Phrases and Words

“Where can I find a nice restaurant?” “Go to the second robot, turn left and it is in the building on the right. Then take the lift to the first floor.” “Where?” To find out read the list below. South African English South African Dictionary Afrikaans

South African English

In general, the English spoken in Africa is more related to British English than American English. Over the centuries some words from native and other languages also became part of the South African English vocabulary. This list highlights some of the phrases and words used in southern Africa that can be confusing and may even have the opposite meaning to American English.

SA English


Come and fetch me Can you pick me up?
How is it? or What is going on? What’s up?
It is a (my) pleasure You’re welcome
Just joking Just kidding
Just now Soon, or in a minute, or in a second, or in a short while. Also a minute ago or a short while ago
Are you finished? Are you done?
I am finished I am done. I am set
Make a plan Devise a way of accomplishing something, even if it means to bend the rules
Now-now A moment ago; In a moment; Just now
Holiday Vacation
Rucksack Backpack
Torch Flashlight
Dates are written as Day – Month – Year
Surname Last name
Costume Bathing (swimming) suit
Jersey or pullover Sweater
Nappie (similar sounding to Napkin) Diaper
Takkies Sneakers
Bungalow or rondavel Round cabin-type accommodation
Chalet Cabin
Cupboard Closet (also known as a toilet)
Dustbin Trashcan
Flat Apartment
Geyser Water heater
Lodge Typically exclusive, expensive chalet type of accommodation. Not to be confused with chain hotels found in the USA
Rubbish Garbage, Trash
Tap Faucet, spicket
Toilets Restroom
Toilet paper Bathroom tissue
Biltong Jerky
Biscuit Cookie
Boerewors BBQ sausage (direct translation means farmers sausage)
Braai or Braaivleis BBQ
Chips French Fries or chips
Cooldrinks or Colddrinks Soda or soft drinks e.g. Coke, Pepsi etc. Also juice
Pap (pronounced pup) or porridge Grits
Pie Pastry with meat (e.g. Cornish pie, Steak & Kidney pie)
Dessert or pudding Dessert
Rusk Large, dried cookie similar to Italian biscotti
Scone Biscuit
Sweets Candy
Take-Away Take-Out
Tart Pie
Tin Can
Trolley (shopping) Cart (shopping)
Bill Check
Entrée Appetizer
Serviette Napkin (a similar sounding word, Nappie is a Diaper)
Lift Elevator or giving someone a ride
Ground floor First floor
First floor Usually second floor, but sometimes third floor
Second floor Usually third floor, but sometimes fourth floor
Gravel road Unpaved road
Pavement Sidewalk
Robot Traffic light
Tar road Paved road
Bakkie (pronounce buck-key) Truck (small)
Bonnet Hood
Boot Trunk
Garage Garage or auto repair shop
Hoot(ing) Honk(ing)
Lorrie Truck (large)
Mudguard Fender
Petrol Gas
Petrol Station Gas Station
Quadbike Four Wheeler ATV
Taxi Minibus for mass transportation, but can also be a commonly known taxi (car)
Towbar Hitch
District County
Municipality City Council
Province State
State or government Government
Assignment Paper
Average % GPA (Grade Percentage Average)
BSc 3 year BS
BSc (Hons) 4 year BS
BTech 4 year technology BS. Similar to BSc (Hons)
Bursary Scholarship
College Community college
Course Program
Diploma (national) 3 year associate degree
Faculty College e.g. College of Natural Resources
Graduate from a university, not a high school
Hand in a paper Turn in a paper
Hostel Dormitory
Lecturer (Academic staff) Faculty or Professor
Lecturing (at university) Teaching (at university or school)
Matric Grade 12 certificate or a senior at high school
Marking Grading
Marks or Points Grades
Programme Itinerary
Scholar Student at high school
Student (at university only) Student (at university or high school)
Subject Course
Technikon Technical college, polytechnic or technical university
University College or university
Game ranch (farm) Ranch used for farming and hunting wild animals, typically antelope
Lucerne Alfalfa
Maize or Mielies Corn
Plot or Small holding Small farm of a few acres
Autumn Fall
Bush Like “in the woods” or a bush
Lipice Chap stick or Lip balm
Post a letter Mail a letter
Postal code Zip code
Queue (stand in a queue) Line (stand in line)

