A Traveler's Guide to South African Slang

Posted on Sun April 5, 2020.

Every country has its unusual and strange phrases – that give local languages flavour and character. But unless you’re a native speaker, local slang can be tricky to grasp.

South Africa having 11 official languages has a diverse and rich slang culture. Unless you are a local some of these terms will be hard to grasp let alone even pronounce. 

To help all of our international friends we have compiled a list of some of the words you may hear on the daily and help you along the way. 

  • Ag - ( Agh) Equivalent to "Oh Man" Often used to express pity or irritation. 
  • Aikona - (Ey-Kho-Na) A Zulu term used to express shock or disbelief when talking to friends or family.
  • Arvie - (Arv-ee) South African term of Afternoon 
  • Babbelas - (Bub-Ba-Las) A really Bad Hangover 
  • Bakkie - (Buk-Kee) South African version of a pick up truck 
  • Biltong -( Bil- Tong) Spiced, cured and dehydrated meat, similar to (but much tastier than) beef jerky
  • Bliksem - (Blik-Sem) To hit or punch,
  • Boet - Brother, usually used when talking to friends 
  • Boerewors - ( Boo-Rah-Vors) outh African farm-style sausage commonly braaied
  • Braai - An equivalent to a BBQ but better 
  • Donner - (Don-Neh)  Beat Up 
  • Dop - Alcoholic Beverage 
  • Eina - (Ay-Na) Ouch
  • Eish - (Aysh) General exclamation that can be used in positive and negative contexts
  • Howzit - (Hows-It) Greeting, often used instead of hello. Combines hello and how are you, so it saves time.
  • Ja - (Yah) Yes 
  • Jislaaik - (Yis-Like) exclamation of wonder or surprise
  • Jol - (Jo-rl) Can refer to a party, or to a general good time
  • Lekker -  (Lah-Car) Nice, delicious, fun – anything good
  • Now Now - Second meaning for now. It also means sometime soon, although sooner than just now, like within the next 30 to 60 minute
  • Robot - Traffic Light 
  • Shebeen - (Sha-Been) An informal Pub 
  • Sies - (Sis) n expression of disgust, can be used to refer to something yucky or gross.
  • Takkies - (Tack- Keys) Sneakers / Sport Shoes 
  • Vrot - Rotten, Bad or Blind Drunk 
  • Vuvuzela - (Voo-Voo-Ze-La)  Loud trumpets blown at sports events, made famous (infamous) at the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
  • Yebo - ( Yeah-Boh) Yes 

We hope the above serves you well on your Journey through our beautiful country South Africa that we call home.

We hope to see you soon.