- List of lexical differences in South African English
This is a list of words used in mainstream
South African Englishbut not usually found in other other dialects of the English language. (For a list of slang words unique to South Africa see List of South African slang words.)
*"bakkie" - a utility
truck, pickup truckor ute in Australia
bergie" - refers to a particular subculture of vagrants in Cape Town(from Afrikaans "berg" (mountain), originally referring to vagrants who sheltered in the forests of Table Mountain.) Increasingly used in other cities to mean a vagrant of any description.
*"bioscope" - cinema, movie theatre (now dated)
*"billion" - as in the UK this officially means a million million. Nowadays the American usage (one billion is one thousand million) is almost exclusively used.
biltong" - cured meat, similar to jerky
*"biscuit" - same as American
cookie, in South Africa, "cookie" is used for "cupcake"
boerewors" - spicy sausage from (Afrikaans) "farmer-sausage" (usually made mostly with beef)
*"bonnet" - hood of a car
*"book of life" - national
identity document(now dated)
braai" - a barbecue, to barbecue (from Afrikaans "braaivleis")
eggplant(from Portuguese "berinjela", also used in Indian English)
*"bundu" - a wilderness region, remote from cities (from Shona "bundo", meaning grasslands)
*"bunking" - as used in the UK, playing
truant, skipping school/class
*"bunny chow" - loaf of bread filled with
curry, speciality of Durban, particularly Durban Indians
*"cafe" - when pronounced IPA-en|kæfˈiː refers to a convenience store not a coffee shop (originally such stores sold coffee and other basic items)
*"call" - when someone says that they will "call" this typically means that they will make a telephonic call, not visit in person, "phone" and (less commonly) "ring" are also used
*"candy floss" - as in Britain this is used for
*"chemist" - besides meaning a scientist specializing in
chemistry, the term is also used for a pharmacistand for a drugstore (short for "chemist shop" in the latter case)
*"chips" - used for both
French friesand potato crisps
traffic circleor roundabout
*Coloured - refers to typically light skinned South Africans of mixed European and Khoisan and/or Malay ancestry.
*"costume" - besides meaning attire worn to a dress-up party/play it also refers to a bathing suit (short for "swimming costume" or "bathing costume"), sometime abbreviated "cozzie" also used in Britain.
*"cookie" - used exclusively for a cupcake
*"cool drink", "cold drink" - soft drink, fizzy drink not necessarily chilled
*"cubby hole" - car glove compartment, also used in Britain
*"dagga" - marijuana, dag-gah, dagca (similar in pronunciation to an Arabic herb)
dam" - also used to mean a reservoir
*"donga" - a ditch of the type found in South African topography (from Zulu, 'wall')
droë wors" - a type of cured boerewors
*"erf" plural "erven" - a plot of land for a building (from
*"flat" - as in Britain this is used for an
*"football" - typically refers to soccer
freeway, highway" - as in the United States and Australia refers to what is known as a motorwayin Britain. The dominant forms are the National Roads, e.g the N1 from Johannesburg to Cape Town, and this term is also used as a referent.
*"garden boy" - a male gardener (of any age), typically Black (Commonly used by older white South Africans, now considered politically incorrect)
*"geyser" - domestic water
*"globe" - as formerly used in Britain, a light bulb
*"green pepper", "red pepper", etc - idiomatic term for a
*"homeland" - under
apartheid, typically referred to a self-governing "state" for black South Africans
*"house" - a free-standing dwelling. Usage differs from the UK, where a house is not free-standing, unlike a
*"how's it" - hello, how are you, good morning (despite being a
contraction (grammar)of 'how is it', "howzit" is almost exclusively a greeting, and seldom a question) [very colloquial]
*"is it?" - an all purpose exclamative, can be used in any context where "really?", "uh-huh", etc. would be appropriate; for example: "I'm feeling pretty tired." "Is it?" (very
colloquial). Often contracted in speech to "izit"
indaba" - conference (from Zulu, 'a matter for discussion')
*"jam" - a fruit preserve spread whether containing pieces of fruit or not, seldom called a "jelly" in South Africa. Similar to use in UK
*"jelly" - when referring to food this always means what in American English is called 'jello', ie. a flavoured
gelatinedessert never a fruit preserve spread
*"just now" - idiomatically used to mean soon, later, or in a short while (as opposed to immediately)
*"koki", "koki pen", a fibre-tip (coloured) art pen (from a local brand name)
*"kombi" - a minivan, esp.
