18 South African Slang Words And Phrases You Should Know

Colloquial language is an especially fascinating cultural product in South Africa thanks to the wide variety of languages spoken
Colloquial language is an especially fascinating cultural product in South Africa thanks to the wide variety of languages spoken | The Charles Gallery | Photography / Unsplash
Lee-Shay Collison

Thanks to the variety of languages spoken in South Africa, locals tend to borrow words from each language, resulting in slang words or phrases known as ‘South Africanisms’. If you’re visiting South Africa any time soon, it’s useful to know a few turns of phrase to help you along the way.

Did you know you can travel with Culture Trip? Our small-group itineraries are designed to offer authentic, immersive cultural experience in the coolest places on Earth.

Slap chips

Slap chips [slup chips] is a slang phrase for deep-fried potato chips sold at takeaway seafood shops, grocery stores and restaurants. The word slap means ‘limp’ in Afrikaans and is a perfect description for the oily potato chips which are larger than French fries.

Ag

Skinner

Skinner [skuhn-her] is Afrikaans slang for gossip. Eg. ‘Don’t skinner about me.’

Lekker

Lekker [lek-uh] is a widely used term indicating that something is ‘great’ or ‘nice’. For example, ‘The food was lekker’, or ‘We had a lekker day.’

South African Children

Kief

Kief [kif], derived from Arabic (kayf), means cool, great, awesome or neat. Eg. ‘That’s a kief car!’

Just Now

You’ll often hear South Africans mention that they will do something ‘just now’. This does not mean they’ll do it immediately, but rather a bit later. It may sound illogical but makes complete sense in South Africa!

Indaba

Indaba [in-daa-bah] A conference or expo, from the Zulu word for ‘a matter for discussion’.

Zulu tribesman traditional dancing, South Africa

Braai

Braai [br-eye] is a widely used noun and verb for an outdoor ‘barbecue’ where meat is cooked over a fire or coals. Eg. ‘We’re having a braai tomorrow.’ ‘We braaied the meat yesterday’. A braai is a popular social event in South Africa and even has its own dedicated public holiday, known as National Braai Day, which coincides with Heritage Day celebrated annually on September 24.

A South African Braai

Shame

Shame is a typical South African expression for sympathy or admiration. Eg. ‘Ag, shame man, poor girl!’ ‘Shame, he’s so cute.’

Eish

Eish [aysh] is a colloquial exclamation of surprise, disapproval, exasperation or regret derived from Xhosa. Eg. ‘Eish, my cell phone broke’.

South African football fans at the World Cup

Biltong

Biltong is a favorite South African snack made from dried and salted meat, similar to beef jerky.

Boerewors

Boerewors [boor-uh-vors] is an Afrikaans term for ‘farmer’s sausage’ — a traditional South African meat often enjoyed at a braai.

Sharp

Sharp [shahp] is often doubled up for effect (sharp sharp!) and means ‘goodbye’ or that everything is great.

Is it?

Is it? [izzit] is an expression frequently used in conversation meaning ‘Is that so?’ or ‘Really?’.

Street Jazz in Cape Town, South Africa

Dop

Dop is slang for an alcoholic drink. It can also mean ‘to fail an exam’. For example, ‘Pour me a dop,’ or ‘I’m gonna dop that test’.

Jol

Jol [jawl] is a widely-used term for ‘club’, ‘party’ or to ‘have fun’. Eg. ‘We had a jol last night!’

Shebeen

Shebeen [sha-bean] is an illegal tavern derived from Irish (sibín). It refers to unlicensed bars that were set up in townships during apartheid and frequented mainly by black South Africans. It has since become a mainstream word.

Sho’t Left

Sho’t left is derived from everyday South African ‘taxi lingo’. A commuter wanting a ride to a destination close by will say ‘Sho’t left, driver,’ meaning ‘I want to get off just around the corner.’

Browse our full collection of Epic Trips, Mini Trips and Sailing Trips.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

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.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article