Afrikaans words literal

Photo: Envato Elements

Ten Afrikaans words that are incredibly literal

Afrikaans is a curious language. It borrows widely from many others, but it’s got some literal gems for pretty ordinary things.

Afrikaans words literal

Photo: Envato Elements

We’ve touched on Afrikaans words that just can’t be translated before. We’ve even looked at some idioms that are hilarious when they are translated into English.

This week, the story of Afrikaners who moved to a rural part of Argentina made the headlines again, so we’re back with another list of words that just don’t quite have the same ring in English.

For this version, we’re looking at some Afrikaans words that make complete sense – literally.

Afrikaans has evolved a lot over the years, you’ll notice when you listen to the Patagonians speak, it’s quite different.

Many words are a mish-mash of various languages, but these are some of our favourite literal originals.

Ten very literal Afrikaans words

Brom ponie

bromponie afrikaans
Photo: Envato Elements

We’re not actually sure how commonly this is used, but brom ponie, which directly translates to “growling pony” is a cracking word for scooter.

Kletter pet

Photo: Envato Elements

To ride your brom ponie, you need a kletter pet. Directly translated to “falling hat”, most of us just use “helmet” anyway, but kletter pet sounds kwaai.


Photo: Envato Elements

We’re not sure if there even is an English word for this but brommer which translates to buzzer, is a giant fly. Not those small little flies that don’t make a noise, those horrible big ones that keep singing the song of their people. But just because brommer means buzzer (loosely), it doesn’t mean we’re calling alarms and things brommers. Those various translations is for a post on another day.


Photo: Envato Elements

Directly translated as tickle bowl, it’s a quaint little word for arm pit. Because of course that’s where tickles usually go.


Photo: Envato Elements

Road food. Literally. Every South African knows that padkos is an essential additional to any road trip.


Photo: Envato Elements

Sometimes also called a “trapsuutjie” (step softly), verkleurmannetjie literally means changing colour man. Or, you know, chameleon.


Photo: Envato Elements

Ball of oil. Or doughnut. Because we all need a reminder that the thing we’re about to eat isn’t really good for us.


Photo: Envato Elements

An old favourite. Popcorn is literally jumping corn in Afrikaans.


Photo: Envato Elements

Thunder translates to “beating weather”, sort of. Taken from the Dutch word donderen, which means falling over, the word donder has many different meanings. It can also mean to hit or add in bedonnered and it means somebody is in a bad mood. Look, only South Africans will understand, okay?


Photo: Envato Elements

Last but not least, and perhaps not the most literal on our list, moersleutel means spanner – but translates to nut key. Moer being the nut, but moer has taken on various meanings, including to hit or to be cross when saying “die moer in”.