Sounding like a local is the best way to blend in in any situation. In Ghana, knowing the local expressions is the best way to understand the culture and make friends in this beautiful country. Culture Trip provides you with the need-to-know slang words that will help sound like a Ghanaian.
Everyday Ghanaian lingua is a chop-party of made-up words, sometimes with English included, plus local words or phrases turned on their heads. English-speaking comrades from the Queen’s territory and America might have trouble wrapping their heads around Ghanaian street talk, or ‘Pidgin‘; so here are some words and phrases to help you during your stay in Ghana.
Did you know you can now travel with Culture Trip? Book now and join one of our premium small-group tours to discover the world like never before.
Ɛte sɛn? / Wo ho te sɛn? is a Twi term that means ‘how are you?’ Ghanaians like to check up on you, sometimes several times within an hour. They are caring people, so don’t be bothered much when you have to answer ‘Ɛyɛ‘ meaning ‘I’m fine’, 10 times in 30 minutes.
Akwaaba is boldly inscribed on an overhead panel at Kotoka International Airport in Accra. It directly translates to mean ‘welcome’. If someone addresses you with this you should respond by saying ‘medaase‘ (pronounced ‘me-daa-si‘) which means ‘thank you’ in Twi. You are almost on your way to earning yourself a Ghanaian passport with this.
Simply ‘I beg’ or ‘please’. It’s polite to use it at the market when bargaining – ‘Abeg how moch‘ – or when asking someone what the time is – ‘Abeg e knack 3pm?’ One of the first things you would learn in your Pidgin course is ‘chale abeg’.
Chale is the most popular Ghanaian icebreaker. You would greet and address a friend as ‘Chale!’ ‘Chale wote’ might remind you of the art festival. Its meaning stems from the flip-flops used in the household or for a daily stroll. Wote is a Ga word for ‘let’s go’, pronounced ‘wor-tay‘.
In the 70s, when Ghana was going through coup d’état, many musicians left for Germany and other Western countries to sustain High Life music. They returned home looking like cooked patties of burgers, or borga, the way their swollen jeans hung from their navels. Nowadays, coming back home by air earns you the nickname ‘borga’. If it’s the USA you went to, you are called ‘akata’. ‘Akata’ is tantamount to 50 Cent’s garb when he hit the clubs with ‘21 Questions’ in 2003.
Electricity instability nightmare has our bulbs going off (‘dum’) and coming back on (‘sor’) without warning sometimes. Dumsor is undesirable and Nigeria’s NEPA and Ghana’s ECG are on top of the ratings of electricity companies that have been hit with the most number of public snubs since creation.
‘Obroni’, sometimes spelt ‘oburoni’, (the plural being ‘abrofo’) is the term used for a white person. ‘Bibinii’ is black person. Before you mention your name to a local, Ghanaians will most likely welcome you with ‘akwaaba obroni‘. It is not an expression intended to cause offence, however.
‘Chempɛ’, pronounced ‘chem-peh‘, is a term more likely to make the older generation nostalgic. Children would say this when they want to ‘halve it to share’. It is from a local game where you chance on a friend eating a meal and suddenly have the rights to half of whatever they have on their plate. Some people go to the extreme of demanding half of things aside from food, but that’s another story.
‘Flash’ is a term that refers to those who are known for being frugal with the minutes on their phone. “I will flash you,” means ‘you are going to see a beep on your phone and my name will pop up but don’t you dare answer, hey! Just call me back’.
‘Trotro’, or ‘trosky’, is a multi-passenger van or mini bus that runs about 95 per cent of the streets in Ghana. Read Culture Trip’s guide on how to make a successful trosky journey here.
When you’ve reached your stop and want to get down from the trosky, you indicate to the conductor, locally called ‘mate’, that ‘ewomu‘, literally meaning ‘it is inside’ in Twi, so they know there is someone on the bus who wants to get off.
If someone refers to you as being ‘eye red’, they’re saying that you are a greedy or selfish person.
Emmanuel Owusu-Bonsu, known by his stage name Wanlov the Kubolor is a Ghanaian-Romanian musician, film director and activist. Kubolor means one who hangs out playing in the streets most of the time.
This word means trouble, literally. You can say ‘palava’ also. ‘Chale som wahala dey oo‘ means ‘friend, I’m facing some trouble’.
When someone asks you for a cigarette on the streets of Accra or Kumasi, that stranger will most probably say ‘abeg you get jot?’ meaning ‘please, do you have a cigarette?’
When Ghana’s favourite rap duo, Fokn Bois, made a track called ‘Gimme Pinch’, it went viral (‘feeli feeli‘) especially in Accra with people making the pinching gesture to signal ‘I can’t believe I made it’. ‘Feeli feeli’ literally means “you have to see it with your own eyes”. It is usually used when someone wants to relay the fact that something is for real. When you can’t believe someone has achieved success and you’d prefer to investigate, you’d have to do so feeli feeli.
When you go to the barber and ask for a close-shave haircut and it feels like a baby’s bum when you pass your palm over it, it’s ‘sakora’! Balding men are naturally ‘sakora’.
Also locally called ‘apio’ or ‘kill me quick’, the popular, locally-distilled Ghanaian spirit is made from palm or sugar cane. Be warned, however, as akpeteshie is pretty strong.
Usually spicy and readily hot, ‘kelewele’ is fried ripe plantain usually served after main meals. Sold in the streets at night on aluminium trays with handfuls of roasted groundnut under yellow kerosene lamps. M3nsa’s Kelewele Pimpin’ goes best with this delicacy Chale. Medaase!
This is sometimes used in the defamatory sense, to mean ‘leave there’ or ‘go away’. ‘Comot’, or ‘comot for der’, is most often used affectionately between friends when someone tells a lie and it doesn’t hold water.
Looking for travel inspiration for your next getaway? Browse our collections of Epic Trips, Mini Trips and Sailing Trips to explore the world with the help of our Local Insiders.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.