Beautiful Afrikaans Words Every Beginner Must Know

There are about seven million native speakers of Afrikaans in Mzansi. It is the main language in some provinces, such as the Western Cape and Northern Cape. With about 13.5 percent of South Africa’s population speaking Afrikaans, it is the third most spoken language in the country. Afrikaans has the widest racial and geographic distribution of all the eleven official languages of the nation. Thus, it is greatly understood and spoken as a second or third language in many places in South Africa. It is the first language of an estimated 75.8 percent of colored natives (4.8 million people), 60.8 percent of White South Africans (2.7 million people), and 1.5 percent of Black people in the country, totaling about 600,000.

Besides South Africa, where Afrikaans is the first language in some parts of the country, it is the national language of Namibia. It is also spoken to a lesser extent in other African countries such as Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Zambia. A West Germanic language, Afrikaans evolved from the Dutch vernacular of Holland. About 90 percent to 95 percent of the language vocabulary is said to be of Dutch Origin. Over the years, Afrikaans has also adopted words from other languages, such as the Khoisan language and German. Even though Afrikaans has its origin from Dutch, it slightly differs from Dutch as its spelling expresses Afrikaans pronunciation rather than standard Dutch.

The language gradually started developing distinguishing characteristics in South Africa during the 18th century. It was spoken in the country during such time by the European settlers (German, Dutch, and French) and their slaves. With Afrikaans being spoken as the second and third language in many parts of South Africa, it’s imperative to learn their core words and phrases to connect with people anywhere in the country.

Amazing Afrikaans Words For Beginners

Afrikaans word
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1. Geluksalig

  • Pronunciation: che-luk-saa-lich
  • English Translation: Blissful Happiness

Pronounced che-luk-saa-lich, Geluksalig is a common noun derived from two Dutch words; geluk, meaning happiness, and zalig, which translates as blissful. The word, which is used to express the ultimate form of happiness, is often used in a religious context. It is also most commonly used to talk about the hereafter.

2. Kolwyntjie

  • Pronunciation: kôl-vain-kie
  • English Translation: Cupcake

Kolwyntjie translates as a cupcake. Even though the origin of the word is still not known, it is mainly believed that cupcake first surfaced on the day of St. Colombino when it was served. It is derived from the Dutch word kolombijnte, originating from the standard Dutch word colombijn.

3. Mooi

  • Pronunciation: moy
  • English Translation: Attractive

Mooi denotes attractive or beautiful and is pronounced moy. It was first made use of in the Dutch language as well as early Afrikaans. The first record of the word being used was in the Resoluties van de Politieke Road (Resolutions of the Political Board) on April 8th, 1711. Besides Afrikaans, Mooi is only used in Dutch and East Frisian.

4. Glimlag

  • Pronunciation: chlim-lach
  • English Translation: Smile

Denoting smile, glimlag was first used in the Afrikaans language in the year 1902. It is a derivative of the Dutch word glimlach with early expression dating back to 1765. As an adaptation of another Dutch word, glimmen, glimlag refers to the glistering of teeth or eyes that usually result in a smile.

5. Ligsinnigheid

  • Pronunciation: lich-sin-nich-hait
  • English Translation: Frivolity

The word, Ligsinnigheid meaning frivolity, had its early expression in the Afrikaans Patriot woordeboek in 1902. It is derived from the Dutch word, lichtzinning that was early used in 1781. Lichtzinning, on the other hand, is a derivative of two Dutch words – licht and zin. Licht translates as light and is pronounced lig, while zin denotes sense or mind and is pronounced as sin.

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6. Hartlam 

  • Pronunciation: hart-lam
  • English Translation: Darling

Hartlam means darling, a term of endearment. It is formed from the combination of Dutch words, hart denoting heart and lam meaning lamb. Hence, the word refers to someone lying close to the heart of another like a small defenseless lamb.

7. Skitterend 

  • Pronunciation: skit-te-rint
  • English Translation: Dazzling

The first record of the word skitter being used was in the Afrikaans Patriot woordeboek in 1902. Skitterend is derived from the Dutch word schitteren, which is a later form of the word schetteren, first used in 1556. At first, schitteren denoted noise or repetitive noise, but its meaning was eventually changed to exuding light that seemed alive.

8. Pikkewyn

  • Pronunciation: pik-khe-vein
  • English Translation: Penguin

Around 1715, the Cape-free burgher Büttner started using the pure Afrikaans forms of the word Pikkewyn—pikowyn and pickoweign. Pikkewyn translates as a penguin and is a derivative of the Dutch word piggiwyn, which was earlier recorded in 1668.

9. Spookasem 

  • Pronunciation: spook-ah-sim
  • English Translation: Candy floss

Pronounced spook-ah-sim, spookasem is gotten from two Dutch words; spook, which means ghost, and asem, denoting breath. The word refers to the light, fluffy texture of candy as it simply melts away in the mouth.

10. Lekkernytjie

  • Pronunciation: lek-kêr-nay-kie
  • English Translation: Delicacy or confectionary

The use of the word Lekkernytjie was first recorded in the Afrikaans language by Pannevis in 1880. It is formed from the Dutch word lecker and then extended into the Afrikaans word lekkernytjie to translate as confectionary or delicacy.

11. Ontsagwekkend

  • Pronunciation: ont-sach-vac-kênd
  • English Translation: Awe-inspiring

Ontsagwekkend, pronounced ont-sach-vac-kênd, is developed from the combination of Dutch words, ontzag and wek. Zag, which is the past tense of zien, denotes see, whereas wek translates as to promote confidence in somebody.

List of Afrikaans Basic Words and Their English Translation

Afrikaans English
Nee No
Ja Yes
Vandag Today
Gister Yesterday
Jaar Year
Kom Come
Kalender Calendar
Onooglik Ugly
Klein Small
Lag Laugh
Maak Make
Pragtig Beautiful
Moeilik Difficult
Naby Near
Heerlik Delicious
Sleg Bad
Sondag Sunday
Maandag Monday
Dinsdag Tuesday
Woensdag Wednesday
Donderdag Thursday
Vrydag Friday
Saterdag Saturday


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Afrikaans Key Phrases and Their English Translation

Afrikaans English
Praat jy Afrikaans? Do you speak Afrikaans?
Praat jy Engels? Do you speak English?
Goeie môre. Good Morning.
Goeie dag. Good day.
Goeie naand. Good evening.
Goeie nag. Good night.
Totsiens. Goodbye
Hallo! Hoe gaan dit? Hello! How goes it?
Wat is jou naam? What is your name?
Dis ‘n plesier. You are welcome.
Hoe gaan dit met jou? How are you?
Hoe voel jy? How are you? (How are you feeling?)
Ek is lief vir jou. I love you.
Ek mis jou. I miss you.
‘n Bietjie. A bit.
Die kinders praat Afrikaans. The children speak Afrikaans.
Baie goed dankie.  Very well, thank you.
Waar woon jy? Where do you live?
Waar kom jy vandaan? Where are you from?
Verskoon my. Pardon me.
Ek verstaan nie. I don’t understand.
Sien jou gou. See you soon.
Hoe oud is jy? How old are you?
Nee, glad nie. No, not at all.
Bly om jou te ontmoet! Nice to meet you!
Nie so goed nie. Not so good.
Wees versigtig! Take care!
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