Doesn’t matter in what country you find yourself, hearing any of these very South African words will definitely bring about some response. Some will bring a smile to your face while others will have you in stitches. Like with everything else in life, there will be a few that will make you cringe!
To express anything from sympathy to sarcasm. “Ag Shame, she didn’t deserve that”. “You are too tired to shop? Ag shame man, you really have it tough” or “My friend’s husband really made an effort with Valentine’s day. Ag Shame man, how cute is that!”
No way, Ican’t believe it!
Fired up, excited. Ready for action.
The sensitive/fragile state you find yourself in after a night of too much drinking.
“I’ve got a hectic babbie (babelaas) today – don’t know what I was thinking last night!”
Right on. When you agree with something it’s bakgat, you like the idea. “Let’s have a regmaker (another drink) to sort out this babelaas, Piet”. Answer: “Bakgat”.
The SA version of a truck. A very guy-thing in South Africa, all the “manne” drive bakkies. If it’s a 4×4, all the better.
Parents. Your Folks.
A barnie is a fight between two (or more) guys (or girls). This fruitless exercise will mostly take place at a pub or bar. Sometime before the babelaas kicks in.
Hobo’s (people living on the street). Not street children, though. Bergies are more “mature” (in age and consumption).
Dried (raw) meat
Sweet thing. “Thanks so much for double checking my figures, you’re a real biscuit!”
Anything shiny. “Check out the bling on that car.” (probably some serious mags and eye-blinding extras).
A traditional Afrikaans recipe. Minced meat, raisins, yellow rice.
South African sausage, usually eaten at a braai or at breakfast.
Short for boetie which means brother in Afrikaans. “Hey Frikkie, won’t you get me
another beer from the fridge, thanks Boet!”
Bos / Bossies
When you go berserk, you go bos / bossies. “Jinne, you should’ve seen that woman at the Kurt Darren concert – she went bossies , she ran up to the poor oke and threw herself at his feet, the bouncers had to drag her away!”
Something the “manne” would say when they approve of another guy doing, well, whatever it is that guys do: “Did you see Sarel sink that black ball! What a boykie!
A barbeque (social event). We do it all the time – during the week or weekends and we braai anything.
A brother (not necessarily family). Hey bru, howzit hangin’?
A hollowed-out half loaf of bread filled with curry. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a bunny.
Sleep. “I’m spent, if I don’t crash soon I’m not going to make the party”.
Traffic circle aka roundabouts.
Lekker. I like. Bakgat. Kiff.
Watch-a-ma-call-it. Thing-a-ma-bob. “Hey Kobus, just pass me the dinges so I can fix this pipe.”
Someone that is dodgy or dodge is not to be trusted. “Chips, that guy on the corner looks dodge. Hide your bling”.
Not very bright. It is mostly used to describe someone being stupid in the moment: “Zuma, who?” Answer: “Nooit, bru, if you don’t know who Jacob Zuma is you’re seriously dof”.
Alcoholic beverage. Booze. “Let’s have one more dop before we hit the road”.
Sleep. Crash. “I’m going to catch a doss before we go”.
To “make a duck” is to leave a place. “Hey dude, Sam is on her way, I’m going to make a duck before she finds me here”.
Boer. Boertjie. Afrikaans person. AKA Bonehead.
Expression of pain. Ouch!
This is so South African it’s not even funny. It’s a Zulu expression used in response to surprise, disbelief, shock. “Eish, it’s hot today” or “Can you believe she took that wall out on her way down the driveway! ..Eish.”
Parents. Ballies. “I’d like to go but will have to check with my folks, they’re under the bizarre impression that I’m grounded”.
Absolutely. “Did you see that move Jaco pulled when that dude klapped him?” Answer: “Fully, bru”.
Afrikaans: Fed up. I’ve had it. “I’m gatvol of having him on my case the whole time”.
