15 South African Slang Phrases Really Need To Know

If you are travelling to South Africa, or you are just interested in knowing a little more about the land of Mandela, it is important to acquaint yourself with some of the commonest slang terms and phrases the people of that great nation use in everyday conversations.

As such, this article highlights some 15 slang phrases you should know in South Africa, so you do not get embarrassed by misinterpreting a word or statement a South African habitually utters. Without a doubt, what we have here would help you intermingle easily with the people. Read on to discover what these slang phrases are.

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Shame’ is an appealing and widely used term in South Africa. South Africans use the term in almost all social situations. For instance, just shout “Ag shame” when in doubt and your feeling or reaction will be appreciated in a big way. Just look at the conversations below to see how the term shame is variously used in many settings:

A: “My boyfriend bought me a new puppy.”

B: “Shame.”

A: “She was injured in the accident and rushed to a hospital.”

B: “Shame.”

A: “My brother won the Music Award yesterday!”

B: “Shame.”

Ag/Oh man

A filler word pronounced as “Ach”, Ag is commonly used by South Africans in place of “Shame”, simply to mean “Oh man”. The moment a South African feels like he or she has overused Shame’ and it is becoming boring to keep repeating, they throw in a filler which is mostly Ag, to change things a little. South Africans are known for their love for filler words. For instance, you may say, “Ag, we went out partying senseless last Friday.”

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Izit? Or Sho?

South African say, “Izit?” Or “Sho?” to mean “Is that so? This slang is best used if you absolutely lack a clue about what someone is speaking about, but you are wary of looking stupid (dofkop, as they call it)

Example: A: “I have been to the most powerful nation on earth, the United States of America.”

B: “Izit?”/ “Sho?”

Ja, Nee

Meaning ‘yes, no’, these two words are often said successively when one is expressing confirmation as well as agreement. For instance, one would say, “Ja, nee I will come for dinner thanks.”


Jawelnonofine is another common phrase with the people of South Africa, used for expressing resignation. It means ‘yes-well-no-fine.’ This example captures how the term is used:

A: “College fee will be up by nearly 25% next year?”

B: “Jawelnofine.”

Just now

Funnily in South Africa, the phrase ‘just now’ is used differently from its conventional English usage. Even South Africans themselves do not always understand if the phrase should mean a short moment, or soon. As such, if a South African says to you “I’ll give it to you just now.” Or “I will come just now,” they do not mean anytime soon, they mean in an unknown amount of time.

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Just sommer

In South Africa, people would say “Just sommer” to mean ‘just because’, when they have no clear reason to offer for the things they’ve done. For instance, ask a South African why they are doing a certain thing, such as laughing, and the likely answer you will get is “Just sommer.”


Here’s another common word with South Africans, Loskop, meaning loose-head. It is just a humorous excuse used to explain away some odd or forgetful behaviour. For example, one would say, “I am such a Loskop tonight. I forgot my pen in the car”.


Meaning ‘good’, Lekker is a term used by South Africans when they are expressing satisfaction. For example, “That is a lekker presentation,” is what one would say if happy with the presentation.


Babelaas is another common term used by South Africans to mean hangover. For instance, after a night of partying you would hear many making calls and beginning with “Babelaas”


Any event that is fun-filled, such as a party or family get-together, is called jol’ in South Africa. For example, you can say, “What’s the music over there? Are they having a jol?”

Jislaaik, Jussie, Jo, Haibo, and Haw

They are terms used to express big surprise or some confusion. For instance: “Jislaaik, bru, that was a big following!” or “Haibo, you turned 30.”


As a term that refers to giving someone a smack, Klap is Afrikaan. This term can, however, get more serious. A ‘snotklap’ is snot-smack, used to paint the picture of someone who was hardly smacked that mucus sprays from their noses. Also, there’s ‘geklap’, which means getting overly drunk so somebody may as well have smacked your face.

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Muti means medication. “She will do her muti just now,” means she will do her medication for an unknown time.


In South Africa, Robot is a name that refers to traffic lights. This is thought to be so because there are actual robots on the nation’s roads that control traffic flow.

These sentences would further help you understand the usage of some of the 15 slang phrases you should know in South Africa:

  • Juslaaik bru, you do not look very lekker?
  • Ag ja I got a little geklap the other day in a friend’s jol.
  • Shame man, you do not think some muti for that babelaas is good?
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Andile Smith
Andile Smith
Andile provides articles on anything from Politics, Sports, History and entertainment to funny, creepy and weird. His passion for writing allows him to take what is ordinary and transform it into a real masterpiece. He's a true storyteller with a passion for tech and literature
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