Skip to content

Top 20 South African-isms

One of the most fun aspects of traveling to a new country is learning the difference in language, specifically ‘slang’ types of words of which are not familiar to those entering a new land. South Africa is no different. In fact, with the eleven (yes, eleven) national languages of the nation one could argue that this foreign slang is epitomized in South Africa. So, in honor of our students finally arriving at their respective universities across the country, we at Interstudy thought it would be nice to provide them with a guide to some of the most popular local phrases. A keen study of this list and they will be convincing locals they have grown up in Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Durban etc. their whole lives!

Alas, below you will find our list of ‘South Africanisms,’ provided by the South Africa Sunday Times. Specifically written by Oliver Roberts for foreigners visiting the country for the 2010 World Cup, this list will help our students fit in from this handy lingo guide. We’ve picked out the most relevant (and appropriate) terms. Study hard and you will be considered South African just now…or now-now? Trust me, its lekker. (You’ll get it eventually).

1.     AWE (AH-WEH): One of the most commonly used slang terms across the country (mostly Cape Town). Generally used as a greeting, but also as an exclamation of agreement or excitement. Usage: “Adrian, whatsup?” “Awe!” or “Are we heading down to Muizenberg for a surf? “Awe! We are leaving just now.”

2.     BABBELAS (BUBBLEUS): Hangover. Usage: “Jeez I had too many dops last night. I’ve got a hectic babbelas.”

3.     BAKKIE (BUCKY): What Americans would term a “pick up.” A two-seater light vehicle with an open rear cargo area. The rear is often used to transport an impossible number of people.

4.     BOET: Means “brother” in Afrikaans. An affectionate (though not too much) term for a friend. It’s like saying, “dude” or “buddy.”

5.     BRAAI (BRYE): Essentially what we call a barbeque, however do not call it that to any South African. This is usually a weekly ritual in any South African home and is sacred to the men of the country. Being the ‘Braaimaster’ is not only an honor, but a tremendous responsibility.

6.     DOP: If someone says “Do you want to go for a dop?” always say yes. It means you’ll be going for a drink.

7.     DOSS: Slang for “sleep.” Usage: “Is it cool if I doss at your place tonight?”

8.     EISH (AYSH): Common term that denotes a wide range of emotions from joy and surprise to confusion and anger. When in doubt, use it.

9.     EITA (AY-TA) Casual African greeting, like “Hey.” Actually, it’s the same as “Howzit,” (another South African greeting).

10. IS IT?: Actually pronounced “uzz ut.” It’s a casual way of saying “Oh really?” Usage: “Dude, I saw Messi coming out of a ladies toilet yesterday.” “Uzz ut?”

11. JA-WELL-NO-FINE: Nobody really knows what this means, because it doesn’t really mean anything. But we like saying it.

12. JOL: Party, Can be used as either a noun or verb, as in “That was a lekker jol” or “I went jolling last night and ended up chilling with Goldfish, it was great.”

13. JUST NOW: An indeterminate amount of time. If a waiter says “I’ll be with you just now,” it could mean anything from five minutes, to 10, to never.

14. KIFF: South African surfer slang for cool. Usage: “Eish!, that wave was kiff.”

15. LEKKER (LAKKA): Great, awesome, amazing

16. NOW-NOW: Not to be confused with “Just now”. Now-now is a much smaller unspecified amount of time. Don’t worry, you’ll get it eventually…maybe.

17. ROBOT: When asking directions and someone says “Take a right at the next robot,” it is not because the Transformers have actually come to Earth to save the planet from sure destruction. A robot is simply their word for traffic light.

18. SHARP-SHARP (SHAP-SHAP): Okay. This one can be a bit complicated. It’s an expression of agreement. Or a greeting. Or a way of saying goodbye. Or a way of saying “Okay, sure.” Or…you know what, you’ll find out for yourselves.

19. SIFF: Gross, disgusting. “Yoh! Check that guy is picking his nose, wait, and ate it!” “Siff, boet.”

20. UMLUNGU (OOM-LOONG-GU): African word for “white man.” To show your off your slang skills, if someone says “Eita, umlungu!” replay “Sharp-Sharp!” It’ll cause for a certain burst of laughter.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: