List of South African English regionalisms

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This is a list of words used in mainstream South African English but not usually found in other dialects of the English language. For internationally common English words of South African origin, see List of English words of Afrikaans origin.


(informal) meaning ''no'' or ''hell no''
a utility truck or pickup truck. Can also mean a small basin or other container.[1]
a portmanteau of the words bakkie and jacuzzi. a bakkie's load-bay that has been filled with water for recreational purposes
(informal) refers to a particular subculture of vagrants in Cape Town (from Afrikaans berg (mountain), originally referring to vagrants who sheltered in the forests of Table Mountain). Increasingly used in other cities to mean a vagrant of any description.[2]
Afrikaans for Rusk, and extremely hard biscuit usually dunked in tea or coffee. Can also refer to a traditional biscuit, or cookie.
cinema; movie theatre (now dated)[3]
dried meat, similar to jerky [4]
(informal) occasionally heard South African version of bloody (the predominantly heard form), from the Cape Coloured/Afrikaans blerrie, itself a corruption of the English word
a unique spiced, fruit-based, puree originating from South Asia, also known by its English name Chutney
traditional sausage from Afrikaans "farmer-sausage", usually made with a mixture of beef and pork and seasoned with spices.[5] Droëwors is a Boerewors that has been prepared the same method as biltong.
a barbecue, to barbecue [6]
a flame-grilled sandwich
Is the combination of the spirit Brandy and the softdrink Coca-Cola to form the popular drink Brandy-en-Coke
The "trunk" of a car.
a rand,[7] referring to the Springbok that is featured on the South African R1-coin (one rand coin).
eggplant (from Portuguese berinjela, also used in Indian English) [8]
a wilderness region, remote from cities (from Shona bundo, meaning grasslands) [9]
bunny chow
loaf of bread filled with curry, speciality of Durban, particularly Indian South Africans [10]
originally referring to a baby antelope. It refers to a beautiful young girl, and it can also be applied as a pet-name between lovers.


when pronounced /kæˈf/ refers to a convenience store not a coffee shop (originally such stores sold coffee and other basic items) [11]
car guard
a person who guards cars. They are most commonly found in large outdoor parking lots, but they can also be found around street parking near popular areas and large events and, less often, in covered parking garages. They often assist drivers with entering and exiting parking spaces.
(informal) a friend, abbreviated rhyming slang, "china plate", for "mate" also used in Cockney rhyming slang, e.g. "Howzit my China?" [12]
potato crisps by default, but may also used for French fries, which are more commonly referred to as slap chips (pronounced /slʌp/, Afrikaans for drooping, not firm).[13][14]
traffic circle or roundabout
refers to typically brown skinned South Africans of mixed European and Khoisan or black and/or Malay ancestry.[15]
a mini-van, people-carrier, especially referring to the Volkswagen Type 2 and it's descendants.
cool drink, cold drink
soft drink, fizzy drink (not necessarily chilled) [16]
(pronounced /dæxə/ or more commonly, /dʌxə/) marijuana [17]
also used to mean a reservoir
a ditch of the type found in South African topography (from Zulu, wall) [18]
a toy car which is constructed out of throw-away steel wires.
Drop Goal/Skepskop
in Rugby Union and Rugby league, is when a player kicks a ball over the cross-bars of the opposing team's goalposts while the ball is in play in order to score points, as opposed to a penalty kick which is at a set distance from the goalpost.
the national service provider for Digital Satellite TeleVision in the country, name is often applied literally to the satellite-decoders used by the customers
(stands for Electronic Toll) a highly controversial toll-gate system introduced by the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL). A system of toll-gate-structures spanning freely over highways/freeways, in order to ease-up traffic-flow compared to regular toll-gate booths, collecting toll via an electronic tag (purchased by the general public) placed in the car. E-toll was deemed controversial for the method it was forced onto the general public's consumer needs.
(plural erfs, in English, erven/erve in Dutch/Afrikaans) a plot of land in an urban area (from Cape Dutch) [19]


garden boy
a male gardener (of any age), typically used by older white South Africans, but may cause offense to some [20]
(pronounced /ˈɡzər/ or /ˈɡzə/) water heater and tank for the home [21]
a light-bulb (also used in Australian and New Zealand English)[22]
(pronounced /xɔːxʌ/ or /xɔːxʌ/, the latter similar to the Afrikaans pronunciation) a creepy crawly or an insect [23]
Zulu word meaning grandmother/grandma. Became part of the iconic slogan Yebo Gogo (Yes, Grandma) from the South African cellular service-provider Vodacom
under apartheid, typically referred to a self-governing "state" for black South Africans
(colloquial) used similarly to "eh?" or "huh?"
(colloquial) hello, how are you, good morning (despite being a contracted of 'how is it going', howzit is almost exclusively a greeting, and seldom a question)
ice-cream van/ice-creamvan
Similar to an Ice-cream Truck, though using a minivan, specifically a Volkswagen Type 2
is it?
(colloquial) Is that so? An all purpose exclamative, can be used in any context where "really?", "uh-huh", etc. would be appropriate, e.g. "I'm feeling pretty tired." "Is it?". Often contracted in speech to "izit".
a conference (from Zulu, "a matter for discussion")[24]
(informal) can also be referred to as having a good time, partying, drinking etc. e.g. "Let's jam soon"
(colloquial) yes (from Afrikaans "yes")
janee, ja-nee, ja/nee, ja nee
(colloquial) meaning yes/agreed, in response to a question: "Ja no, that's fine." (From Afrikaans "ja nee", which is used in the same sense)
(informal, pronounced /ɔːl/) another term more commonly used for partying and drinking. e.g. "It was a jol" or "I am jolling with you soon." [25]
just now
idiomatically used to mean soon, later, in a short while, or a short time ago, but unlike the UK not immediately.[26] If you rely on this you may be waiting a long time. There is no sense of urgency, especially in Cape Town, whereas in the corporate Johannesburg environment, "just now" is taken more seriously and will be acted on with more urgency than in Cape Town which is more laid-back.


