Learn the local lingo
Gauteng is a cosmopolitan and multilingual province, where not only the 11 South African official languages are spoken but a lot other languages such as French, Greek and Swahili.
Those who live in the inner city mostly speak “Tsotsi taal” – a mix of Afrikaans, English and other indigenous languages. The use of other languages or lingos as it is referred to differ from region to region, but there are basics that are commonly used.
Ag Pronounced like the ach in German, but with a ‘g’ on the end. Roll that ‘g’! “Ag, no man” – sign of irritation. Many purposes.
Babbalas (‘Bub-be-las’) A hangover. Normally a pretty damn bad hangover!
Bakkie (‘Buk-ky’) Pick-up truck.
Biltong (‘Bill-tong’) Spicy, seasoned,dried raw meat, made from beef, venison or ostrich. Called “jerky” in the US, the local version is only much better!
Biskuit (‘Biss-kate”) More ‘voortrekker’ (early Dutch pioneers into the interior) fare: “Cookie” in the US. Fresh bread dried for travels, also known as “rusks.” Delicious when dipped in coffee or tea.
Boere (‘Boo-rah’) Afrikaans term for ‘farmer” and original Afrikaans settler: ‘boer/voortrekker. Modern day term used by youth to refer to the police.
Boerewors/Boerie (‘Boo-rah-vorse’)Farmstyle sausage or “wors”. (Literally, “Farmers Sausage”). It is consumed in vast quantities on braais all over the country. Boerie is lekker! (Sausage is tasty!)
Braai (‘Br-rye’) Barbecue (US) or Barbie (Aus). Extremely popular SA occupation of grilling meat over hot coals, outdoors.
Bra (‘Brah’) (Sincere) A male, friend, buddy, associate, peer, colleague, etc..(My bra = my friend.) – Use freely when bonding with new male companions, Black or White!
Check has nothing to do with money! Look! Do you see!?! – “You check!?!” or “Check the sistah!” – Look at the girl!
Chick Yet another, typically, South African (considered sexist by some) term for a woman.
China A friend, buddy, mate. Very popular term, mostly in Cape Town area and Durban, the ‘surfer’ areas.
Chips means ‘look out!’ A warning.
Chuck depart, leave, go.
Crash– Go to sleep “Do you want to crash out at my place? – Do you want sleep over at my place?”
Dagga (‘Dag-gah’)- Cannabis, marijuana,- the South African word for ‘dope.’
Dankie (‘Dahn-key’)- (Afrikaans, commonly used in vernacular.) Thank you.
Doff Stupid, idiot.
Dop-alcohol, liquor, or to fail a school year.
Dumela– (‘Doo-meh-lah’) (Sesotho.) Greeting, ‘Good day.’
Eina (‘Ay-nah’) (Derived from Afrikaans.) Onomatopoeia: “Ow!”/ “Ouch!” widely used response to pain. Gesuip (‘Ge-sayp’) Drunk.
Hamba kahle (Isizulu, meaning “go well.” See ‘Sale kahle.’) Farewell, good bye to person leaving/departing.
Hap (‘Hup’) A bite – this Afrikaans word is commonly used by English speakers. “Do you want a hap of my biscuit?”
Heikona (‘Hi-Korner’) (Vernac.) Never! Not on your life!
Heita! (‘Hay-tah’) (Vernac. Esp. “youth speak.”) A greeting: “Heita bra!” –Originated in the townships among the youth, and is still used.
Hola (‘Hh-O-lah) (Derived from ‘hello’, vernacular, “youth speak.”) Another form of greeting: “Hola bra!” – Much used by the township/all S.A. youth.
Howzit (also “hoesit”) (‘How/who- zit’) The famous, and one of the most typical, South African greetings. Short for “How is it?”
Isit? (Izzit?) This conversational word is used widely and in response to just about anything. Used in place of “really??”
Jammie (‘Jêm-mi’) A car. Usually older and beat-up.
Jol (‘Jaw-ral’) The word jol/awl is generic South African – it refers to having a good time and can be used in any context. “I am going on a jol (party) – I am having a jol (good time).”
Joint Hand-rolled marijuana/’dagga’ cigarette or, also someone’s ‘pad,’ ‘place,’ ‘spot’ or, even, ‘home.” You’re welcome to come to my ‘joint!” (place/home.)
Just now/Now now (Derived from Afrikaans, “nou- nou”) An immense source of amusement for foreigners – it means “very soon”, “eventually” or “never”. If someone says he will do something “just now/now now” it could be in 10 minutes, or tomorrow, or perhaps, he won’t do it at all!
Kasie (‘Kar-see’) (Derived from Afrikaans term for ‘township’ or ‘location’: “lokasie” (‘look-kar-see’)) Now, ironically, more commonly used by Black youth to talk about the townships/home.
Kaya (‘Kai-yah’) (IsiZulu.) Hut or home- ‘Kaya lami’ – my home/hut.
Kwaai (‘Kheh-why’) (Afrikaans.) Originally meaning, ‘angry’ or ‘fierce.’ (also see ‘kwaito’) Youth ‘talk’ sees the term meaning ‘cool,’ ‘hip’ and “out there.’
