South Africa is a multilingual country with eleven official languages and South African English is littered with words and phrases from Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa and other African languages.
This linguistic diversity has resulted in locals borrowing words and phrases from each language creating a unique lexicon of South African slang. To help you understand some local lingo before you visit us, we compiled this helpful list of vocabulary and phrases showing our favourite “South Africanisms”.
Braai is a widely used word for a ‘barbecue’ where meat is cooked over a fire or coals. You can experience this on your visit to Morukuru Family in Madikwe, as it it is a tradition to enjoy an outdoor meal under the Boma, which is a word originally from Tanzania meaning “enclosure”. Sitting around before dinner you might enjoy some biltong, a favorite South African snack made from dried and salted beef, ostrich or game (similar to beef jerky).
When dinner is served you could enjoy Boerewors which is an Afrikaans term for a traditional South African sausage often served at a braai. If you really enjoy your evening you might wake up the next morning with a Babelaas which is local slang for a hangover. But after a few hours in the Bos (bush) spotting the big five you will feel lekker (great) again.
Some other helpful words for the bush include: donga – which means ditch and comes from Zulu. When out on a game drive, Stefan de Weerd one of our rangers might say something like: “ hold tight guys we are heading for a donga”
gogga –is a bug and is from Khoi-san, meaning creeping things.
shongololo – millipede comes from Zulu and Xhosa, ukushonga, and means ‘to roll up’
During your road transfer from the Madikwe back to AtholPlace in Johannesburg (jozi) (Out and about in Johannesburg – part 1) your hosts might pack you some padkos (Food for a car trip – originally from the Afrikaans). Whilst en route you could hear one of our favourite South Africanisms, the word robot, which in the rest of world refers to traffic lights or traffic signals! Heading towards the city Township slang is everywhere and some of our favourites are:
Mzanzi – which is a popular slang word for South Africa.
Eish: which is a Xhosa word used to express disbelief, regret or exasperation.
Sharp: which is often doubled up for effect (sharp sharp!) and means ‘goodbye’ or that everything is alright.
Aikona: a strong refusal/disagreement, meaning “No! – from Zulu
Mampara: a fool
Tokoloshe: a character from African folklore referring to a mischievous hairy dwarf. Now used as a pejorative term for a small man.
Moegoe – a fool, idiot or simpleton
On arrival at AtholPlace you can settle into your luxury room , change your takkies (Trainers) for slops ( flip-flops) and pop down to the bar which is totally different to a shebeen (an unlicensed bar or tavern). When offered an ice cold drink your answer could be yebo the Zulu word for “yes” and is commonly used.
Moving onto Ocean house,(Luxury travel off the grid) situated within 36 000 hectares of unspoilt fynbos making up the De Hoop Nature Reserve (Marine walk adventure ) which homes over 1500 plant species. In the Khoi-San languages these plants are referred to as buchu – a name applied to a range of medicinal plants traditionally used to make muti – a slang word for medicine (from Zulu umuthi). A person familiar with the diverse fauna and flora of De Hoop would be called a Fundi which has its origins in Nguni “umfundisi” meaning teacher or preacher and now used in mainstream South African English. When embarking on a nature walk through the reserve you might choose to take a kierie – which is a wooden walking stick. The Khoikhoi indigenous people who were nomadic hunter gatherers in the Cape and Namibia originally used the word kirri.
Whatever language you speak you will be welcomed into the Morukuru Family with an abundant spirit of Ubuntu which means compassion, kindness or humanity. We look forward to seeing you!