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  • Writer's pictureCentre for Language Learning

Saying ‘hi’ to South Africans you meet

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

If you want to make friends you will need to become familiar with a few slang expressions.

If you want to make friends with the South African students you meet on the university campus and when you go out, you will need to become familiar with a few slang expressions. Slang words and phrases are found in speech rather than in writing, and are used casually by speakers who are familiar with English and are in informal environments. Here are twenty slang expressions you need to know when socialising with South Africans:

  • Aikona! [eye-koh-na] A Zulu term used to express shock or disbelief.

  • Babbelas [bub-ba-las] Derived from the Zulu word ‘ibhabhalazi’, it is used to describe a bad hangover.

  • Biltong [bill—tong] Our equivalent to beef jerky... but it is so much better!

  • Bobotie [buh-boor-tea] A Malay-type baked dish that is made with spicy-sweet minced meat and raisins with an egg custard topping.

  • Bliksem [bluhk–sim] A derogative term, meaning to hit someone, but often used as an expression of surprise too.

  • Boerewors [boor-uh-vors] Literally meaning ‘farmer’s sausage’, this is a savoury sausage that is often braaied (or barbecued) and then eaten as a variation of a hot dog.

  • Braai [brr-rye] If you're not South African, you probably call it a barbecue. But a braai is much more than a barbecue. It's a whole cultural experience, usually happening during a sports game, or just as an excuse to hang out.

  • Eina! [ay-na] An expression for when someone experiences pain.

  • Eish! [ay-sh] A Khoi-San expression for when someone experiences surprise.

  • Fundi [foon-di] Used to describe someone who is an expert, or a teacher.

  • Gatvol [ghut-foll] Literally meaning ‘filled to the brim’, this is used to describe someone who is very angry or tired. "He's gatvol!" could mean "He's had enough!".

  • Hayibo! [hi-boh] This Zulu word is usually expressed for something unbelievable.

  • Ja, Nee [ya—nee—ah] Technically it means "Yes, no". The phrase is used to express agreement or confirmation with someone or something.

  • Jislaaik [yis-like] This is said when trying to express shock.

  • Laaitie [light-e] Describes someone young.

  • Laduma! [laa-doo-maa] Screamed out when a soccer team scores a goal. All. The. Time.

  • Lekker [lack-err] An Afrikaans word that really could mean anything, but always has a good connotation. Generally, it means "nice" or "good".

  • Padkos [putt–koss] Travel food.

  • Ubuntu [oo-boon-too] It literally means “I am because we are”. It is an ancient African word that describes a common philosophical feeling of humanity and family. There is no single word to translate it that captures the cultural meaning.

  • Yebo [yeah-boh] It means "yes", but it is used as an extremely expressive form of the affirmative. It's often used as a double positive, saying "Yebo yes!". It can also be used to respond to the Zulu greeting ‘Sawubona’ (singular) / ‘Sanibonani’ (plural).

Source: South African slang everyone should know, July 10, 2019 by Imagnary House:

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