My gunsteling Afrikaanse woorde

I’ve been making a list of my favourite words in Afrikaans. My mother tongue is Dutch and Afrikaans sounds a lot like it, being an offshoot of the Dutch. So I understand Afrikaans pretty well, it just sounds like a simpler version of Dutch and some of the words sound archaic, since it came from 18th century Dutch, spoken by the first settlers. I love the language and here is a list of my favourite words:

  • babelas: hung over, plenty opportunity to get proper babbalas in Cape Town.
  • baie: many, a lot, in Dutch it would be the plural of bay, so I imagine it comes from there. My favourite use is “baie liefde“, lots of love or bays of love.
  • bakkie: a pick up truck, used to move anything and everything, South Africa’s most trusted vehicle, often a Hilux. Also a bowl.
    Die hond drink se melk uit ‘n bakkie uit, hierdie is ‘n Hilux.” The dog drinks his milk out of a bowl, this one is a Hilux.
  • bergie: a homeless person, they used to sleep on the hills of Table Mountain, now they sleep under bridges or on the stoep of an abandoned house. Bergies will sort you out with anything or at least tell you they can. I’ve seen bergies completely strip a row of building in two days, selling off the scrap wood and metal. Be nice to bergies and give them something if you can, you never know when you need their help.
  • braai: barbecue, although it is much more than that, it’s what South Africa is about. You braai on wood fire and it takes a braai master not to let those boereworst and braaibroodjies burn. In SA September 24th is nasionale braaidag a national holiday (actually Heritage Day) where the whole country unites around the braai. You haven’t seen South Africa unless you’ve been to a braai.
  • dagga: weed, cannabis, no matter what you’re used to smoking at home, beware SA dagga, it’s potent stuff and the locals smoke it pure.
  • dankie: thank you, if someone you think someone wants you to “buy a donkey”, they are saying “baie dankie”, thank you verry much
  • deurmekaar: confused, literally trough-each-other
  • doos: in Dutch would translate as box, and has that meaning in Afrikaans, although if someone calls you a doos they mean something different. Not as bad as poes, but not a very nice thing to call someone.
  • dwelms: drugs, not the ones you buy at the pharmacist
  • gooi: literally throw, used to say “go for it”
  • grondboontjiebotter: peanut butter
  • gunsteling: favourite, a “gunst” in Dutch is a favour. Just sounds so nice, Cape Town for sure is my gunsteling plek op aarde.
  • fok: fuck, although it sounds much nicer in Afrikaans, as in “hy’s a fokken poes!” or in fokof, to get out of somewhere, to fuck off
  • kak: shit, the opposite of lekker, unless something is “kak lekker“, also used in “talking kak“.
  • kuier: kuieren literally is to stroll, but to kuier is hanging out with someone
  • lekker: nice, delicious, in Dutch you would only use it do describe food. Lekker is probably the most used Afrikaans words in Cape Town, but then Cape Town is lekker and there’s a lot of lekker people in Cape Town!
  • mal: mad, crazy, as in needing treatment in a malhuis
  • moerse: a hyperbole, very much, very big or a lot of, like: “Namibia in Jan. es moerse warm”
  • nou nou: just now, in Cape Town could be anything in between now (nou) and in 4 hours
  • poes: cat in Dutch, don’t call your cat a poes though that would be very rude. You cannot say anything more rude than “joe mah sah poes“, I won’t even translate it, but it’s about your mother.
  • skelm: rascal, crook, doing something illegal is skelms 
  • skoenlapper: butterfly
  • skollie: hooligan, almost the same as skelm
  • snaaks: funny
  • stadig: slow or slowly
  • stoep: the porch, front of your house, in Dutch it would mean pavement.
  • tronk: jail
  • verkleurmannetjie: chameleon, literally from Dutch: “little colour changing man”
  • vinnig: fast

More Cape Town slang, mostly Afrikaans in Your Guide to Cape Town Slang.

4 thoughts on “My gunsteling Afrikaanse woorde

  1. Braai – the 24th of September is actually Heritage Day, where we celebrate the many diverse backgrounds that make us all South Africans, but the braai day thing is a marketing spin off of that, it works, since we all have a shared love of food on the fire.
    Gooi – also used for pouring drinks or liquids, you will often hear Afrikaners say in thick accented English that you can ‘throw them a drink’…
    Glad to hear Cpt is already your gunsteling plek op aarde, dont advertise it too far and wide though, it’s our little secret (that tripadvisor regularly spoils).
    Skelm* is the correct spelling. Usually a crook or thief.

    good job, nice list!!

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