South African Slang everyone should know

Posted on Tue August 29, 2023.

South Africa is a fascinating country with a rich cultural heritage. It's amazing how diverse and vibrant the different cultures are, and there's so much to learn and explore. One of the best ways to connect with the locals is by learning some of the local greetings, like "Yebo" and "Sawubona." It's amazing how a simple greeting can open doors and make people feel more comfortable around you. Keep reading to find more than 20 slang words that everyone should know before visiting South Africa.


Visiting South Africa? Learn a few words and phrases that South Africans use. We hope this list will help you navigate your way around and make your travels in South Africa more enjoyable and meaningful. So, don't be afraid to try out the local lingo!

Here are more than 20 commonly words and phrases:


"Joz"i is shorten name for Johannesburg

"Mzansi" = South Africa

"Mother City" - Cape Town 

"PE"- Port Elizabeth 

With 11 official languages in South Africa, you'll be surprised to hear that most people speak English.

Greetings that are commonly used:

"Molo" is the Xhosa word for "hello," commonly used in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces.

"Howzit" is a casual greeting commonly used among friends in South Africa, particularly in the Western Cape.

"Sawubona" (sow-buona) - This word means "hello" and can be used to greet someone.


"Hamba kahle" (ham-ba ka-leh) - This is a Zulu phrase that means "go well." It's a polite way to say goodbye.

"Robala ka khutso" (ro-ba-la ka ku-tso) - This is a Sesotho phrase that means "sleep well." It's a standard way to say goodbye.

"Siyabonga" (see-ya-boh-ngah) - This is a Zulu word that means "thank you." It's a polite way to show gratitude.

Expressive Slang

"Ke sha'p" is used to say I'm good or OK

"Yebo" (yeh-bow) - This is a Zulu word that means "yes." It's a typical response when someone asks you a question.

"Eish" is an expression of surprise or frustration commonly used across all South African languages.

Yoh!/Tjoh is used for a reaction when you are surprised or in shock

"Lekker" (leh-kuh) - This Afrikaans word means "good" or "great." It's often used to describe something enjoyable.

"Phone me" is commonly used instead of "call me" or "give me a ring" 

"Ag man": Oh man, with more than a hint of frustration, irritation or annoyance

"Ag shame": used as a word for  pity or sympathy, but it can also be used to indicate cuteness. 

"Arvie": Afternoon, e.g., We’ll pop round for tea sometime this arvie.

"Ja" – yah: Yes

"Jislaaik" – yis-like: Exclamation of wonder or surprise

"Now now": or "Just now" it means sometime soon, within the next 30 to 60 minutes.

Slang words that South African use for transportion: 

"Robot" - In South Africa, a "robot" refers to a traffic light. 

"Circle" – is a  roundabout

"Boot" is what we call the trunk of a car

"Bakkie"  is what South Africans call a pickup truck

South African slang words for foods:

"Chow" - to eat food

"Padkos" : Snacks for a road trip.

"Braai" is the South African version of a barbeque and is a social event that brings people together over food and drinks.

"Amasi" (ah-muh-see) is a sour milk popular in South Africa. It's often served with pap (porridge) and is a staple food in many parts of the country.

"Borewors" is South Africas traditional sausage 

"Biltong" (bill-tong) is a dried meat similar to beef jerky. It's a popular snack in South Africa and can be found in most grocery stores and markets. 

"Slap Chips" are deep-fried potato chips

"Naarjie' – satsuma mandarin

"Cool or cold drink" is a soda

"Granadilla" – passion fruit

"Bringel" – eggplant (also used in India)

"Pooitjie [kos"] – a stew cooked on a three-footed iron pot

'Sap" – fruit juice

"Pap en wors"  is a maize polenta dish and local  sausage

"Vetkoek" – fet-cook: Deep-fried ball of dough that is excellent filled with syrup or mince.

Here are some additional words and phrases in South African languages that you might find helpful:


"Sawubona" (sow-buona) - This word means "hello" and can be used to greet someone. The response to this greeting is "Yebo" (yeh-bow), which means "yes."

"Siyavuma" (see-ya-voo-ma) - This word means "we agree" or "we acknowledge." It's a polite way to respond to someone speaking to you.

"Hlala kahle" (hlala ka-leh) - This phrase means "stay well" or "be well." It's a standard way to say goodbye.


"Goeie dag" (goh-ee deh) - This phrase means "good day" and can be used as a greeting.

"Tot siens" (tote-see-ens) - This phrase means "goodbye."

"Lekker slaap" (leh-kuh slaap) - This phrase means "sleep well" and is a common way to say goodbye.


"Molo" (moh-loh) - This word means "hello" and can be used to greet someone.

"Enkosi" (en-koh-see) - This word means "thank you" and is a polite way to show gratitude.

"Hamba kakuhle" (ham-ba ka-koo-leh) - This phrase means "go well" and is a polite way to say goodbye.


"Sawubona" (sow-buona) - This word means "hello" and can be used to greet someone.

"Ngikhona" (ngi-khona) - This phrase means "I am here" and can be used to respond to someone who is asking if you are present.


"Dumela" (du-meh-la) - This is a greeting in the Tswana language.

"Ke a leboga" (keh ah leh-boh-gah) - This phrase means "thank you" and is a polite way to show gratitude.

We hope this guide has been useful to you. If you’d like to suggest something to add to this list, drop us a comment below!

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