18 Slang Words for your volunteer trip to South Africa

There is nothing more frustrating than listening to people speak – and not understanding a word they are saying. For foreigners in a new country, this is often the case!

Learning the local lingo of a new country is always fun and adds to the experience of being on foreign soil. How easy it is to blend in with the locals, when visitors from other countries are well versed in the vernacular!

If you have planned your volunteer trip, gap year or holiday travels to South Africa, check out this very resourceful list of slang words that you can familiarise yourself with.  These slang words are used in all the major cities of South Africa - namely Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. 

1. Jol

(Jawl) - meaning to go partying, clubbing or to just have fun in general. For example, “We had a jol last night at the street festival."

south africa travel nightlife

2. Ag

(Agh) - is an add-on word used to express irritation or resignation.  For example, “Ag man, everything will be ok” or “Ag shame,” which is an expression of empathy similar to, “I am sorry for your loss/inconvenience”.  “Ag” is not necessary - it only adds emphasis. 

3. Just now or Now now

You will most likely hear South Africans use the phrase, “now now” or “just now”, which means that they will do what you asked, but not immediately.  It may sound weird – but it makes complete sense in South Africa. 

4. Eish

(Aysh) - is a slang word used to indicate surprise, sudden disapproval, exasperation or regret.  For example, “Eish, I was just in an accident.”

5. Duidelik

(Day-duh-lik) - meaning cool, awesome or amazing.  For example, “that suit is duidelik, my friend.”  [Afrikaans word ‘duidelik’ meaning ‘clear’]

south african travel fashion

6. Eina!

(Ay-nah) - meaning ouch! Used when expressing immediate pain or sympathizing with someone else who is experiencing pain or got hurt in some way. 

7. Hectic

Meaning crazy, used when expressing amazement.  For example, “it took me 1 hour to draw money at the bank today, hectic…”

8. Howzit

A greeting used to say hi to someone and ask how they are doing.  For example, “Hey long time no see, howzit going?”

9. Mos

(Afrikaans) - Is a confirmation word used to place emphasis on the sentence.  For example, “I told you mos.  You know mos what I’m saying.”

10. Smaak

(Smaahk) - meaning to like someone or something.  For example, “I smaak you" or "I smaak your soccer top.”

love south africa

11. Wena

(Weh-nah) - meaning you, often used to express anger.  From the isiZulu/isiXhosa word ‘wena’ meaning ‘you’

12. Tannie

(Tah-nee) - derived from Afrikaans meaning aunt in English. It can be used for any older lady. For example, “how are you today Tannie?”

13. Braai

(br-eye) - is a widely used verb for an outdoor ‘barbecue’ where chicken and meat is cooked over a fire made with wood or charcoal. For example, “We’re having a braai tonight. We braaied at the beach yesterday.”

south africa braai tourism

14. Lekker

(Lekk-irr with a rolling r) - is a term that is very commonly used amongst South Africans.  It means “good” or “nice”.  For example, “We had a  ekker party today, after the lekker day at the volunteer project.”

15. Shebeen

(Sha-bean) - is a tavern or bar in South Africa especially in the townships.  For example, “let’s go visit the Shebeen in the township this weekend.”

16. Nca

(n!aah) - meaning everything is cool or things are good.  For example, “the food was nca my friend.” “How are you? I am nca.”

17. Is it

(as one word: izit) An expression frequently used in conversation and equivalent to, “Is that so?”

18. Bru

(brew) A term of affection, shortened from Afrikaans broer, meaning “brother”. An example would be, “Hey, my bru, howzit?”

south african people2

Learning these slang words will give you a head start when you arrive in South Africa. There are so many more - but we’ll wait for you to get here, so that you can learn them in person!    

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