Losing it. Being out of control. To go “bos”. “I just kissed this girl, dude, it’s not like we were actually doing it, you know but Kathy saw me before I could make a duck and she went ballistic”.
Swimming. “Bring your cozzy (swimming costume) with and we’ll go for a goof”
One’s place of work. “Where do you graft”?
Talking nonsense. “It wasn’t my fault, there I was minding my own business having a dop in peace when this oke just walked up to me and started giving me grief”.
Half a bottle of spirits (booze).
Yak yak. It can basically mean anything: “What’s all the hana-hana’ing about? or
“ Don’t hana-hana me (look for trouble, back chat), you’ll get klapped”.
To express/describe anything radical. “I’ve heard there is some kind of issue with the water in South Africa… imagine not having drinking water!” Answer: “Hectic, bru”.
To laugh hysterically. “You should’ve seen that chick (girl) on Idols trying to pull off an R&B song , I was hosing myself”.
Someone of the opposite sex: “That new guy from Accounts is such a hottie”.
A combination of “hell, how are you” and “what’s up?” Try not to answer: “I’m fine thank you, yourself?”
Is it? Example: “I was sitting next to Amanda and you know what, you wouldn’t frikkin believe it, she was like all over that guy next to her while Johan was right there, as in next to her.” Answer: “Isit?” (Really?) Or in a more cheeky way: “I suggest you have an attitude adjustment real soon or we’re going to have a problem.” Answer: “ Isit?” (You reckon? Whatcha gonna do?)
Afrikaans: Gee whizz. Wow.
Afrikaans: Goodness. “Jinne, but you are full of it today”.
Good time. Party. “I was having such a jol (good time) at that jol (party)”.
Not right now, but in a little while: “Chill bru, I know what I said – I’ll be there just now. I’m almost finished with the Prison Break series, two more to go, I’ll see you just now, ok.”
Rubbish. Shit. Problems. Nonsense. “My goodness that salesman was talking kak” or “I would never buy that dress, it’s so kak”
Café. The good ol’ cafe, now replaced by the shops you’ll find at filling stations. Some used to pronounce it “kêffie”.
Kiff / Kief
If something is nice. Lekker. “That was such a kiff wave, bru”.
Klippies and Coke
Brandy and Coke.
Traditional Afrikaans dessert: A sticky, twisted, syrup-coated “doughnut”. Delicious.
Boy or son. From a father: “That’s my laaitie tuning the referee grief, what a boykie!” or “hey, laaitie, where’s your ou toppie?”
Weak. “That was such a lame excuse to use, you suck, man”.
A lot. Very. Plenty. “I’m lank excited about the festival bru”.
Fancy. Snob. “We went to a larney party the other night – the first time ever that my dop was poured in real crystal, bru! Even the poodle had a larney crystal bowl, true as bob!” (I kid you not).”
This Afrikaans word is used by everyone, everywhere to describe anything nice / pleasant. “I’ve got such a lekker job.”
Alpha males or important people. “I went to this business presentation and yislaaik I was nervous, all the main manne were there with their egos.”
A fool. “Stop being such a mampara, I’m being serious.” Or “He is so corrupt, he deserves the Mampara of the Year award.”
Traditional South African dessert. Creamy milk filling in crust with cinnamon sprinkled on top.
Can be used in two ways. “I know he’s on the rebound, I saw him at the club the other night and could see he was on a mission” or “This admin work is such a mission (schlep).”
Wuss. Wimp. “Stop being such a naff and grow some backbone for a change.”
Afrikaans: Never, no way! “Did you hear we won the world cup bid”? “Nooit, bru, are you serious?”
A nice way of saying that it can happen at any time, no pressure. Almost the same as “just now”, the only difference is that “now now” is even more flexible. Don’t you just love South African time? It will get done eventually. And we’re all ok with it.
Guy. Bloke. “That oke’s checking out my mother!”