Kwaito (‘Kh-why-toe’) (Township talk, partly derived from Afrikaans “kwaai”; fierce, wicked.) A blend of hip-hop, raga and African ‘jive’ (‘kwela,’ ‘mbaqanga’ and ‘maskhandi.’), the music born in the township, about the township, knowing the township, ‘walking the walk, talking the talk’, and, most importantly, being proud of these. The ‘sound’ of the youth of South Africa!
Lank (pronounced like ‘crank’) A lot – “There are lank (many) people at this jol tonight,
hey China?!”Larney (derived from Cape Coloured, Afrikaans.) Fancy, designer clothes, stuckup, snob – A number of variations on a word denoting either the person or their dress: i.e. The person can be ‘larney’, as can be the clothes they are wearing.
Lekker (‘Leck-hah’) (Decidedly Afrikaans, with universal usage amongst ALL South Africans.) Word meaning ‘tasty,’ ‘nice,’ or ‘fun.’ (The food is ‘lekker‘ (tasty/delicious) – a ‘real’ compliment. What a ‘lekker’ (great/fun) ‘jol.’ Use freely with all language groups to express approval!
Lightey (‘Light-tee’) Youngster.
Mnandi (‘Mm-nun-dee’) (Isizulu. See also ‘Lekker.’) Delicious, tasty.
Ngiyabonga (N-gee-yah-bong-ah’) (Isizulu.) Thank you.
Nooit (‘Noy-t’) (Afrikaans.) No way! A way of saying no, but also a sign of incredulous response – You walked all the way from the station? Nooit! (Never!)
Oke/Ou (‘Oak/Owe’) Bloke. guy, chap.
Padkos (Afrikaans.) Food (a picnic, packed meal, sandwiches, fruit, sweets, etc) to take on a trip by bus, car or train.
Park off To ‘chill out’ – sit down and relax – “Let’s go’ park off’ (relax) at the beach tonight. Pavement In South Africa this refers to the sidewalk.
Pull in Come in, or visit. Why don’t you ‘okes’(guys) ‘pull in’ (come) to my place.
Rainbow Nation (First coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu upon the advent of South Africa’s first, democratic elections, in 1994) “We are black and white together: ‘Raise your hands! Move your hands, look at your hands – different colours representing different people. You are the rainbow people of God!’ and you remember the rainbow in the Bible is the sign of peace. The rainbow is the sign of prosperity. We want peace, prosperity, and justice.”
Robot (An all-time favourite” South Africanism!”) Yes, it’s a traffic light!
Rock Up To arrive – “What time should we ‘rock up’ (arrive) for the ‘jol’?
Sala hantle (‘Sah-le-hun-tle’) (Sesotho, meaning “stay well.”) Farewell, good bye to person remaining/staying behind.
Sale kahle (‘Sah-le-gah-leh’) (Isizulu, meaning “stay well.” See ‘Sale hantle.’) Farewell, good bye to person remaining/staying behind.
Sawubona (‘Sah-wu-bo-nah’) (Zulu, literally meaning, “I see (‘bona’) you.”) Greeting. Good day.
Shame (Another very typical South African expression, found amusing by foreigners.) A term used to sympathize with another’s misfortune, but the humour sets in for foreigners when used to express an object’s ‘cuteness,’ something being, ‘cute.” “Ag shame (cute), look at that baby!” or “Shame, (Pity her) stop making fun of the ‘chick!’(girl/young woman)”, and “Shame, (How sad) that’s horrible!”
Skelm (‘Skeh-lm’) (Afrikaans.) A crook, thug or thief. Used by all South Africans to identify a street-wise operator who deals in petty crime.
Skinder (Skuh-n-da) (Afrikaans.) Gossip.
Skolly (‘Skor-lly’) (Of Afrikaans, Cape Coloured origin.) Ruffian. Can be used almost affectionately when talking about a roguish friend.
Skop (Afrikaans.) A Kick.
Skrik (Afrikaans.) A fright. When I turned on the light, I got a huge ‘skrik!’(Fright/scare.)
Stoep (‘Stoop’) (
Takkies (‘Tack-eese’) (Colloquial Afrikaans.) Sneakers, trainers, running or canvas shoes.
Tokoloshe (‘Tock-oh-loh-sheh’) (African mythology/superstition.) Small, evil or mischievous spirit.
Tsamaya Hantle (‘Tsah-myah-hun-tle’) (Sesotho, meaning “go well.” See ‘Sale hantle.’) Farewell, or, good bye to person leaving/departing.
Tsotsi (‘Tsoh-tsee’) (Vernacular slang. See also ‘Skelm.”) A crook, thug or streetwise thief or petty criminal. Used and understood by all South Africans.
Tune (‘Choon’) (Colloquial, English slang.) To tell, to talk, to provoke – “Don’t ‘tune’ (‘try,’ or provoke) me!”
Veld (‘Felt’) (Afrikaans.) Open grassland, savannah plains.
Voetsek/Voertsek (‘Foot-sack’) (Afrikaans, much used by all in South Africa.) Go away, get lost, buzz off!