South African Dictionary

These words are used both in English and Afrikaans

Biltong Salted and spicy dried meat; Jerky
Boerewors BBQ sausage (direct translation means farmers sausage). Popular traditional South African sausage, usually a coarsely-ground mixture of beef and pork, seasoned with various spices.
Braai or Braaivleis BBQ; To grill over a fire, to hold a barbecue, an outdoor gathering where meat and boerewors is grilled over an open fire.
Donga Deep gully formed by erosion, usually dry with steep, bare sides
Hey Impolite way of calling someone; Sometimes used aggressively; A request for an utterance to be repeated; Added to a statement or a question to give it emphasis or retain the attention of the addressed, through an implied request for reply; A request for confirmation of what has been said
Indaba Meeting or discussion
Kraal Traditional African village comprised of a cluster of huts; Enclosure or pen for livestock
Muti Traditional medicine concocted from plant and animal products
Rondavel Round chalet or cabin
Sangoma Witch doctor
Sjambok Short (about 4 feet long) whip made of skin, leather or plastic
Tannie “Aunt”, used particularly for Afrikaner women which are not necessarily a blood-relation; a respectful and affectionate title for a older woman
Veld Natural vegetation in savanna landscape
Vlei Low-lying grassland inundated with water during the rainy season; Marshy area; Shallow natural pool of water
Voetsek Go away! Get lost! A rough command typically used to chase a dog away; Also an expression of disgust or rejection used towards people (very aggressive and rude); An indeterminate time of long ago
Voortrekker Afrikaner pioneers who migrated (trekked) from the Cape Colony to the interior of southern Africa to escape British rule
Yebo Yes, I agree, I heard you, A general term of agreement or acknowledgement used mainly as slang


The first word “aardvark” and the last word “Zoeloe or Zulu” in the English dictionary are Afrikaans words. Afrikaans originated from the old Dutch language, mixed with some German, French, English and native languages. It is spoken mainly in South Africa and Namibia. These are some basic and typical Afrikaans phrases and words used, that will facilitate your communication skills while visiting these countries. The “G” is pronounced as a guteral gggg The “R” is pronounced as rrrr, with the front of the tongue vibrating



Phrases Uitdrukkings (Frases)
Can I … Kan ek …
Don’t worry Moenie worry nie (used in slang)
Good bye Totsiens
Good morning Goeie more
Good night Goeie nag
Have a good sleep Slaap lekker
Have a good sleep or Sleep well Lekker slaap or Slaap lekker
How are you Hoe gaan dit
How far is it? Hoe vêr is dit?
How much does it cost? Hoeveel kos dit?
I am … Ek is …
I am going to bed Ek gaan bed toe
I am going to sleep Ek gaan slaap
I am looking for … Ek soek die …
I want to … Ek wil …
It’s my pleasure (You are welcome) Dit is my plesier
Putting up a tent Tent opslaan
Thank you Dankie or Baie dankie
When are we … Wanner is ons …
When are we going? Wanneer gaan ons?
Where are the others? Waar is die ander?
Where are they? Waar is hulle?
Where are we going? Waarnatoe gaan ons?
Where is the … Waar is die …
Personal Pronoun Persoonlike Voornaamwoord
I Ek
He Hy
Me My
Mine Myne
She Sy
They Hulle
We Ons
You Jy (for friends or acquaintances) and U for an adult unfamiliar person
Food/Eating Kos/Eet
BBQ Braai or braaivleis
Butter Botter
Can Blik
Eat Eet (pronounce first “E” like in eat, second “E” like in elephant)
Food Kos
Food for on the road Padkos (literally means road food)
Fork Vurk
Hungry Honger
Knife Mes
Maize or corn Mielie
Meat Vleis
Pan Pan
Plate Bord
Porridge usually made of maize (corn) Pap
Pot Pot
Sausage Wors
Spoon Lepel
Thirsty Dors
Water Water
Clothes Klere
Hat Hoed
Pants (Lang) Broek
Shirt Hemp
Shoes Skoene
Shorts (Kort) Broek
Camping Kampeer
Blanket Kombers
Chair Stoel
Cold Koud
Fire Vuur
Freezing cold Yskoud
Hot Warm
Mattress Matrass
Pack or packing Pak
Pillow Kussing
Restroom Badkamer or Toilet
Shower Stort
Sleep(ing) Slaap
Sleeping bag Slaapsak
Stick Stok
Table Tafel
Tent Tent
Tired Moeg
Wood Hout
Landscape Features
Gorge or ravine Kloof
Hill or hillock, prominent or small Koppie
Natural depression, often with a deposit of salt that remained after rain water has evaporated; Shallow periodic lake Pan
Natural vegetation in savanna landscape Veld
Ridge Rant
Stream or watercourse, small, usually containing little or no water except during the rainy season Spruit or Sloot
Waterhole Watergat
Low-lying grassland inundated with water during the rainy season; Marshy area; Shallow natural pool of water Vlei
Other Ander
Angry, cross, strict Kwaai
Animals Diere
Beautiful, wonderful, great, nice Mooi
Be careful! Beware! Look out! Pas op! Oppas!
Drive Ry
Finished; Done; Ready; Exhausted Klaar
Grass Gras
Help Help
Just, Simply, For no specific reason Sommer
Nice, Good, Fine Lekker
Phoning Bel
Pull; Migration of animals; Relocation or Exodus; A long arduous journey or trip; To leave an area; To go away; Move off; To travel constantly from place to place Trek
Tree Boom
Verandah or porch