Volkswagen(from the Volkswagen 'Kombi' van)
*"lift" - as in Britain this terms is used for an
elevator, but can also mean a passenger ride to a desired destination.
*"lobola" - traditional African
*"location" - an
apartheid-era urban area populated by Blacks, Coloureds or Indians (dated, replaced "township" in common usage amongst Whites, but still widely used by Blacks)
*"main road" - what is generally called a "
high street" in Britain
*"matric" - school-leaving certificate or the final year of
high schoolor a student in the final year, short for matriculationexemption. Equivalent internationally to A-Levelsor Grade 12.
*"mielie" - an ear of
maize(from Afrikaans "mielie")
*"mielie meal" - used for both
maizeflour and the traditional porridge made from it similar to American grits, the latter also commonly known by the Afrikaansword "pap"
muti" - traditional medicine, but also used to refer to all types of medicine, eg. cough muti is cough mixture.
*"naartjie" - orange-colored citrus fruit with separable segments and skin that is easily peeled (from Afrikaans), known as a
*"now now" - idiomatically used to mean soon (sooner than "just now" in South Africa, but similar to "just now" in the
*"nappy"- as used in the UK, what is generally known as a
*"Pacer" - a
mechanical pencil, named after the first commercially inexpensive brand advertised on South African television in the 1980's.
*"Rand" - currency, divided into 100 cents. The plural of rand is Rand, not Rands
*"robot, robots" - besides the standard meaning, in South Africa this is also used for
traffic lights. The etymology of the word derives from a description of early traffic lights as "robot policemen", which then got truncated with time.
rondavel" - round free-standing building, usually with a thatched roof
*"rubber" - as in Britain, a rubber
*"samoosa" - Indian
*"shame" - an exclamation denoting sympathy as in "shame, you poor thing, you must be cold"
shebeen" - illegal drinking establishment (also used in Scotland)
millipede(from Zuluand Xhosa, "ukushonga", to roll up)
*"shop" - as a noun the same as American store
*"sosatie" - a
kebabon a stick
*"spanspek" - a
*"spaza" - an informal trading post/convenience store found in
townshipsand remote areas
*"spit" - as a verb, this is only used for the present tense unlike in America where it is also used for the past tense. The form "spat" is used for the past tense. spit is also used as a description for an automated BBQ rotating on its own to braai/BBQ meat.
*"standard" - besides other meanings referred to a school grade higher than grades 1 and 2 (now defunct)
*"State President" - head of state between 1961 and 1994 - now known as President
*"stiffy, stiffy disk" - a 3.5 inch floppy disk, "floppy" is used exclusively for the old 5.25 inch or larger disks
*"sub-standard" - besides other meanings referred to first two school grades "sub A/B" (now grades 1 and 2)
*"sucker" - used for both a
popsicle("frozen sucker") and a lollypop
*"sweets" - confectionery,
candy(singular "sweet" used for an item of confectionery)
*"takkies" - sneakers, trainers (from Afrikaans "tekkies")
*"taxi" - shared taxi (usually a minibus taxi) as well as
*"third force" - "agents provocateur" having no official sanction from either the government or its opposition regardless of which one they consider themselves to be benefiting, used especially for alleged unknown provocateurs behind political unrest, their actions being described as "third force activity"
*"toasted cheese" - a grilled cheese sandwich, in contrast "cheese on toast" refers to unmelted cheese on toasted bread.
*"torch" - used for a modern battery operated
flashlightas well as a traditional flaming torch
*"township" - large residential suburb lacking city infrastructure, in particular the areas allocated to non-white South Africans under
veld" - virgin bush, especially grassland or wide open rural spaces
*"wors" - abbreviation of
List of South African slang words
List of colloquial South African place names
South African English
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