LET ME INTRODUCE some typical South African words to you and when next time you are having a braai with some of the locals you can pop in a couple of these words and they will be more than impressed with you!  Are you ready to learn some of our local lingo.

  • If you understand the word“ja-nee” (yes-no) you are truly South African.  Absolutely no one else in the world would even consider putting two opposites next to each other to express confirmation, but we are familiar with that expression.
  • The same goes for the meaning of the word “tjaila”.  This word, originating from Zulu, has been adopted into all South African languages and used to tell everyone when it’s time to go home.
  • “Jislaaik” – (pronounced yis-like). It is normally uttered as a surprise or in outrage.  I cannot think of any English word with the same descriptive meaning.  Any suggestions from anyone?
  • “Now-now” or “just now” can mean anything from five minutes to …. well a month depending on the person.
  • “Donner” is very useful word, used as an all-purpose swearword has no good English translation. Used as a verb, it can express any degree of roughing up. As a noun, it is a pejorative, as they politely say in dictionaries, to mean whatever you want it to mean
  • It’s such a shame the rest of the world only uses the word “shame to denote something sad or negative. If you’re a South African, however, saying “ag shame” can be used to sympathize and also as a term of endearment for anything from little cuddly puppies to cute babies
  • We call an elevator a “lift but asking for a ‘lift’ doesn’t mean you want an elevator!  You actually want a “ride”
  • Then there is the word “jol”. Probably the dictionary compilers regard it as slang, but it’s widely used for “Going out on the town, kicking up your heels, enjoying yourself.
  • Nothing is as “lekker” as South African culture. And truly, there just isn’t a word as descriptive as “lekker” in other languages. Great, fun, exciting, delicious, pleasant, enjoyable – one word to describe it all. And you’ll only find it in South Africa.
  • “Bokkie” – (diminutive of bok, literally meaning “little buck” or “doe”) is a popular term of endearment, comparable to “sweetheart” or “honey”.
  • Another typical South African word is “keen”.  We are “keen” to hike up Table Mountain.  It means you are willing to do something which amounts either to a dare, or just an enjoyable outing or something that you would very much like to do.
  • “Chop-chop”. No, we are not going to cut some wood for a braai. It means quickly and is used in a sentence if you want something to be done quick
  • “Cozzie/cossie”. This is a typical South African word used for the British version of a swimming costume and is normally used in informal conversation.


The challenge is on:

Try to make a sentence using as many words as you can in one sentence. Something like:  Bokkie, bring your cozzie then I will chop-chop light the fire so that we can have a lekker braai.


*** If there are any other words that needs explaining leave it in the comment sections and we will try to help you out.***

Comments (4)

  1. Inge

    What about something like “robot” which is not a robotic machine but a traffic light.
    And “bakkie” which we consider as a pickup or a truck/

    Oh I simply love SA!

    1. TravelBucket (Post author)

      You are absolutely correct, Inge. Those two words are so truly South African!

  2. stringent

    When someone wrіtes an paragгapһ he/she maintains the image of ɑ
    user in hіs/һer mind that how a սser can understand it.
    Therefore that’s why thіs article іs perfect.

    1. TravelBucket (Post author)

      Happy to help you out on the local lingo!


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