Your Guide to Cape Town Slang.
Aw, get the low-down on the Mother City’s colourful colloquialisms
and sayings, ek seê…
Slang and colloquialisms are prolific in Cape Town; a fact that’s
far from surprising in a nation that claims 11 official languages
and in a city that’s home to an eclectic mix of cultures. That
said, locals in the Mother City and in the surrounding Western
Cape, more so than, arguably, other South African provinces, have
their own unique way of talking smack and waxing lyrical.
Much of the credit for the area’s broad spectrum of slang and
colloquialisms is owed to the coloured people from the Cape Flats,
a population vibrant in every way, but most famously, for the in
the way in which they communicate. Though, ultimately, words, sound
bytes and sayings from all of the nation’s official languages
inject themselves into casual conversations, road rage and cheesy
So, if you’re planning a visit to Cape Town, if you’re new to the
city or if you simply need to brush up on your bantering act, then
look no farther; we’ve put together a beginners guide to Cape Town
slang and colloquialisms, complete with our version of accented
Ag (ah-ch): An expression of irritation or resignation. Ag no
man! Ag, these things happen.
Awê (ah-weh): A greeting. Awê, brother!
Babbelas (bah-bah-luss): Derived from the isiZulu word,
i-babalazi, meaning drunk; adopted into the Afrikaans language as
a term for hangover. I have a serious babbelas!
Bakkie (bah-kee): 1. A bowl. Put those leftovers in a bakkie. 2.
A pick-up truck. We all jumped on the back of my dad’s bakkie and
went to the beach.
Befok (buh-fawk): 1. Really good, amazing, cool. The Symphonic
Rocks concert is going to be befok! 2. Crazy, mad, insane. You
tried to put your cat in the braai? Are you befok?
Bergie (bear-ghee): Derived from berg, Afrikaans for mountain.
Originally used to refer to vagrants living in the forests of Table
Mountain, the word is now a mainstream term used to describe
vagrants in Cape Town.
Bra (brah), bru (brew): Derived from broer, Afrikaans for brother;
a term of affection for male friends; equivalent to dude. Howzit
my bru! Jislaaik bra, it’s been ages since I last saw you!
Braai (br-eye): Barbeque (noun and verb). Lets throw a tjop on
the braai. We’re going to braai at a friend’s house.
Duidelik (day-duh-lik): Cool, awesome, amazing. That bra’s car
Eish (ay-sh): isiZulu interjection; an exclamation meaning oh my,
wow, oh dear, good heavens. A: Did you hear? My brother got into
a fight with a bergie! B: Eish! Is he hurt!
Ek se, Ekseê (Eh-k-s-eh): Afrikaans for, I say. Used either at the
beginning or end of a statement. Ek se my bru, lets braai
tomorrow. This party is duidelik, ek se!
Eina (Ay-nah): An exclamation used when pain is experienced,
ouch!. Eina! Don’t pinch me.
Entjie (eh-n-chee): A cigarette. Come smoke an entjie with me.
Guardjie, gaatjie (gah-chee): The guard who calls for passengers
and takes in the money on a minibus taxi.
hhayi-bo (isiZulu), hayibo (isiXhosa) (haai-boh): An interjection
meaning hey; no way.Hayibo wena, you can’t park there!
Howzit (how-zit): A greeting meaning hi; shortened form of hows
is it going?
Is it?: Used as acknowledgement of a statement, but not to ask a
question as one might assume. Most closely related to the English
word “really”. A: This guy mugged me and said I must take off my
takkies! B: Is it?
Ja (yaah): Afrikaans for “yes”. A: “Do you want to go to a dance
club tonight?” B: “Ja, why not?”
Ja-nee (yah-near): Afrikaans for yes-no. Meaning Sure! or “That’s
a fact! Usually used in agreement with a statement. A: “These
petrol price hikes are going to be the death of me. B: “Ja-nee, I
think I need to invest in a bicycle.”
Jol (jaw-l): (noun and verb) 1. A party or dance club. “We’re
going to the jol.” “That party was an absolute jol!” 2. Used to
describe the act of cheating. “I heard he was jolling with another
Jislaaik (yiss-like): An expression of astonishment. “Jislaaik, did
you see that car go?”
Kak (kuh-k): 1. Afrikaans for shit. Rubbish, nonsense, inferior,
crap or useless. “What a kak phone.” “Your driving is kak.” 2.
Extremely, very. “That girl is kak hot!”
Kwaai (kw-eye): Derived from the Afrikaans word for angry, vicious,
bad-tempered. Cool, awesome, great. “Those shoes are kwaai.”
Lekker (leh-kah): 1. Nice, delicious. “Local is lekker!” 2.
Extremely, very. “South Africans are lekker sexy!”
Mielie (mee-lee): Afrikaans term for corn, corn-on-the-cob.
Nee (nee-ah): Afrikaans for no.
Naartjie (naah-chee): Afrikaans term for citrus unshiu, a seedless,
easy peeling species of citrus also known as a satsuma mandarin.
Potjie, potjiekos (poi-kee-kaws): Afrikaans term for pot food/stew
comprised of meat, chicken, vegetables or seafood slow-cooked over
low coals in a three-legged cast iron pot.
Shame: A term of endearment and sympathy (not condescending). “Ag
shame, sorry to hear about your cat.””Oh shame! Look how cute your
Shisa Nyama (shee-seen-yah-mah): isiZulu origin; while shisa means
burn or to be hot and nyama means meat, used together the term
means braai or barbeque. “Come on, let’s go to Mzolis for a
lekker shisa nyama!”
Sisi (see-see): Derived from both isiXhosa and isiZulu words for
sister, usisi and osisi (plural). “Hayibo sisi, you must stop
smoking so many entjies!”
Sosatie (soo-saah-tees): Kebabs, skewered meat. “Let’s throw a few
sosaties on the braai.”
Takkies (tack-kees): Trainers, sneakers, running shoes. “I want to
start running, again but I need a new pair of takkies.”
Tjommie, chommie (choh-mee): Afrikaans slang for friend. “Hey
tjommie, when are we going to the beach again?”
Vrot (frawt): Rotten; most often used to describe food that’s gone
off or a state of being sick. “Those tomatoes are vrot.”
“Champagne makes me feel vrot!”
Voetsek (foot-sek): Afrikaans for get lost, much like the British
expression, bog off. “Hey voetsek man!”
Wena (weh-nah): isiXhosa and isiZulu for you. “Hey wena, where’s
the R20 you owe me?”
Wys (vay-ss): Show, tell, describe. “Don’t wys me, I know where I’m
So, whether you’re asking for directions, engaging with the locals
or just eavesdropping in a taxi, let’s hope this guide will give
you some insight into what’s being said. And keep in mind, if
anyone says “Joe Mah Sah…” just know, its not a compliment.
Blogger Barry: Thanks for your time. Hope you enjoyed. Please
use the comment and follow buttons.
Barry Blomkamp Nd. Bsc (UL)
Professional Public Speaker, Trainer and Corporate Entertainer,
Motivational speaker, Guest & Key note speaker, Seminar &
Conference speaker, Team Builder, Comedian, Master of Ceremonies,
For your Strategic Planning sessions, Management or Sales meetings,
Conferences and/or Seminars, Award functions, Year end parties,
Cape Town, South Africa.