Mzansi Slang



Afrikanerisms

This list of "Afrikanerisms" (referred to as "funagalore" - not to be confused with the created language Fanagalo which was used in the mines of South Africa to ensure workers from various language backgrounds could communicate) comprises slang words and phrases influenced by Afrikaans and native African languages. Typical users include people with Afrikaans as their first language but who speak English as a second language; and people living in areas where the population speaks both English and Afrikaans. Many of these terms also occur widely amongst South African Coloureds, these terms do not occur in formal South African English.

  • ag man - oh man; ag as the Afrikaans equivalent to "oh", man pronounced as in English
  • aweh/awe (pronounced \AAAH-WHERE\) - said in excitement, as in: Aweh; my boss said I can go home early today.. The word has many meanings or uses: "hello", "goodbye", "yes". Also associated with prison use. (Greeting) "Aweh my bru" (Hello my friend). Compare: howzit, yooit, hoesit, yo.
  • baas - boss
  • babbelas - hangover (of Zulu origin)
  • bakgat - cool; expression of appreciation for something very well accomplished
  • bakkie - a utility truck, pick-up truck, now a mainstream word in South African English. Can also refer to a small bowl.
  • bakvissie - (goldfish) a giggly teenage girl
  • befok - really good, exciting, cool; as in "The rock-show was befok." [Do not confuse with gefok.] Paradoxically, also can mean "crazy" in a very strong sense, as in "Are you befok?" — derogatory (err:definitely not a polite enquiry). Ek het daai ou befok - meaning I cheated that guy in a transaction. Profanity - the base fok meaning to have sex.
  • bergie - from berg, mountain, originally referring to vagrants who sheltered in the forests of Table Mountain; now a mainstream word for a particular subculture of vagrants, especially in Cape Town. When used as slang refers to anyone down-and-out
  • biltong - dried meat, similar to jerky (a mainstream word)
  • blerrie/bladdy - damn
  • bliksem - strike, hit, punch; also used as an expression of surprise/emphasis (rude; many consider the word a profanity). It derives from the Dutch word for "lightning", and often occurs in conjunction with donner. Used as a curse in Afrikaans: Jou bliksem!
  • bloutrein - literally "blue train", referring to methylated spirits, sometimes used for drinking (filtered through a loaf of white bread). 
  • boer - literally "farmer" in Afrikaans. English-speaking people use the word to indicate an Afrikaans farmer, especially in a derogatory way, like "country bumpkin", "boorish"; but Afrikaners use it with much pride, indicating a person with a deep love of the soil of Africa, a provider of food.
  • boerewors - spicy sausage (Afrikaans) farmer-sausage, used as a mainstream word in South African English
  • boet - male friend (synonym for broer meaning brother, see also bru and bra below); compare American English: "dude"
  • bokkie - (diminutive of bok, literally meaning "goat" or "doe") a popular term of endearment, comparable to "sweetheart", "honey", etc.
  • bosberaad - strategy meeting held outdoors, for example in a game reserve
  • bossies, or bosbefok - crazy, whacko, mad. Also a term to describe one who has shell shock. Refers to the time of the South African Border War where soldiers spent time in the bush ("bos/bosse") and would return home suffering battle flash-backs.
  • brak - mongrel dog, can also refer to brackish water.
  • bra - male friend compare American English: "dude"
  • button - mandrax tablet (Slang Only)
  • braai - a barbecue, to barbecue (from braaivleis), used a mainstream word in South African English
  • cherry - "meddie", see tjerrie
  • china - a friend; as in the greeting howzit china (likely origin: Cockney rhyming slang "China plate" (meaning "my mate"); from early British immigrants.
  • dagga - most common word for Marijuana.
  • dik bek - grumpy, in a huff (literally: "thick mouth" (pout), with an image of puffed-out cheeks like a bullfrog)
  • dinges - thingamabob, a wotzit or a whatchamacallit
  • donner - to beat up. Used together with "bliksem". Derived from "donder" (thunder, related to Thor). Amounts to an ancient curse.
  • dof - stupid or slow to understand.
  • dop - alcohol, to drink alcohol, to fail. For example: "Come and drink a dop (a drink) with me" or "I'm gonna dop that test."
  • eina! - ouch! used as a mainstream word in South African English
  • entjie - Cigarette. For example, "Awe ou. Steek 'n ent!"
  • gatvol - fed up, had enough. (Afrikaans - asshole-full).
  • gomgat - bumpkin, redneck. (in the US sense, not to be confused with rooinek)
  • hoesit, hoezit, howzit - derived from "How is it going? - contracted to how's it? In English SA context, howzit is more a greeting of "hello" rather than "how are you?", similar to SA black slang's "eta" or "ola"
  • ja-nee - Literal translation : Yes No. Example : Dis warm vandag. (It's hot today) : Ja-Nee. Agreement with something said, but not requiring an answer in return.
  • jislaaik! - wow!
