Useful Phrases

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Useful South African Phrases

South Africa has 11 different national languages - English is the most commonly spoken language in official and commercial public life but only the sixth most spoken language in terms of numbers.

Zulu is normally spoken in the Durban area whilst Xhosa is spoken by the locals in Cape Town. Also bear in mind that Afrikaans was regarded as the language of the old oppressive Nationalist Government pre-1994 and therefore even trying to say a few words to the locals in this language may be regarded as offensive. Best advice is to keep to English if the person is a complete stranger.

Here are a few useful words you may encounter in South Africa. You will be a bit of a big deal if you say ‘hello’ in Zulu:

A

Aikona - Not on your life
Aita (pronounced 'ai-tah') - A greeting
Akubekuhle (pronounced 'aako-beck-hoole') - Meaning cheers, to cheers a drink or thanks in Zulu
Arvie (pronounced 'rve') - Afternoon

B

Babbelas (pronounced 'bub-elaas') - Hangover
Biltong - Dried, seasoned meat, similar to jerky
Bioskoop - Cinema - "We want to go to the bioskoop tonight"
Biscuit - Used as a term of affection - "Claudia, you biscuit!!"
Boer - Afrikaans word for farmer
Bokkie - A small buck, or affectionate name for a female (my bokkie)
Bra - Afrikaans word for male friend - "dude" in English
Bru - Male friend
Braai - A BBQ

C

Choc - Township slang for a 20 Rand note
Chow - Means eat
Cozzy (pronounced cozzie) - Swimming/bathing costume


D

Dik bek - Sulking/pouting
Doss - Nap
Dorpie - A town small in size

E

Eina! (pronounced 'a-na') - Ouch!
Eish! (pronounced 'aysh') - A phrase of exclamation - "Eish! I am so tired"

F

Fundi - Expert - 'umfundisi', meaning teacher or preacher

G

Gatvol - Fed up, had enough
Gooi (pronounce 'g' as a rolling 'gggg' almost like a cat purring) - Chuck or throw something

H

Howzit - How's it going? How are you?
Hundreds - Excellent - "I am hundreds"

I

Indaba - From the Zulu language meaning 'a matter for discussion' or widely known in South African English as conference

L

Laaitie (pronounced as 'lighty') - A young person, usually a young male such as a younger brother or son
Laduma! (pronounced 'la-do-ma') - It thunders in Zulu - used when a goal is scrored in South African soccer matches
Larney - Fancy/designer
Lekker - Great/tasty

M

Makarapa - A modified, decorated miners' helmet used by South African soccer fans

P

Padkos - Food for the road/journey

R

Robot - Traffic light
Rondavel - Free-standing round building which usually has a thatched roof

S

Sangoma - South African traditional healer
Siff - Used in South African English to discribe disgusting, horrible or ugly - "This milkshake is siff!"
Skinner - Gossip
Slap chips - French fries
Slip slops - Flip slop sandals
Spaza shop - Convenience store
Sosatie - A kebab on a stick

T

Tekkies - Evil spirit
Toyi-Toyi - South African Zulu for protesting and dancing in the street
Tsotsi (pronounced 'tzotzi') - A person who does no good, gangster, layabout
Tune - To give a person lip - "Don't you tune me bra"

V

Veld - Bush/grassland
Voetsek (pronounced 'fot-sek') - Go away/buzz off
Vuvuzela (pronounced 'voo-voo-ze-la' ) - Setswana for a stadium horn, used by soccer fans during matches in South Africa

Y

Yebo (pronounced 'Yeahbaw') - Yes in Zulu