24 South African words that have just been added to the Oxford English Dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary added a number of South African words at the end of 2018.

Many of the dictionary’s new South African additions have been borrowed into English from some of the most widely spoken languages in the country.

In a post detailing the changes, the dictionary said that Afrikaans is a particularly rich source for such loanwords – lending two of the oldest words in this batch of additions.

‘Deurmekaar’, first attested in 1871, is an adjective applied to something that is confused, muddled, or mixed up.

The adverb ‘voetstoots’ was first used in English in 1883 as a legal term describing the buying or selling of items in their existing condition, but nearly a hundred years later, it also began to be used more generally to describe actions carried out unconditionally, without reservation or qualification.

Other words in the update have their roots in two other official languages of South Africa – Xhosa and Zulu.

The oldest of these loanwords date to the late nineteenth century: ‘Amakhosi’ (1857), a collective term of Xhosa and Zulu origin for tribal leaders or chiefs in traditional Nguni societies, and ‘ubuntu’ (1860), a word signifying the fundamental values of humanity or of Africanness, also borrowed partly from Xhosa and partly from Zulu.

Beyond borrowings, South Africa is also represented in this latest update by uniquely South African uses and combinations of English words, all of which entered the language in the latter half of the twentieth century.

The full list of new South African additions include:

  • amakhosi
  • bunny chow
  • deurmekaar
  • district surgeon
  • dwaal
  • eina
  • gumboot dance
  • howzit
  • ingcibi
  • ja
  • ja well no fine
  • kasi
  • kif
  • Mzansi
  • sakkie-sakkie
  • sarmie
  • shackland
  • skedonk
  • spaza
  • tickey box
  • traditional healer
  • ubuntu
  • voetstoots
  • Wine of Origin

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24 South African words that have just been added to the Oxford English Dictionary