20 Most Common South African Slangs And Their Meanings


Slangs are words that are not considered part of the standard vocabulary of a language and that are used very informally in speech especially by a particular group of people. It is an informal nonstandard vocabulary composed typically of coinages, arbitrarily changed words, and extravagant, forced, or facetious figures of speech. South Africa is made up of eleven official languages. These are the Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Venda, Swazi, Xhosa, Tsonga and Tswana. These languages have led to the formation of slang words in the country which are used and are as equally accepted as some of the languages themselves.

Most Commonly Used Slang Words in South Africa Include:

1. Bergie: This South African slang is from the berg mountain. The slang is used to refer to vagarants who stayed in the forests of Table mountain originally. Now the word is used to refer to a particular sub-culture of homeless people who are usually found in Cape Town.

2. Babbelas (bub – a – Lars): This slang means a bad hangover. It is derived from the modern isiZulu word for hangover known as isibhabhalazi.

3. Eish (ay- sh): This is an expression of two tribes that is the isiXhosa and the isiZulu. It is commonly used to express resignation, pleasant surprise and exasperation.

4. Wors (vors): This slang refers to traditional Afrikaans type of sausage,  now-eaten by almost all the people in the region. The sausage is flavored with different spices such as chili, coriander and other ingredients such as tomato and onions. The full name of the sausage is boerewors. The name boerewors translates directly to “farmers’ sausage”.

5. Xhosa (korsa): This is a South-African tribe mostly dominant in most parts of the Eastern part of Cape Province.

6. Bloutrein (blue – train):  This is another commonly used South Africa slang. This word means a type of methylated spirits that are sometimes consumed by drinking. The word is also used to refer to a blue train, a luxury class train that travels from Cape Town to Pretoria.

7. Isit (iz – it): This is an exclamation of surprise similar to English “is that true? So? Really?”

8. Leekker (lack-er):  This is a slang derived from the Afrikaans and means or acts as a sign of acceptance, approval, good or great.

9. Quagga (Kwa -gh – uh):  This slang name is used to refer to an extinct-species of zebra scientifically referred to as Equus quagga. This species once used to habitate in Cape town but became extinct due to hunting in the 1800s

10. Skollie (skor – ly): Also referred to as skabenga (ska – beng –ga) and skelm (skeh – lim)

South African Slangs and Their Meanings

11. Bakki. (bah – ki)): This slang is used to refer to a type of pick-up truck or a utility truck. It can also be used to mean a small container. Today the word bakki is now a part of the words in the South African English.

12. Ubuntu (oo – boon – to): This is a South African philosophy derived from the isiZulu’s word for goodness with the central-tenet that a human being is a human being because of other human beings, a human being is not an island.

13. Bliksem: This is the South African slang word for punch or hit derived from the Afrikaans. The phrase is also used as an expression of surprise or rude. The Afrikaans uses it as a curse.

14. Bioscope: This word is used by South Africans to mean a dated movie theatre. Originally this word was an international English word. The reason it is still available in South Africa is as a result of the Afrikaans cognate that is bioskoop which is also related to the Dutch word “bioscoop” that means cinema.

15. Slap tjips (slup – chips): The word is similar to the thickly cut British chips that are usually oily and soaked in vinegar. In Afrikaans, slap means “limp”.

16. Cuiter: This slang word is used by South Africans to mean some one that one does not admire or like. This word is similar to the American English word “cunt” .

17. Kiff or Kief: This word is used to mean neat, wonderful,  great, cool or wicked in the English. The word is related to the Afrikaans word for poison “gif”. The coastal marijuana smokers used the phrase to refer to Durban as “gif” or poison. Also the word may have come from the “kif”, an Arabic word that means marijuana or pleasure.

18. Panda: This slang  was used to refer to white males. It was previously used to mean advantage but now means disadvantage.

19. Baas: This phrase is used to refer to a boss.

20. Domkop: This word is similar to the German word “Dummkopf”. In South Africa, it is used to describe or refer to an idiot.

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