Inspiration: 24 South African words newly added to the Oxford Dictionary

South African “flip-flops”

With 11 official languages (12 including sign languages), South Africa has an eclectic mix of expressions – stuff we all understand even if speak only one language.

And we know there are some Afrikaans words that we just can’t translate, cause they are just so lekker all on their own. Afrikaans was even voted one of the sexiest accents – yes, really.

It’s no surprise, then that a bunch of South Africanism have made their way into the Oxford Dictionary.

In a post detailing the additions, Oxford explained things like loan words and words that have transformed over the years. It also touches on some other well-known expressions, such as howzit and ja well no fine.

The post notes

In South Africa, a sandwich is a sarmie; a casual greeting of ‘how’s it going?’ is shortened to ‘howzit?’; and a non-committal, resigned, or ironic ‘whatever’ is expressed as ‘ja well no fine’, pronounced quickly, almost as one word. South Africans call an old, dilapidated car a skedonk, probably in imitation of the bangs and splutters such a car makes; and they describe anything that they consider cool as kif—a word that can be traced back to kaif, an Arabic word meaning ‘enjoyment’ or ‘pleasure’ which was later colloquially used in English to refer to a feeling of dreamy intoxication, as well as to the mind-altering substances that cause such feelings.

We include the list below – as well as their meanings – some taken straight from the Oxford Dictionary, others with a little bit of eish.

Full list of 24 South African words added to the Oxford Dictionary

1. Amakhosi

amakhosi oxford dictionary
Amakhosi = our SA soccer team

Not just the nickname of struggling soccer team, amakhosi refers to tribal leaders regarded collectively. We’re kinda disappointed Oxford didn’t mention Kaizer Chiefs, but we’re a bit biased.

2. Bunny chow

bunny chow
The Oriental’s legendary bunny chow.

No, we’re not eating bunnies over here. It’s food. Just don’t ever try the “breakfast bunny” the English are trying to make happen.

3. Deurmekaar

south african fans

Oh, let us count the ways to use this one. Might be used to refer to Amakhosi fans’ feelings towards their team. Could also mean a mess. Could also mean confused.

4. District surgeon

Basically a doctor, used to refer to a doctor serving a particularly district.

5. Dwaal

A dreamy, dazed, or absent-minded state. Can also be used to refer to a sportsperson being a bit slow to get to the person they marked. 

6. Eina

coenie oosthuizen
South Africa’s prop Coenie Oosthuizen is “Eina” = very sore!

Used as an expression of pain or distress.

7. Gumboot dance

Gumboot dance
Gumboot dance

A dance developed and performed by mineworkers, mimicking military marching. Also part of the EFF’s parliamentary uniform.

8. Howzit

blue flag beaches in south africa
Howzit = how are you going? = hello!

Quintessential South African greeting. Because saying how are you is just too many words, guys.

9. Ja


10. Ja well no fine

Used to express a non-committal, resigned, or ironic attitude. Also ag ja okay.

11. Kasi

Soweto is a Kasi


12. Kif

surfing south africa kif
Kif = cool

Meaning cool or sometimes used to express agreement. Also kiff or kief.

13. Mzansi

cape point south africa
Mzansi = South Africa

Where we live.

14. Sakkie-sakkie

A simple, rhythmical style of Afrikaner music and dance.

15. Sarmie

Sarmie = sandwich

16. Shackland

According to the peeps at Oxford: a hastily erected urban shack settlement, not officially proclaimed as a residential area.

Khayelitsha – more “formal” shackland!

17. Skedonk

Old tractor is a “skedonk”

My oom se motor is ‘n ou masjien. Also, a battered old vehicle, usually a car.

18. Spaza

Fake foods
Spaza store

An “unofficial” store, usually in a township or rural area.

19. Tickey box

Public telephone = “tickey box”

A pay phone.

20. Traditional healer

Traditional healer

21. Ubuntu

South Africa good news
Ubuntu = LOVE, compassion and humanity

A quality that includes the essential human virtues; compassion and humanity.

22. Voetstoots

house for sale
Voetstoots = without guarantee

Refering to property (of a sale or purchase) without guarantee or warranty; at the buyer’s risk. Read more about voetstoots and the consumer protection act here.

23. Wine of Origin

wine of origin
Wine of Origin = regiont the wine is grown e.g. Stellenbosch

A wine officially certified as originating from a recognized region or estate and also as being of a particular cultivar or vintage.

24. Ingcibi

A man who circumcises initiates. Makes them “Eina!”

Initiates waiting for the Ingcibi