Afrikaans and means “food for the road”. It usually means sarmies (sandwiches), perhaps even a boerie roll (boerewors roll), chips, cooldrinks and if you’re lucky a piece of biltong or droe wors. If your mother or gran packs your padkos it will be more like blue, hard-boiled eggs, chicken pieces or meatballs and home-made juice or Oros. But you will definitely have some serviettes, maybe even a wet dish cloth to wipe your hands. Lucky you.
Traditional South African starchy dish. More an African and Afrikaans thing. Also called Phuthu. Often served with sous (gravy / chakalaka).
Potjie / Potjiekos
Almost like a stew made outside on a fire using a 3-legged cast iron pot.
House / Home. “Come and watch the rugby at my pozzy”
Afrikaans for “to fix”. A regmaker is an alcoholic drink (it will mostly follow a night of heavy drinking, it’s supposed to fix one’s babelaas but will often lead to another drinking session).
A South African (referred to as a “Saffa” in other countries)
Indian snack in the form of a triangle pastry with tasty fillings (deep fried in oil). Not for wussies / naffies as most of them are quite hot.
Dodgy. Not to be trusted. “That guy with the backpack looks scaly, let’s make a duck”.
Mission. Hard work. “I’ve got the music but coming up with the lyrics is such a schlep”.
Zulu for ganster or crook. “Watch out bru, that guy checking out your wheels looks like a real skebenga”.
Old car that barely makes it up hills.
To think. “I skeem we should let these guys join us, what do you skeem?
Gossip. “What’s the latest skinner?”
Mobile gas barbecue. “Ag we will just whip up something for breakfast on the Skottel Braai.”
Almost like fries but not. It’s like fries but just bigger and not crispy, rather “slap” (limp). To be eaten with loads of salt, vinegar and tomato sauce.
Afrikaans for not having any backbone. Wuss. Wimp.
Sandals (or slops) with a strap between the big toe and the one next to it.
Afrikaans and means “to taste” but it’s not used in that context. “That Susan is so hot, I’ve smaaked (liked) her from the first time I checked her”.
“If you try that again, I’ll give you a snotklap (slap).”
Not used in an apologetic way. Context: Excuse me? Or when you want to pass someone but they are standing in your way, you go “sorry”. Or something like this: Person 1: “Do you know that scientific method refers to bodies of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.” Answer: “Sorry?” (say again?)
Domestic help. “Hey Squeeza, howz about some coffee?”
Big, strong. “That guy with the blank expression on his face, he’s lank staunch, hey. You don’t want to tune him grief.”
Happy. “Pieter eventually asked me to be his Valentine, I’m so stoked I can just cry!”
Really. It’s true. As in as true as Bob. “I saw it on the telly, man, Vernon Koekemoer survived that hectic crocodile attack and by the time they found the crocodile it was, like, severely traumatised, bru, struesbob”.
Sexist term for woman or man. “We’re having another braai, bring your stukkie so we can meet her”.
Bad. Not on. “I can’t believe you’re not voting, dude. Swak. I skeem you guys that don’t vote are all slapgat”
Trainers. Sneakers. Can also mean tyres: “Nooit, my ou, you should get yourself some decent takkies, these things look like marie biscuits”.
To provoke or tell. “Don’t tune (tell) me what-what, my ou, I’ll get up here and give you a snotklap.”
Van der Merwe
Like Paddy in Ireland, Van or Van der Merwe is the South African. We all know a Van der Merwe joke.
Our very own (Sylvester Stallone look-alike) version of David Hasselhoff and Chuck Norris.
Voertsek (pronounced foot-sak)
Go away, bugger off, voertsek!
Rotton (anthing that’s off) or to describe someone that’s totally wasted (that had too much to drink). “I was still having a dop and the next moment I found myself dossing on the floor..eish I was vrot, hey”.
Yak-yak. Whatever. “I tell you, she was still gaaning aan (carrying on), tuning me what-what in that high pitched voice when I stood up and left the joint”.
It means “yes” in Zulu but can also be used as a “hello” greeting.