  • jol - to have fun, to party, can also refer to a disco or party, to commit adultery or even dating or courting
  • khaki - [from the colour worn by British troops] derogatory term for an English person
  • kiff, kif, kief - (adjective) poisonous, wicked, cool, neat, great, wonderful. The word derives from the Afrikaans word for poison: gif. Coastal pot-smokers used the term to describe Durban Poison: "Gifs" [locally-grown marijuana]. The word evolved into kiff, an adjective for "cool", amongst English-speaking people on the east coast.
  • klap - to smack. (From Afrikaans). "He got klapped in the bar". Like a "bitch-slap".
  • kwaai - cool, excellent (Afrikaans: "angry". Compare the US slang word phat.)
  • laaitie, lighty - a younger person, esp. a younger male such as a younger brother or son (or daughter nowadays)
  • lank - lots/a lot
  • laanie, larny - (n) boss, used in a deferent tone. (adj) fancy
  • lekker - nice, good, great (lit. tasty)
  • mal - mad, crazy, insane
  • mamparra - stupid, silly
  • muggie - bug, especially a little flying gnat
  • moegoe - stupid person, coward, or weakling
  • moerse - big, massive, impressive. "I had a moerse piece of meat at the braai". "He scored a moerse try."
  • moffie - male homosexual (derogatory). Can be compared to "fairy".
  • moer-toe - stuffed up or destroyed (my car is moer-toe)
  • mos - Afrikaans, implies that what has been said is well known or self-evident (a formal part of grammar, the closest English equivalent would be "duh!"). "Ek drink mos tee." ("I drink tea, duh!"). Used at the end of a sentence, as in "...Jy weet mos." ("...You know then.")
  • nč? - do you know what I mean/agree?, oh really?, is it not so?, e.g. "Jy hou van tee, nč?" ("You like tea, don't you?") (informal)
  • oom - an older man of authority, commonly in reference to an older Afrikaans man (Afrikaans for uncle)
  • ou (plural ouens) man, guy, bloke (also oke) (literally "old")
  • ousie - Term used to refer to a maid, usually a black female (sometimes derogatory); Also used by black females to call/refer to each other
  • pap - traditional maize porridge similar to grits; can also mean "deflated".
  • plank - derogatory term used by English-speaking people to refer to Afrikaners. Stems from people with a thick Afrikaans accent sounding 'as thick as two short planks' when speaking English
  • pommie - derogatory term for an English person (borrowed from Australia)
  • rooinek - ("red neck") derogatory term for English person. Derived in 19th century due to native British not being used to the african sun and gtting sunburnt, especially on the neck. Almost the exact opposite to the American usage of "redneck".
  • sies - expression of disgust, disappointment, annoyance, as in: ag, sies, man.
  • skop, skiet en donner - literally "kicking, shooting and beating people up". A colloquial description of an action movie of the more violent kind. (Think Jean-Claude Van Damme.)
  • skelm - crook, or mistress, secret lover
  • skinner, skinder - gossip
  • skop - kick
  • skrik - fright
  • skyf - cigarette, a puff, and also less commonly Marijuana or dagga.
  • smaak - to like another person or thing
  • smaak stukkend - to like very much or to love to pieces (literal meaning of stukkend). "I smaak you stukkend" = "I love you madly".
  • sommer - for no particular reason, just because
  • sosatie - a kebab on a stick, used as mainstream word in South African English
  • soutpiel/soutie - derogatory term for English person, literally salty penis. Someone with one foot in England, the other in South Africa and their penis hanging in the sea
  • stoep - porch, verandah, like American English stoop, but pronounced with a shorter vowel
  • stompie - a cigarette butt, a short person or impolite term to refer to the remaining arm/leg/finger after an amputation.
  • stukkend - (Afrikaans) broken, a lot
  • tannie - an older female authority figure. [Word used most often by Indians. Derived from the Afrikaans word for "aunty"]
  • tekkies - sneakers. (The Anglicised pronunciation takkies has become mainstream in South African English.)
  • tiet - English equivalent boob or breast
  • toppie - father - see ou ballie
  • trek - to move or pull. (The word has become international with the meaning of "making a pioneering journey"; the slang usage more closely resembles the standard Afrikaans meaning.)
  • vellies - traditional Afrikaans outdoors shoes made from hide
  • verkramp - politically conservative or pessimistic, the opposite of verlig, or enlightened
  • voetsek/voertsek - get lost, buzz off, go away, run, scram, stuff off (rude, often considered a profanity, or at least rather coarse)
  • vrek - derogatory term for dead. (Original Afrikaans meaning for an animal dying)
  • vrot - rotten, putrid, sometimes drunk
  • vry - to make out or courting
  • woes - wild, untidy, unkempt or irreverent. A general term pertaining to either a person, behaviour or situation
  • Zef - from Ford Zephyr car, cheap to tune-up; cool, rough guy; common person; ultimate South African style; kitsch; nouveau riche person
  • zol - a homemade cigarette rolled with old newspaper or rizlas (likely marijuana-filled) joint