(derogatory/offensive, pronounced /kæfə/) a black-skinned person (from Arabic kafir meaning non-believer) used as a racial slur [27]
(informal) indicating appreciation, like "cool" [28]
a nap
koki, koki pen
(pronounced /kk/) a fibre-tip pen (from a local brand name)
Afrikaans for both: a small hill, and a cup/mug
a Dutch-derived sweet pastry dessert dipped in a syrup. Pastry is traditionally shaped in the form of a French braid. The name ''koeksister'' translates as ''Cake-sister''
(informal, pronounced /lɛkə/) nice, pleasant, enjoyable (from Afrikaans "nice") [29]
(informal) a small dishcloth used for cleaning, as opposed to a dishcloth or teatowel
(informal) one's own child, specifically refers to a young boy, or to refer to a young person as a lightweight or inexperienced in something particular [30]
a controversial system of controlled rolling power-cuts/black-outs introduced by the South African National Electrical provider Eskom in order to shed load from the national power-grid
location, lokasie
an apartheid-era urban area populated by Blacks, Cape Coloureds, or Indians. It was replaced by "township" in common usage amongst Whites but is still widely used by Blacks in the form of kasi [31]
a large commercial truck


main road
what is generally called a "High Street" in Britain or a "Main Street" in North America
school-leaving certificate or the final year of high school or a student in the final year, short for matriculation [32]
besides it's standard definition, (pronounced as mate) it's a derogatory term specifically referring to female housekeepers of colour, commonly used as a racial slur
mielie, mealie
an ear of maize (from Afrikaans mielie) [33]
mieliemeel, mealie meal
used for both maize flour and the traditional porridge made from it similar to American grits, the latter also commonly known by the Afrikaans word pap
a Dutch custard-tart with a strong milk flavor, usually sprinkled with cinnamon on top.
monkey's wedding
a sunshower.[34] Also known by the Afrikaans metaphor Jakkals Trou met Wolf se vrou (translated as: Jakkals, a Jackal, is marrying Wolf's wife, referring to the supposed incompatibility of the situation.)
currency used by the now-defunct South African mobile-data service Mxit
any sort of medicine but especially something unfamiliar (Zulu for traditional medicine) [35]
a mandarin orange (from Indonesian via Afrikaans), a tangerine in Britain
(colloquial) used at the beginning of a sentence or phrase to mean yes, in response to a question: "No, that's fine, I'll meet you there."
now now
(colloquial) derived from the Afrikaans ''nou-nou'' (which can be used both in future- and immediate past-tense) idiomatically used to mean soon (sooner than just now in South Africa, but similar to just now in the United Kingdom)


a person, similar to "bloke" (man)
Afrikaans for maid/housekeeper, usually applied only to female housekeepers of colour, but is far more derogatory than maid/mate and is often never used except to be derogatory.
(informal) a ditzy woman (derogatory term), from the Afrikaans word pop, meaning a doll
besides the standard meaning, in South Africa this is also used for traffic lights. The etymology of the word derives from a description of early traffic lights as robot policemen, which then got truncated with time.[36]
round free-standing structure, usually with a thatched roof,[37] also commonly referred to as a Lapa


a sandwich [38]
a small triangular pastry from Indian origin. Also known as a driehoekigekoeliekoekie
a traditional African healer
an exclamation denoting sympathy as in "shame, you poor thing, you must be cold". Also used to describe a ''cuteness factor''.
(also used in Ireland and Scotland) an illegal drinking establishment, nowadays meaning any legal, informal bar, especially in townships [39]
shongololo, songololo
millipede (from Zulu and Xhosa, ukushonga, to roll up) [40]
a toasted sandwich made in a snackwich maker/snackwich machine
a kebab on a stick [41]
derogatory term for an English-speaking South African, from the Afrikaans soutpiel (literally "salty penis"), which referred to British colonial settlers who had one foot in England, one foot in South Africa and, subsequently, their manhood dangling in the Atlantic Ocean.
a cantaloupe [42]
an informal trading post/convenience store found in townships and remote areas [43]
besides other meanings, used to refer to a school grade higher than grades 1 and 2 (now defunct)
State President
head of state between 1961 and 1994 - now known as President
stiffy, stiffy disk
a 3.5 inch floppy disk, floppy is used exclusively for the old 5.25 inch or larger disks
used for a popsicle (frozen sucker) or a lollipop[44]


tackies, takkies, tekkies
sneakers, trainers [45]
standard usage applies, but is more commonly used to refer to a minibus taxi [46]
tickey box, ticky-box, tiekieboks
a payphone, derived from "tickey" coin (threepenny coin minted in 1892), as one had to insert a coin to make a call[47]
residential area, historically reserved for black Africans, Coloureds or Indians under apartheid. Sometimes also used to describe impoverished formally designated residential areas largely populated by black Africans, established post-Apartheid.[48]
virgin bush, especially grassland or wide open rural spaces.[49] Afrikaans for Field.


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