South Africans love to express themselves with vim, vigour and zest. But some of the weird words we use can leave visitors scratching their heads. Here’s a quick guide to some of the most common South African slang.

  • Ag – The South African version of ‘Oh’. For example, an exclamation of “Ag nee!” indicates that something has just gone wrong.
  • Bru – Pronounced ‘brew’. But, if someone calls you ‘my bru’, be assured they have not mistaken you for a pint of beer. Bru is short for ‘broer’, the Afrikaans word for brother, so ‘my bru’ is a friendly term of address between men.
  • Biltong – A traditional spiced South African jerky, made from a variety of different kinds of dried meat, from beef to ostrich, and springbok to kudu. Delicious and alarmingly addictive.
  • Braai – There’s nothing South Africans love more than a barbecue – only here, we call it a braai. People of all ages, races and backgrounds are united by the ritual of grilling meat over hot coals while drinking far too many brews (not brus). In fact, braai-ing is so beloved here, that our Heritage Day holiday is more popularly known as National Braai Day.
  • Just now – South African for some time within the next few hours – or possibly never. When someone says they’ll do something ‘just now’, don’t expect them to spring into action.
  • Lekker – The Afrikaans word for ‘nice’, it’s used by South Africans to describe just about anything they like, especially a lekker braai.
  • Now now – A little bit sooner than ‘just now’.
  • Robots – Don’t be amazed if someone directs you to turn right at the robots. You won’t find Daleks, Cylons or Transformers on South African roads, just ordinary traffic lights.
  • Shame – Not a declaration of disgust. South Africans use it to express sympathy or react to cuteness. Whether you tell a South African you have the flu, or show them a picture of a kitten, the reaction will be “Ag, shame!”
  • Shot – Bizarrely, this is how South Africans say thank you. For example, “Shot for the lekker braai, my bru!”
  • Wors – Pronounced ‘vorse’, this is South Africa’s favourite kind of sausage, and is almost always found at a braai.
  • Yoh! – An exclamation of surprise or dismay. Often repeated several times in a descending scale, accompanied by much head shaking.