Words from KhoeSan languages
  • dagga - marijuana (has become a mainstream word in South African English)(from Khoe daxa-b for Leonotis plant)
  • gogga - bug (from Khoe xo-xo, creeping things, here the g is pronounced like ch in Scottish loch)

Words from Xhosa, Zulu and the other Nguni Languages


The following lists slang borrowings from the Nguni Bantu languages (which include Zulu and Xhosa). They typically occur in use in South Africa's townships, but some have become increasingly popular amongst white youth. Unless otherwise noted these words do not occur in formal South African English.
  • chana - my mate (from Zulu, 'my nephew'); umshana
  • chaila - time to go home
  • donga - ditch of the type found in South African topography. (From Zulu, "wall"; this has become a mainstream word for such a feature.)
  • eish! - an interjection expressing resignation
  • fundi - expert (from Nguni 'umfundisi' meaning teacher or preacher) - used in mainstream South African English
  • gogo - grandmother, elderly woman (from Zulu, ugogo)
  • haw! - expression of disbelief
  • hayibo! - wow! (from Zulu, 'definitely not')
  • indaba - conference (from Zulu, 'a matter for discussion'); has become a mainstream word in South African English
  • inyanga - traditional herbalist and healer (compare with sangoma)
  • jova - injection, to inject (from Zulu)
  • laduma! - a popular cheer at soccer matches, "he scores!" (literally: "it thunders", in Zulu)
  • muti - medicine (from Zulu umuthi) - typically traditional African
  • Mzansi - South Africa (uMzantsi in Xhosa means "south")
  • sangoma - traditional healer or diviner
  • shongololo (also spelt shongalolo) - millipede (from Zulu and Xhosa, ukushonga, 'to roll up')
  • spaza - an informal trading-post/convenience store found in townships and remote areas
  • toyi-toyi - protest-dancing; used in mainstream South African English
  • tsotsi - gangster, layabout, no gooder
  • ubuntu - compassion or kindness, humanity
  • yebo - Zulu meaning yes

Words from SeSotho and SeTswana Languages
  • lekgotla or kgotla - planning session, or strategy (used mostly in official government papers, but even in papers written in English) (from Sesotho (le)kgotla - courtyard)

