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Frequently Asked Questions

Can you help with understanding South African word meanings?

Whilst many people in South Africa speak English as their first language, it's always useful to have an understanding of some local words and phrases. Below you will find a useful selection of translations that will help you to understand some of what you will see and hear in South Africa...

  • Arvie - short for 'afternoon'
  • Baai - Afrikaans for 'Bay', as in Gansbaai (Goose Bay)
  • Bakkie - A pick up truck with an open back or canopy.
  • Berg - Mountain
  • Bergie -A vagrant that lives on the slopes of Table Mountain
  • Biltong - Very tasty sun-dried strips of spiced meat available in beef, kudu, springbok, ostrich etc
  • Boerekos - Describes Afrikaans farm food which typically cosists of meat and vegetables cooked using large quantities of sugar and butter, not good for a diet!
  • Boerewors - Spicy coils of coarse sausage, common fare at most braais!
  • Braai - A South African BBQ, and probably more central to South African culture than the BBQ is to Australians!
  • Bredie - Meat & vegetable stew
  • Cape Doctor - The strong south easterly wind that blows warm air from False Bay over Table Mountain to form the famous 'Tablecloth'
  • Cape Dutch - White-washed, Gabled style of architecture from the 19th Century, fine examples of which can be seen around Cape Town and the Cape Winelands
  • Circle - A roundabout
  • Dagga - Marijuana
  • Dankie - Afrikaans for 'Thank you'
  • Dassie - The Hyrax, a rabbit sized rodent common on Table Mountain which is the closest living relative of the elephant!
  • Dof - A derogatory term that describes someone who is a little dim-witted
  • Dorp - A small town or village
  • Drankwinkel - A liquor shop
  • Egoli - The Zulu name for Johannesburg which means 'city of gold'
  • Fynbos - Meaning 'fine-leaved bush' and refers to the unique variety of Proteas, ericas and grasses found in the Cape Peninsula's Floral Kingdom
  • Geen ingang - No entry
  • Gevaar - Danger
  • Howzit! - A common greeting which can mean 'How are you?'. 'How are things?', 'What's up!' and so on!
  • Ingang - Entry
  • Is it? - Confusing for non-South Africans as this is a common reply to many sentences, which means 'really!?'
  • Jol - A party or a good time on the town!
  • Just now - If someone tells you they will be with you 'just now', they actually mean 'in a while'!
  • Karoo - Arid, desert like plateau that occupies a large proportion of South Africa's interior
  • Kerk - Church
  • Kloof - A ravine or gorge
  • Koeksister - A very syrupy deep-fried plaited doughnut, delicious!
  • Koppie - A small hill
  • Kraal - An enclosure of huts
  • Lekker - Great, really good, as in 'thanks for a lekker braai!'
  • Links - Left
  • Lughawe - Airport
  • Mealie - Maize, sweetcorn
  • Naartjie - A tangarine
  • Nek - A saddle between two mountains
  • Nkosi Sikelel 'i Afrika - 'God bless Africa' The national anthem of South Africa
  • Now now - When someone tells you they will be with you 'now now', they do mean to be with you as soon as they can! See 'Just now' above
  • Plakkies - Flip-flops
  • Poskantoor - Post Office
  • Protea - The national flower of South Africa
  • Regs - Right
  • Robot - A traffic light
  • Rondavel - A circular building based on traditional African huts
  • Rooibos - 'Red bush', a popular indigenous herbal tea that is low in tannins and is reputed to have medicinal properties
  • Sentrum - Centre
  • Singel - Crescent
  • Snoek - Large white-fleshed fish common in local waters and recipes
  • Stad - City, as in Kaap Stad (Cape Town)
  • Stasie - Station
  • Stoep - A verandah
  • Straat - Street
  • Strand - Beach
  • Tackies - Training shoes, sneakers or plimsolls
  • Toegang - Admission
  • Verbode - Prohibited
  • Verkeer - Traffic
  • Vlei - Lake, wetland, swamp or valley
  • Weg - Way or road