Dictionary of South African English

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Featured Quotation

1887 S.W. Silver & Co.’s Handbk to S. Afr. 140 There are some fruits which have not as yet got names from any of the languages of Europe. One of these is the Kukamakranka; it is the Gethillis spirilis.

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World Englishes Spotlight

Did you know that depending on where you are in the English-speaking world, the bundu, a distant or wilderness region, is also referred to as the wilds (British English), the outback (Australian English) and the boonies or boondocks (American English)?

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Origin Focus

Approximately 18% of the words recorded in this dictionary, including commonly used South African English words such as donga, lapa, fundi and doedoe, are derived from local indigenous African languages. Use the Browse Related Words links at each entry to find more words borrowed from the same languages.

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Celebrating IYIL2019

The United Nations has declared 2019 The International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL2019) in order to raise awareness of the over 4000 indigenous languages spoken worldwide, many of which are in danger of becoming extinct.

South Africa has numerous indigenous languages in use and 11 official languages recognised in its Constitution, each featured as Language of the Month throughout 2019.

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Local Events

As part of the International Year of Indigenous Languages, the South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR) is organising events and workshops dedicated to South Africa’s official languages throughout the year.

Read more about the events taking place at various universities in South Africa highlighting our indigenous languages and the development of language resources for them.

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This month we celebrate the Tshivenda language which has over 1.2 million speakers in South Africa (Census 2011), mainly among the Venda people in Limpopo Province. Some South African English words derived from Tshivenda include: mopani (a species of tree) and the mopani worm that it hosts; malombo (a style of music influenced by the traditional ceremony of the same name); and terms for musical instruments such as the mbila (a type of xylophone) and murumba (a small drum).

See more South African English words derived from Tshivenda, first recorded from the early 19th century onwards.