Original South African English coinages
  • bonehead - derogatory term for an Afrikaner
  • bra - male friend (shortening of brother, see also bru above)
  • cherps or chips - "Watch out!", as in "Chips chips everyone, here comes the teacher!" (distinct from the food or snack). Also often used when something gets thrown. Compare "heads up!".
  • chop - idiot, doos
  • clutchplate - see bonehead
  • connection - a friend, mate, chommie
  • cozzie - a swimsuit, short for swimming costume
  • crunchie - see bonehead, rockspider
  • give rocks to - to be indifferent. For example: I give rocks about your concerns! (I couldn't care about your concerns!)
  • higher grade - a bit too complicated (from the South African matric division of exams into standard grade and higher grade. The system of dividing subjects into higher and standard grade will become non-existent as of 2008.)
  • hundreds - good, fine. (As in 100 percent; for example: John: "Boet, How are you doing?" Dominic: "I am Hundreds boet.")
  • just now, sometime in the near future, not necessarily immediately. Expresses an intention to act soon, but not necessarily immediately. (as in 20–90 minutes time)
  • now now - an immediate but not literal declaration of impending action, may be past or future tense. From the Afrikaans expression "nou nou". (as in 5–60 minutes)
  • Dutchman - derogatory term for a white Afrikaner.
  • isit - (pronounced: \izit\) the words "is" and "it" put together. Short term for "Is that so?"
  • lift - elevator
  • location - a Bantu township
  • robot - traffic-light
  • rockspider - see bonehead
  • rope - derogatory term for an Afrikaner - as in thick, hairy and twisted
  • scheme - to think that (e.g. "I scheme we should go home now"; usage evolved from the hyperbole "What are you scheming?" asked of a person deep in thought.)
  • siff - if something is gross or disgusting or ugly. "Did you see her oufit? It was totally siff!"
  • speak goat - derogatory term for speaking Afrikaans
  • soapie - a soap opera
  • tune - to give someone lip ("Are you tuning me?")
  • voetsęk - impolite way to say "go away", commonly used with animals or as derogatory term.
Slang originating from other countries

The following slang words used in South African originated in other parts of the Commonwealth of Nations and subsequently came to South Africa.

  • buck - the main unit of currency: in South Africa the rand
  • china - friend, mate (from Cockney rhyming slang china [plate] = "mate"), alternatively, as above coming from the Bantu word umshana
  • chow - to eat
  • coaster - a state of affairs that surpasses cool
  • Kaffir - [racial slur for] a black person. 1790, from Arabic "kāfir" كَافِر, literally "one who does not admit the blessings of God", from kafara كَفَرَ "to cover up, conceal, deny". In a purely religious sense would refer to an atheist not believing in any creator or creative-force, but in Ottoman times it came to refer almost exclusively to "Christians". Used as a term of disdain referring to Dutch Colonists in Indonesia/Malaysia. Carried to the Cape of Good Hope by Dutch colonists who consequently used it to refer contemptously to the native population. Early English missionaries adopted it as an equivalent of "heathen" to refer to Bantus in South Africa (1792), from which use it came generally to mean "South African black" regardless of ethnicity, and became a term of abuse at least as early as 1934. (Usage now actionable on account of historical ties to Apartheid and incitement to racial hatred.)
  • pom, pommie - a Brit (used also in Australian and New Zealand English)
  • shab short for shebeen. In common usage.
  • shebeen - illegal drinking-establishment (from Irish sibín), synonymous with speakeasy. In South Africa it refers in particular to unlicensed bars in the townships, and has become a mainstream word. During the apartheid era laws prohibited non-whites from consuming any alcohol except traditional sorghum beer, and taverns selling 'hard-tack' became the centre of social activity.
  • whenwe - a nostalgic white migrant from other parts of Africa, especially Zimbabwe: "when we were in Rhodesia..."
Slang terms originating from ethnic minorities

The majority of Coloureds in South Africa speak Afrikaans. Those who speak English use the equivalent English words as slang. Many of the words used also occur in South African Indian speech.

