Glossary

Here follows a list of words you are likely to encounter in conversation with South Africans. Languages are freely mixed in South Africa; nothing is sacred.

Kruisrivier, Kleinrivier, Kleinkruisrivier sign, Riversdale

Afrikaans is South Africa’s own language, born of kitchen Dutch spoken in the colony’s early days. Arguably sexier than French, but not quite as correct as Her Majesty’s English, Afrikaans is abused daily all over South Africa as one of its many languages. It truly is a beautiful language, one that is alive and morphing all the time.

Not only is Afrikaans an extremely descriptive language, the Afrikaans speaking populace are incredibly skilled at creating new words on the fly by simply combing words at their pleasure. Also be especially careful of double negatives, and straight contradictions, like “ja-nee”. The results are very often absolutely hilarious.

Much of this has crept into daily use even for English-speaking South Africans who have Anglicised many of the words and phrases for themselves: watch out for “now-now”, and “just now”.

Word / PhraseDirect TranslationMeaning / Origin
baasboss
babbelashungover / hangoverZulu origin
Bafana Bafananational football team
bakkiepick-up truck
bangbroekscared pantsscaredy-pants
bergiemountain personvagrant (homeless people sleeping on Table Mountain)
biltongcured meatBeef, kudu, springbok, ostrich, spiced and air-dried
bliksempunch, hit
boerfarmer
boeretroosfarmer's comfortcoffee
boereworsfamer's sausagesausage for the braai, generally fairly spicy, fatty beef
boetbrother
BokkeSprinboksthe national rugby team
bokkiediminutive of bok (buck)sweetheart
bomaan enclosure, especially for animals
braaibarbequeOK not quite a barbecue, but close. The National pasttime
brak
bru / brofrom the Afrikaans broer, meaning brother
cozziebathing suit (from the English "costume")
daggacannabisan Afrikaans word derived from from Khoikhoi "dachab"
diesel en damdiesel and dam (water)
dankiethank you
dikbekthick mouthgrumpy
doffdullstupid
dopalcoholic beverage
dronkdrunkwhat happens when you have to much dop
howzithi
ja-neeyes-no
jolparty
just nowsoonsee also: now now
kiefnice
klapslap
kloofgorge
koppiehillock
kreefcrayfish
lapasemi-open structure with a (thatched) roof
lekkernice
mamparraidiot
mampoerwitblits made from peaches
miggiemidge
'n Boer maak 'n plana farmer makes a plan
net noujust now
now-nownou noutranslated literally from the Afrikaans phrase nou nou, don't expect anything to happen in a hurry at all!
oomunclenot limited to actual family, this is a respectful form of addressing an older, unknown male person
padkosroad foodfood prepared for a road-trip
papsaksoft bagAfrikaans word referring to the bag inside box wine
potjiecooking potgenerally referring to a 3-legged cooking pot, and most often to the dish prepared therein
roosterkoekgrid cakebread dough cooked over the coals
sarmiesandwich
sharpOK, cool
shebeentownship drinking establishment
skattietreasuredarling
spook en dieselghost and diesel
stoepverandah
stukkendbrokenoften used to describe a drunk person
tannieauntnot limited to actual family, this is a respectful form of addressing an older, unknown female person
takkies / tekkiessneakers
tokolosheMythical evil little man (Zulu)
twaktobaccoused to mean nonsense, as in: Jy praat twak (You speak nonsense)
vetkoekfat cakedeep-fried dough, savory or sweet
witblitswhite lightningspirit distilled from practically anything (see also: mampoer)
yeboyes