15 South African Slang Phrases It Would Be In Your Best Interest To Know


If you are traveling to South Africa, or you are just interested in knowing a little more about the land of Mandela, it is important you first acquaint yourself with some of the commonest slang terms and phrases the people of that great nation use in every day 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, and also to 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 this conversation 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 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 filler, 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 any 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 to mean differently from its English usage. Even the 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 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 tell 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 behavior. For example one would say, “I am such a Loskop tonight. I forgot my pen in the car’


Meaning good’, it 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 part 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.”


A term to give someone a smack, it is Afrikaan. This term can, however, get more serious. A snotklap’ is snot smack, taken to bring the picture of someone hardly smacked so 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, among the highlighted:

  • 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?