  • Awe - "Howsit" , "hello". A slang way of greeting someone
  • befok - "mad"; also possibly "super cool", as in My broe daai kar is befok. Pronounced \ber fork\.
  • chup - "tattoo"- "cool chup eksę"
  • dobbel - "gamble"
  • duidelik - direct from Afrikaans, meaning "clear"; used to express clarity on something or excitement about something.
  • eksę - from Afrikaans, translated it means "I say". Used in greeting i.e. "Whakind eksę" or in general speech.
  • gaam - dodgy/gangster i.e. That person is gaam. (He is a gangster.)That place is gaam. (it is dodgy.)
  • gammie - derogatory term for coloured people in South Africa, particularly in Cape Town. Derived from the derogative gammat, itself derived from the Islamic name Achmat.
  • gatsby - large chip roll with meat and lekker sauces (Cape Town)
  • hard up - "in love"
  • Hosh - "Hello"; also used before combat. Example in combat: Hosh, jy raak wys ("Hello, show me what you made of"). This gang-related word occurs inside as well as outside of prison: use at own discretion.
  • jags - "horny". The first form occurs in Cape Town; the second predominates on the east coast of South Africa. May also mean "crazy" or "mad". Examples: Person A: I want to get robbed Person B: Are you jags? or Persoon A: Ek wil my werk verloor Persoon B: Is jy jags?.
  • lekker/lukka - "nice" [from Afrikaans]. The first form occurs more commonly; the second predominates in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
  • lappy or luppi (pronounced *luppee*)- "cloth", "dish towel" "face cloth"
  • posie/pozzie - "home". Afrikaans-speakers tend to use the first for; English-speakers the second.
  • shot - "good" or "correct" or "thanks" (depending on context). Example for the meaning "good" - Person A: What is 3+3? Person B: six Person A: shot. Example for the meaning "thanks": - Person: A I have bought you a sweet Person B: Shot.
  • Stukkie - "girl" or possibly "girlfriend"
  • Tannie - "aunt", used by Afrikaans-speakers
  • tops - "excellent", "the best"
  • Toppie - "old man", used by Afrikaans-speakers
  • Whakind - a greeting, usually used amongst guys only, and frowned upon when used in greeting women. This word can also express an enquiry about something, especially when used outside the Kwa-Zulu Natal region.
South African Greek slang
  • skollie - a gangster, to steal (from Greek skolios "crooked", widely used in Cape Town, originally applied by Greek convenience-store owners to street-youths who shoplifted)
South African Indian slang

Many of these terms occur in the Cape Town and Durban areas, and few in Indian areas in Gauteng.

  • an' all - (from 'and all'; like the English 'et cetera, et cetera').
  • boarded-off - declared medically unfit to work, and in receipt of a disability pension, As in: 'My daddy was so lucky to have been BOARDED OFF by the corporation'
  • boss - a salute to an unfamiliar person, or person in authority (usually to a male), as in 'you know what it is boss'.
  • bra - a way of addressing a friend, as in 'Howzit my bra'. 'bra' derived from 'brother'
  • bunny chow - type of food, made with a loaf of bread filled with a curry stew.
  • Charo - a person of Indian origin. From the word "curry" (or tea).
  • choon - to tell someone something.
  • hit a luck - expression, to have met with good fortune. as in, 'hey my bru hit a luck, eee got graft at the Casino'. Also often noted in the form hit such a luck.
  • graft - meaning work... "hey kazzie, im grafting at coconut grove"
  • laanie - From the Afrikaans word meaning "fancy", but used by Indian people to mean "smart guy" ("Smart" as in "well-to-do") or, more frequently, "boss". Compare larnie. Also referring to white people.
  • lakkaz - meaning lekker from the Afrikaans language.
  • late - A euphemism for dead/deceased; as in 'My daddy is 2 years late'. (Unconnected with the idea of tardiness.)
  • mooing - to flirt. From the Afrikaans word mooi meaning "nice"/"pretty".
  • nana - breast
  • onetime - of course, without delay; often used as a positive reply to a question
  • operate - have sex with
  • ou - a person, homo sapiens
    • Charr Ou - an Indian person
    • Bruin Ou - a Coloured person
    • Exploding Ou - a Muslim Person (Insulting Usage)
    • Correct Ou - a good guy
    • Gorra Ou - a White person (insulting usage)
    • Pekkie Ou - a Black African person (derogatory; from the Zulu word for "cook")
    • Porridge Ou - a Tamil person
    • Raven Ou - a Black African or, sometimes, Tamil person. From the Hindu deity Raven, reputedly dark-skinned. (Insulting usage.)
    • Roti Ou / Bread Ou Hindi person
    • Slum Ou - a Muslim person
    • Wit Ou - a White person
  • pozzy - house or home; place where one lives or hangs out
  • stekie - girl/girlfriend
  • swaai - to dance. (For example: "Lets vaai (go) swaai.")
  • swak - bad
  • toppie - an older male authority-figure. Often used by Indians but also by working-class whites. From an Indian word for "hat".
  • what what - mostly used in arguments, meaning "this and that". Often heard as what you say what what

