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Learning South African Slang, Pt. 1

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Getting to Grips with South African Slang, Pt. 1

With every new country you visit, comes new slang to learn. South Africa is no different. In fact, to the untrained ear South African English might not even sound like English at all! So we’ve put together a few of the most used South Africanisms to have you speaking like a local in no time and be ready for your visit with Pembury Tours! Here is part one of essential South African slang: 



Translated from Afrikaans, ‘ja’ means ’yes’. It is probably used more than yes so chances are you’ll find it creeping into your vocabulary quite soon.


It is a classic South African greeting, especially amongst men. Contracted from ‘how is it’, Howzit is the local way to say hello. Don’t feel pressure to answer though, South Africans don’t expect a full answer, a simple hello back or ‘well thanks and yourself?’ will suffice.

Ag Shame

(Ag pronounced ‘Ugh’)

A phrase ingrained in almost every South African, shame is often used to express pity or sympathy but can also be used in the context of something cute – “Ag shame, look at that cute little baby elephant”.

Now-Now & Just Now

Even South Africans don’t really know how to explain this one. Now-now refers to an unknown amount of time – often used to express doing something or going somewhere shortly or soon. ”I’ll be there now-now.” – they will be there soon.

Just now also refers to an unknown period of time but a time period longer than ‘now now’. ‘Just now’ can range from being in a little bit to much later to possibly not at all.  “I’ll be there just now” could refer to being there in half an hour, an hour, late evening, or even never.



Directly translated from Afrikaans it means “good tasting”. South Africans tend to use it in every available context: “I’m not feeling lekker“, “I’ll be there early … okay, lekker”, “That pizza was lekker”. It is often used in isolation to mean cool, good, nice, wow or great.


This one stumps most visitors at some point. Don’t be confused when you hear the words ‘red’ or ‘green robots’. We aren’t talking about toys, we’re talking about traffic lights. Even our road signs sport this South Africanism.

Want to add to your South African vocabulary?

Read part 2 of our South African slang blogs here.

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