes, too. It is pronounced ‘bo-boot-ee’ and made from mince, yellow rice, raisins and plenty of aromatic spices, then covered in egg and baked in the oven.


The Afrikaans word for farmer, boer is pronounced ‘boo-a-r’. It appears in many other words, too, including ‘boere meisie’, which is farm girl or farmer’s daughter.



Yet another staple in almost every meat-eating South African’s life, this farm-style spiced sausage has become so popular that it is sold in far flung destinations around the world, providing expats with a welcome taste of home. It is often refered to as wors, and pronounced ‘vors’ with a hard G.

Boerewors Curtain 

A not-very-flattering term, this expression is used to describe Afrikaans speaking areas, many of which are rural. Benoni, Pretoria, Poffadder and Bellville are some examples.


Rhyming with ‘high’, the braai is an institution in this part of the world. It is the Afrikaans word for barbeque, only taking this outdoor meal to a whole new level. Braais can be made in proper barbeques, metal drums, between bricks or even in a hole dug out in the ground. Boerewors, chops, steaks, chicken, fish and veggies are put on the grill, and enjoyed with yummy sides such as mielie pap (corn porridge), salads, braai bread (toasted sandwiches cooked over the coals) and bread rolls, along with plenty of beer.


This South African slang term is Afrikaans, and is used when budgets are tight. It is pronounced ‘brook-skee-r’ (“Dis ‘n a bietjie broekskeur nou”). Brollie Afrikaans slang for "sambreel" or the English Umbrella


Afrikaans slang for "sambreel" or the English Umbrella

Bunny Chow 

More food slang, a bunny chow is an Indian or Malay curry that is stuffed inside a hollowed out white bread loaf. It is particularly popular in Durban and in Cape Town.

Cape Doctor  

Not an actual doctor, this is the term used to describe the strong southeaster wind that comes howling through the Cape Province during summer. This is what helps create the pretty fluffy clouds over Table Mountain known as the ‘table cloth’.



Mostly used to describe French fries, chips are also often known as slap chips (soft chips). Chip rolls are very tasty, and are made with slap chips, fresh rolls and tomato sauce (ketchup). Chips are also crisps, like Simba, Lays and NikNaks. It can also be used as a warning, as in “Keep chips for the boss, bru.”

Tjommie (“chômmy”) 

An old Afrikaans word meaning buddy or friend, your tjommies are your best buds.


Sounding somewhere between Dirk and Duck, this Afrikaans slang term means thick, full or beefy. A person such as a rugby player can be dik, but you could also feel a bit dik if you’ve been chowing down on chip rolls or bunny chow.


Sounds like 'Ding-us'. This is the catch-all phrase for a thingamabob, whatdoyoucallit or random thing that you can’t quite remember the word for at that particular time.


The word to describe someone who is not quite the sharpest crayon in the box, dof sounds like ‘dorf’ with a soft F. You can be a bit doff sometimes without being an absolute idiot though. Usually after a major babalaas.



The Afrikaans word for small town, dorp rhymes with taupe, with an R that is often rolled. Not to be confused with dop (also pronounced ‘dorp’, only with shorter R sounds), which means a drink.



When you are feeling a bit dof, you may be in a bit of a dwaal too. This word is pronounced a bit like ‘dwarl’, and means confused, blank or just a bit out of it.


Pronounced ‘ay-nah’, this is what you say when you get hurt or you see someone get hurt, and sometimes when you see some sort of wound, too.


This word a Zulu expression of shock, surprise or just commiseration, depending on the situation. It sounds like ‘aysh’, and can be accompanied by a shaking of the head if the situation is grave enough.


Afrikaans word for being sociable with friends, pronounced ‘ge-sell-ligh’ with a soft G. Gesels (ge-sells) means to talk.


If you are out drinking, you will eventually be at risk of getting gesuip (ge-sayp). It is Afrikaans, and comes from the word ‘suip’, which is what animals do, compared to humans, who drink. Basically, it’s when you are drunk enough to make a donkey out of yourself.



Another way to refer to your woman or girlfriend.



This word is used for emphasis, and for greeting. Instead of saying ‘pardon’, you may say ‘hey’. Or, you could use it to ask a question, such as “So you’re going to that party later, hey?”


Laughing yourself silly. “I hosed myself so much when Brent fell over, hey.

How's your mind? 

(Are you mad?!) This question, often in exasperation or irritation, refers to the mental stability of the subject, who has probably done something stupid, idiotic or irritating. 


A famous South African slang word that is a greeting and question all in one. You do not have to reply how you are if someone says this, but if you do, you could say “No, it’s fine, hey.” A proper Afrikaner might even reply “Ja, well, no fine.” of "No, fine".


Said in one breath like izzit, this word can be used in many situations. Directly translated, it means ‘is it?’ or ‘really?’, but in conversations, you could use it to express sympathy, approval, confirmation or just to show that you are listening.


The Afrikaans exclamation for gee whizz! Pronounced with a soft J, like yiss-like.

