South African slang

Photo: Flickr / GCIS

South African slang: How many of these 12 unique phrases do you know?

From dikbeks to jukkas, South African slang comes with a tapestry of comical and culturally-rich terms. Treat yourself to a dop if you can get all 12.

South African slang

Photo: Flickr / GCIS

We’re a diverse bunch at thesouthafrican: We’ve got an eclectic mix of tech-heads, darts enthusiasts, and even the odd Chelsea fan amongst our staff – which we can’t apologise for enough, to be honest. But, so we always have something to laugh at, we’ve also kept an Englishman on board solely for the purposes of gentle ribbing…

South African slang – a crash course…

It’s me, by the way. And one thing* I’ve learned since moving to South Africa is that, well, those 11 official languages of yours have coined some pretty wonderful phrases. From “eina” to “eish”, and “jol” to “dop”, it has been an incredible crash-course to navigate the very best South African slang this life can throw at me.

I mean, having three different meanings for the word ‘now’? That is inspired. And those rising inflections taught me the difference between ‘shame’ and ‘shaaaame’. It’s been a linguistic journey like no other, but it hasn’t surprised me to hear that friends and colleagues also have gaps in their knowledge when it comes to South African slang.

A dozen terms that confuse many of us

We’ve picked out the 12 terms that are the most unique to Mzansi. Heard of them all? That’s great, a renewed citizenship card and four candy canes for you Glen Coco… but some of these phrases have been known to trip-up even the most dedicated patriot up on the odd occasion.

*I’ve learned two things, actually. South Africa a vastly superior rugby team.

Test your knowledge: The most unique South African slang phrases


I’ve an uncle called Keith. When I first heard someone use this term, I seriously doubted it could possibly mean ‘cool’.

Sho’t Left

Initially part of ‘taxi lingo’, the term has come to represent ‘taking the scenic route‘. However, ‘shots’ has been shortened to also mean ‘thank you’. You can show your gratitude to me with ‘shots’ any time…

Give rocks

How this means ‘I don’t care‘, I’ll never know. But there’s no arguing this is a uniquely SA expression.


South Africans are great at smashing a few words into one: Jawelnofine – a mash-up of “yes well, no fine” – is an expression of resignation, used when an individual is giving on something

Just Sommer

It’s simply another way of saying “just because”. Great for those who can’t be arsed to argue…


South African AF, this: It’s an expression of surprise that can be used in fright, excitement, or genuine shock.


I already knew what bek meant, so I put two and two together – but I didn’t get four: Dikbek doesn’t quite mean what people may assume at first. It’s literal translation, ‘thick mouth’, refers to someone grumpy.


A lazy person. A deadbeat. A Chelsea f… oh no, wait, we already did them…

Ace out

It’s local to KZN, and no, it isn’t how most South Africans feel about the ANC’s Secretary-General. Ace out means doing something by yourself.


This means to do something deliberately. Very rare, but you never forget the first time you hear it…

Doing a Benni

I’ve watched Blackburn beat my team: And let me tell you, Benni McCarthy is an iconic baller. So hearing that ‘doing a Benni’ was to ‘act irresponsibly or unloyally‘ left me shook


Unprotected sex, apparently. Nothing else needs to be said…