Kasi / township slang
  • 411 - giving someone the latest news and gossip.
  • 6 no 9 – "same difference". Like "potato, potatoe".
  • 99 (nine nine) - "for real".
  • ayoba - Expression of excitement
  • bokgata or Bo 4 - "the police"
  • choc - R20 note
  • chommie - More likely to be used by young girls than guys, the word refers to a friend. A music artist goes by this name.
  • clipper - R100 note
  • Coconut – Referring to an African black person who is dualistic in their nature. Black on the outside and White on the inside. (derogatory term used amongst city dwelling Black South Africans).
  • doing a bafana - demanding more smeka (money) for being mediocre
  • doing a benni - [Origin: the saying comes from the formerly much-lauded Bafana Bafana striker Benni McCarthy's "uncharitable habit of turning his back on his country" following many instances of failing to turn up to play for South Africa's national football squad.] Meaning "showing disloyalty / being irresponsible".
  • eish - [compare Bantu usage above] (pronounced like /aysh/ but also, less often, as /ish/) - Used to express everything ranging from frustration to surprise to disapproval, but also just everyday acknowledgement of things you can't change like "Eish, the traffic is bad today". Heard frequently each and every day! Also used to indicate displeasure. For example: 'At the time I was the only black guy and I used to ask myself "Eish, what am I doing here?"'
  • fong kong - cheap and fake products that one can buy from vendors on the streets.
  • green - R10 note
  • juish (pronounced /Joowish/) - refers to nice and flashy clothes that someone has on.
  • kwaito - popular genre of music, a mixture of South African disco, hip hop, R&B, ragga, and a heavy dose of house-music beats.
  • moegoe - a fool, idiot or simpleton. For example: "moegoe of the week"
  • mzansi - (from the isiXhosa words, Mzantsi Afrika) A common term which means South Africa. 
  • pulling a jabu pule - performing a disappearing act. For example: "Are you pulling a Jabu Pule on me?" (Are you performing a disappearing act on me?); or: "I will never pull a Jabu Pule on you" (I will never disappear or go awol).
  • pulling an mbeki - keeping mum because you have nothing intelligent to say, so others will call it quiet diplomacy because at least "diplomacy" sounds like an intellectual word.
  • roogie - R50 note
  • starter pack - (Origins: Terminology first used by mobile-phone companies but quickly adapted by car thieves and car hijackers.) Refers to entry-level cars, especially vehicle-makes occurring commonly on the road and therefore less easy to spot as stolen. Thieves can "chop up" the parts at an illegal "chop shop" and used them for repairs on more expensive vehicles.
  • umlungu - white South African or the Boss (Bass) of the company; isiXhosa word for the white foam that is left on the beach sand, once a wave has retreated back into the sea. (foam is for unprofitable use).
  • vinegar - [Origin: Port Elizabeth] Denoting insecurity; especially used of people who behave nastily to others because of their own complexes. "He's full of vinegar" - meaning he's got so many chips on his shoulder.
  • yebo - a Zulu word which means "yes".



Website Hit Counter
Web Counter