Just now

This can be very confusing to a non-South African. It basically means what is says – in a bit – but it more often means that the action will be done eventually, sometime in the future (or a next life). If someone says ‘now now’ however, they will likely take action sooner rather than later.

Klippies and coke 

Taken from Klipdrift brandy, this brandy and coke drink is as South African as boerewors, biltong and braais.


Another way of saying fancy. But it could also refer to a snob, someone pretentious or some designer clothes or even a very posh function.


Pronounced ‘lak-kah’, this Afrikaans word is used for everything that is cool, awesome, delicious and lovely. Often, the R at the end is rolled and drawn out – particularly when showing appreciation for the opposite sex, a good beer or something else worthy of praise.


The word for someone young or a child. “That laaitie needs to catch a wake up or he will end up gesuip.”


Afrikaans term that translates to a "Loose Head, who is forgetful or distracted all the time. Sounds a bit like ‘lors-korp’.


The fond nickname for beloved, late former president Nelson Mandela, who is an icon across all cultures, races and generations.


This Afrikaans word means crazy or mad, and rhymes with mull. If you are acting like a fool, someone might ask you, “Is jy mal?!”.


Made popular by the British, Marmite is a love it or hate it salty yeast and veggie extract that is spread on toast, often with cheese. A similar version made from beef stock is also popular, called Bovril.


Sounding like pud-kors, this word is directly translated from Afrikaans to ‘road food’, and is exactly what is says. This is the food you take on a road trip – crisps, cool drinks, biltong and other easy to eat snacks.

Pap ('Pup') 

The Afrikaans word for porridge, this boiled corn meal is a staple in many South African homes. It looks like wet plaster but tastes really good, working with many different foods.


The SA term for sidewalk.


Meaning ‘flat land’ in Afrikaans, this term is used to describe the countryside and rural areas. Many see it as a state of mind rather than a specific place.


Almost all South Africans refer to traffic lights as robots, and while everyone will know what you mean if you call them traffic lights, it won’t stop them from calling them robots.


(Red bush tea) – now famous all around the world, this tannin and caffeine free tea originates in the Western Cape, and comes from the Aspalathus linearis bush. It is rich in flavour, and comes with many different blends. It is also becoming popular in many skincare products too.


(sum-ooh-sah) delicious triangular pastries made from curry and deep fried, these snacks are loved around the country. Both Indian and Malay samosas can be found almost everywhere.


(pronounced ‘sump’) this African food is made from rough corn, and is often served as a starch along with beans or dunked in gravy and stew.


Taken in lunchboxes to school and to work, sarmies are an easy, filling meal known the world over. Also known in Afrikaans as a "Toebie" or "toebroodjie."

Sis ('Sus')

Expression of disgust. “Sis man, don’t eat that rotten sarmie!”

Sjoe ('Shoe')

An Afrikaans term used as an expletive or general multi-purpose word, this is a bit like ‘phew’ only more versatile. ("Sjoe but I’m hungry.")


The Afrikaans word for shy or embarrassed. It’s also used to describe a lack of shame, like “That guy has no skaam whatsoever.”


The Zulu word for a gangster or dodgy person up to no good. Skollie is another word that means the same thing.


Afrikaans word for gossip or news – most often the type spread behind people’s backs.

Skrik ('Skruk') 

This one means getting a fright.

Slap chips

When French Fries are thick and long and don’t go crispy in the oil. They are soft and stodgy, ideal for mixing in mounds of tomato sauce or vinegar, or both. Slap is Afrikaans for limp. Perfect fish & chips

Slip Slops 

Also known as slops, this is the word for thongs or sandals made of rubber, with a strap between the toes. Flip flops or ‘plakkies’ can also be used.


Translated literally, it means having a taste of something. But in South African slang, it is used to show appreciation for a literal taste such as food, or to express a like or lusting for something or someone. “I really smaak Brenda lekker.”


A type of fish in the pike family, this fish is a favourite in South African coastal towns. Many fishermen haul in this fish and sell it in suburban streets on the day of the catch. It can be smoked on the braai or served in stews.


Used as an apology, sorry is also used to excuse yourself – “Sorry, can I help you get that?”

(SE trade wind) This strong trade wind blows from the southeast in summer in Cape Town. Also known as the "Cape Doctor"  - clearing polutioned air

This Afrikaans word means kebab, and is made from various meat, chicken and vegetables, as well as fruit such as apricot.

Van Der Merwe 

The Irish have Paddy, and South Africans have Van Der Merwe, who is the butt of many jokes. Generally, this stereotype is a bit of a silly guy who lacks social graces. If someone asks you if you’ve heard the one about Van Der Merwe, pull up a seat and prepare for a laugh.

Woes Sounding like voos but with a softer V, this Afrikaans word means vicious, wild or aggressive. You do not want to mess someone who looks woes. Especially if they are also gesuip.

One of the best things about South African slang is that you will never have to worry about asking locals to fill you in on any gaps. Known for their warmth and friendliness, the people of this country share a deep love for their home, and enjoy sharing their culture and traditions with visitors. Who knows, you may even find that you make new friends when learning more about modern South African slang words!

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