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Typical South African words and their meaning

I found another collection of typical South African words on to add to your SA vocabulary.

What is a braai? It is the first thing you will be
invited to when you visit South Africa. A braai is a
backyard barbecue and it will take place whatever
the weather. So you will have to go even if it’s
raining like mad. At a braai you will be introduced
to a substance known as mieliepap.

This is one of the most useful South African words.
Pronounced like the “ach” in the German “achtung”,
it can be used to start a reply when you are asked a
tricky question, as in: “Ag, I don’t know.” Or a
sense of resignation: “Ag OK, I’ll have some more
mieliepap then.” It can stand alone too as a signal
of irritation.

A rude word, it comes from the Afrikaans “donder”
(thunder). Pronounced “dorner”, it means “beat up.”
A team member in your rugby team can get donnered in
a game, or your wife can donner you if you come back
from a braai at three in the morning.

Widely used by all language groups, this word,
derived from the Afrikaans, means “ouch.” Pronounced:
“aynah”. You can say it in sympathy when you see
your friend the day after he got donnered by his

Often used at the end of a sentence to emphasize the
importance of what has just been said, as in “You’re
only going to get donnered if you come in late
again, hey?” It can also stand alone as a question.
Instead of saying “excuse me?” or “pardon me?” when
you have not heard something directed at you, you
can always say: “Hey?”

This is another great word to use in conversations.
Derived from the two words “is” and “it”, it can be
used when you have nothing to contribute if someone
tells you something at a braai. For instance, if
someone would say: “The Russians will succeed in
their bid for capitalism once they adopt a work
ethic and respect for private ownership.” It is
quite appropriate to respond by saying: “Izit?”

This is another conversation fallback. Derived from
the four words: “yes”, “well”, “no” and fine”, it
roughly means “OK”. If your bank manager tells you
your account is overdrawn, you can, with confidence,
say: “Jawelnofine.”

Pronounced “klup” – an Afrikaans word meaning smack,
whack or spank. If you spend too much time in front
of the TV during exam time, you could end up getting
a “klap” from your mother. In America, that is
called child abuse. In South Africa, it is called
promoting education. But to get “lekker geklap” is
to get motherlessly drunk.

An Afrikaans word meaning nice, this word is used by
all language groups to express approval. If you
enjoyed a braai thoroughly, you can say: “Now that
was lekk-errrrrrr!” while drawing out the last

These are sneakers or running shoes. The word is
also used to describe automobile or truck tyres.
“Fat tackies” are really wide tyres, as in: “You’ve
got lekker fat tackies on your Vôlla (Volkswagen), hey?”

This word has two basic meanings, one good and one
bad. First the good: A dop is a drink, a cocktail, a
sundowner, a noggin. When invited for a dop, be
careful! It could be one sedate drink or a last,
depending on the company. Now the bad: To dop is to
fail. If you “dopped” standard two (Grade 4) more
than once, you probably won’t be reading this.

This is a sandwich. For generations, school-
children have traded “saamies” during lunch breaks.
In South Africa you don’t send your kid to school
with liver-polony saamies. They are impossible to

This word is pronounced “bucky” and can refer to a
small truck or pick-up. If a young man takes his
“girl” (date) in a bakkie it could be
considered as a not so “lekker” form of transport
because the seats can’t recline.

This is a universal South African greeting, and you
will hear this word throughout the country. It is
often accompanied with the word “Yes!” as in: “Yes,
howzit?” In which case you answer: “No, fine.”

Now now
In much of the outside world, this is a comforting
phrase: “Now now, it’s really not so bad.” But in
South Africa, this phrase is used in the following
manner: “Just wait, I’ll be there now now.” It means
“a little after now”.

Tune grief
To be tuned grief is to be aggravated, harassed. For
example, if you argue with somebody about a rugby
game at a braai and the person had too much dop (is
a little “geklap”), he might easily get aggravated
and say.: “You’re tuning me grief, hey!”. To
continue the argument after this could be unwise and
result in major tuning of grief.

This is an Afrikaans word meaning “brother” which is
shared by all language groups. Pronounced “boot” but
shorter, as in “foot”, it can be applied to a
brother or any person of the male sex. For instance
a father can call his son “boet” and friends can
apply the term to each other too. Sometimes the
diminutive “boetie” is used. But don’t use it on
someone you hardly know – it will be thought
patronizing and could lead to you getting a “lekker

From the Afrikaans phrase meaning “Watch Out!” This
warning is used and heeded by all language groups.
As in: “The boss hasn’t had his coffee yet – so you
better pasop boet” Sometimes just the word “pasop!”
is enough without further explanation. Everyone
knows it sets out a line in the sand not to be

Skop, Skiet en donner
Literally “kick, shoot and thunder”, this phrase is
used by many South African speakers to describe
action movies. A Clint Eastwood movie is always a
good choice if you’re in the mood for of a lekker
skop, skiet en donner flick.

Pronounced – “frot”. An expressive word which means
“rotten” or “putrid” in Afrikaans, it is used by all
language groups to describe anything they really
dislike or for getting horribly drunk as in you got “lekker

vrot” after a couple of “doppe”. Most commonly intended

to describe fruit or vegetables whose shelf lives have

long expired, but a pair of old tackies (sneakers) worn a few years
too long can be termed “vrot” by some unfortunate
folk which find themselves in the same vicinity as
the wearer. Also a rugby player who misses important
kicks or tackles can be said to have played a vrot
game – opposite to a “lekker” game (but not to his
face). A movie was once reviewed with this headline:
“Slick Flick, Vrot Plot.”

Rock up

To rock up is to just, sort of arrive (called “gate
crash” in other parts of the world). You don’t make
an appointment or tell anyone you are coming – you
just rock up. Friends can do that but you have to be
selective about it. For example, you can’t just rock
up for a job interview.

To scale something is to steal it. A person who is
“scaly” has a doubtful character, is possibly a
scumbag, and should rather be left off the
invitation list to your next braai.

“Yes No” in English. Politics in South Africa has
always been associated with family arguments and in
some cases even with physical fights. It is believed
that this expression originated with a family
member who didn’t want to get a klap or get
donnerred, so he just every now and then muttered
“ja-nee”. Use it when you are required t o respond,
but would rather not choose to agree or disagree.

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9 thoughts on “Typical South African words and their meaning

  1. dario

    thanks for the lekker memories.

    In s.a. chicks prefer men to dildos becouse dildos can’t organize braai’s:):)

    cheers boet.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Patrick Boonstra and Bjorn, Tjeerd in 't Veen. Tjeerd in 't Veen said: RT @patrickboonstra: en als je nog eens wat Echte Afrikaans termen nodig hebt: #braaimeester […]

  3. […] bugger!! That means a ‘braai’. We all know the drill – as much meat and potato as possible and as little or no green […]

  4. Ndeipi vanhu ndakutaura chi shona..ndakanaka hehe wot does that mean

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  8. […] from scratch (from picking out the right bits of wood to using paraffin soaked tea bags),how to braai (we had some fun braai parties at the farm!), how to build a bund, prune trees using farm tools, […]