List of South African slang words

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South African slang reflects many different linguistic traditions found in South Africa.


This list of "Afrikanerisms" comprises slang words and phrases influenced by Afrikaans and other 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. Fanakalo also refers to when people of non Zulu origin attempt to speak Zulu without the proper pronunciation and throat sounds. Fanakalo in Zulu literally means "same as this" – (fana – same, ka – as, lo – this).

Words from Khoi San languages[edit]

Words from Xhosa, Zulu and the other Nguni Languages[edit]

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.

Words from SeSotho and SeTswana Languages[edit]

Words from Portuguese[edit]

Original South African English coinages[edit]

Slang originating from other countries[edit]

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

Slang terms originating from ethnic minorities[edit]

South African slang[edit]

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.

South African Portuguese slang[edit]

South African Greek slang[edit]

South African Indian slang[edit]

Many of these terms occur in the Cape Town and Durban areas, and few in Indian areas in Gauteng. Some words are shared with Coloured slang, such as pozzie (in Durban) and let's waai.

South African Jewish slang[edit]

South African Lebanese slang[edit]

Special-use slang[edit]

Kasi / township slang[edit]

Gay slang[edit]

Slang developed in the 1970s to allow the speakers to converse in public without drawing attention – usually referring to girls' names often with the first letter in common with the intended meaning:[11]

See also[edit]


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An example of South African English regionalisms/slang (second language speaker)

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Jinne man, just put on your tekkies and your costume, don't be dof! We're going to walk to the beach and then go for a goof, if you want to come with you better wikkel china. Ag nee, I stepped on a shongololo, I just bought new tekkies the other day! You know what, lets just forget about the beach and have braai instead, all we need is some meat, mealiepap, some cool drinks, may be a brinjal and some other veggies. And if someone can bring some biscuits for a banofi pie that would be great. Hey bru, it's lekker day today for a jol ek sê! I'm warning you my dad won't tolerate any gesuipery, he'll klap you stukkend! Is it? Ja, he's kwaai! He was tuning me just now from his bakkie my bokkie is a soutie and a rooinek. Eish! Well at least he's duidelik.


  1. ^ The Oxford English Dictionary notes the special usage of the word "bioscope" in South Africa
  2. ^ Kromhout, Jan (2001). Afrikaans–English, English–Afrikaans dictionary. New York, N.Y.: Hippocrene Books. p. 67. ISBN 9780781808460. Retrieved 16 October 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Branford, J. & Branford, W. 1991 A Dictionary of South African English
  4. ^ a b c d e "Woordebook". Roekeloos. QVRP. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d Jean Branford (1980). A Dictionary of South African English. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-570177-1. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  6. ^ Mellet, Patrick. "What is meant by the term ‘GHAM’ when directed at ‘Coloured’ people". Retrieved 09/02/2012.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  7. ^ Wicomb, Zoë (1998). "Shame and identity; the case of the coloured in South Africa". In Derek Attridge, Rosemary Jane Jolly. Writing South Africa: literature, apartheid, and democracy 1970–1995. Cambridge University Press. p. 100. ISBN 9780521597685. 
  8. ^ Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its moods by Michael Wex p.88 ISBN 0-312-30741-7
  9. ^ Compare "Semitic roots" in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.
  10. ^ "Benni and the boot". The Sowetan. 2008-06-03. Retrieved 2008-07-12. Only 31.55% of the SMS poll respondents said McCarthy should not be booted out for doing the Benni, his uncharitable habit of turning his back on his country. 
  11. ^ [1]

External links[edit]