My Favourite Afrikaans Words

Afrikaans is a great language. It’s super easy to learn (There are no conjugations and there are only 3 tenses). It sounds great (unless the person speaking it has an Eastern Cape accent). But the thing I like most about it is its vocabulary of funny and creative words that I sometimes wish are in the English language as well.

Here is a list of words I find funny, creative, or anywhere in between.

Intensiewe Vorm (Intensive Form)

Intensiewe vorm is for all the times when saying “very” simply does cut it. From “hemelsbreed” (“as wide as the sky”) to “skreeulelik” (“so ugly it makes you scream”), the possibilities are endless!

This has many practical applications (like cutting down on your word count or making your Afrikaans teacher think you know your grammar), but there are a few ridiculous ones that either make no sense or have a very convoluted origin.

“komkommerkoel” - “as cool as a cucumber” (This one isn’t very ridiculous. I just found it funny that such an expression found its way into the language)
“stoksielalleen” - “as alone as a soul on a pole” (The alternative expression for this is no better - “vingeralleen” means “as alone as a finger”)
“spierwit” - “as white as muscle”
“koeëlrond” - “as round as a bullet”

“Bakgat” (“Great”)

I really like how this word sounds. The hard consonants and the literal meaning (“basket hole”) make people think you’re swearing at them when you’re just calling them great.

“Bons” (“Bounce”)

Just as with “bakgat”, this word is just fun to say. Even the sound of the word is bouncy!

“Stokperdjie” (“Hobby”)

The literal meaning of this word is “stick horse”. I really like how aptly that describes what a hobby is.

Pretty much any animal/insect name

I’ll let the words speak for themselves.

“skoenlapper” - “butterfly” (literally “shoe cloth”)
“naaldekoker” - “dragonfly” (literally “nail tube”)
“seekat” - “octopus” (literally “sea cat”)
“kameelperd” - “giraffe” (literally “camel horse”)
“perdeby” - “wasp” (literally “horse bee”)
“spinnekop” - “spider” (literally “web head”)
“ietermagog” - “pangolin”

Honourable mention - diminutives of words ending with “-tjie”

Diminutives are when you add a suffix (usually “-tjie”) to a word to emphasize how small it is (e.g. “tafeltjie” means “little table”). However, when a word already ends with “-tjie”, you still have to add the suffix if you want to make it a diminutive.

This leads to some… interesting results like “partytjietjie” (“little party”) and “baadjietjie” (“little blazer”). It feels quite unnatural saying them, but apparently it’s still perfectly good Afrikaans.