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Common South African Words

South Africans speak English, but that doesn’t mean you’ll always understand us. South African English has a flavour of its own, borrowing words from Afrikaans, Zulu and many of the other official African languages.


  • Braai – yummy food cooked over an open flame
  • Boma – An open structure with a fire used for braais and dinner
  • Biltong – a South African favourite, strips of dried and salted meat which can be made from a variety of animals: Beef, Kudu, Ostrich
  • Lekker – Good, there are few better ways that a South African can portray satisfaction than with a passionate ‘lekker’.
  • Howzit – How is it going, ‘Howzit my bru?’
  • Bru / my Bru (Pronounced – broo) Brother or Friend, ‘Howzit my Bru?’
  • Just now – An amount of time / near future, ‘Ja, I’m coming just now bru’.
  • Ja or Yebo – Yes
  • Nee – (Pronounced: Neea) No
  • Izit? – Is it? / Really, is that so? Used to exclaim wonder and amazement.
  • Ag (Pronounce the ‘g’ like the ‘ch’ in Scottish ‘loch’) Oh man. “Ag, I had a great time last night.”
  • Eish! – Expression of surprise, distress, or commiseration. Wow! / What? ‘Eish, that is a big lion!’ or ‘Eish! I lost my camera.’
  • Wena – You, ‘Unjani wena?’
  • Unjani – How are you?
  • Ngiyaphila, wena unjani? – I am fine thank you, how are you?
  • Yoh! – An expression of surprise, ‘Yoh, you gave me a fright!’
  • TIA (This is Africa) – for when things just don’t go the way you’d planned.
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