Home Language HacksAfrikaans 25 Hilarious Afrikaans Idioms That Should Exist in English

25 Hilarious Afrikaans Idioms That Should Exist in English

by Michele
Afrikaans Idioms Afrikaans phrases Afrikaans to English
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With only three tenses, Afrikaans is not only one of the easiest languages to learn, but it’s full of hilarious phrases that should exist in English. By translating Afrikaans to English, these Afrikaans idioms will definitely make you giggle.

Afrikaans is one of the official languages of South Africa and is one of the world’s youngest languages with roughly 8 million speakers. Due to its germanic origins, it’s relatively easy for English speakers to learn.

Sadly, there isn’t nearly enough learning material out there on the internet compared with other languages such as French, Italian, and Spanish. Without these resources, it makes it difficult for foreigners like me to pick up the language. In the interests of bringing more awareness to this baie lekker language, I thought I’d call upon my South African partner and friends to help me collate a list of common hilarious expressions that will spark your interest in learning Afrikaans. I’ve also create a free downloadable guide with a bunch of useful Afrikaans phrases for travellers to use.

This list is full of direct Afrikaans to English translations of everyday Afrikaans idioms. So you’ll certainly hear and use them often. Enjoy!

Let’s get started!

1. Now now

Translation: Nou nou
Meaning: In a little while, in a bit

afrikaans expressions nou nou

2. Hang onto a branch

Translation: Hang aan ń tak
Meaning: Hold on a sec(ond)

afrikaans expressions Hang aan n tak

3. The jackal is marrying the wolf’s wife

Translation: Jakkals trou met wolf se vrou
Meaning: Used when it’s raining and the sun shines at the same time

afrikaans expressions Jakkals trou met wolf se vrou

4. Walk in two lines

Translation: Twee rye spore loop
Meaning: To be drunk

afrikaans expressions Twee rye spore loop

5. Like a monkey on a stick

Translation: Nes ń aap op ń stokkie
Meaning: To look perplexed

afrikaans expressions nes n aap op n stokkie

6. Have a monkey up your sleeve

Translation: ń Aap in die mou hê
Meaning: To hide mischievous plans

afrikaans expressions n Aap in die mou he

7. Be hit by a windmill

Translation: ń Klap van die windmeul weg hê
Meaning: To not be in your right mind

afrikaans expressions n Klap van die windmeul weg he

8. All jokes on a stick

Translation: Alle grappies op ń stokkie
Meaning: All joking aside

afrikaans expressions Alle grappies op n stokkie

9. Talk a dog out of a bush

Translation: ń Hond uit ń bos gesels
Meaning: To have a great conversation
afrikaans expressions n Hond uit n bos gesels

10. Don’t shake the chicken

Translation: Moenie die hoender ruk nie
Meaning: Don’t overdo it

afrikaans expressions Moenie die hoender ruk nie

11. Scratch a lion’s ball with a short stick

Translation: Jy krap met ń kort stokkie aan ń groot leeu se bal
Meaning: Being arrogant or to push one’s luck

afrikaans expressions Jy krap met n kort stokkie aan n groot leeu se bal

12. Let the baboon out of the sleeve

Translation: Die aap uit die mou laat
Meaning: Let the cat out of the bag, spill the beans

afrikaans expressions Die aap uit die mou aat

13. The mountains gave birth to a mouse

Translation: Die berge het ń muis gebaar
Meaning: To put in a lot of effort and have nothing to show for it

afrikaans expressions Die berge het n muis gebaar

14. Search for a sausage in a dog stable

Translation: Wors in die hondestal soek
Meaning: To look for something you can’t find

afrikaans expressions Wors in die hondestal soek

15. Rub honey around someone’s mouth

Translation: Iemand heuning om die mond smeer
Meaning: To woo or butter someone up with flattery

afrikaans expressions Ieman heuning om die mond smeer

16. Chase away fright with a bladder of peas

Translation: Jy kan hom met ń blaas ertjies die skrik op die lyf jag
Meaning: A person who is scared or scares easily

afrikaans expressions Jy kan hom met n blaas ertjies die skrik op die lyf jag

17. Such a mouth should get jam

Translation: So ń bek moet jem kry
Meaning: Used when someone says something which rings true or is very witty and sharp.afrikaans expressions So n bek moet jem kry

18. Simply

Translation: Sommer
Meaning: Used as an interjection for doing something with no particular reason, just because

afrikaans expressions Sommer

19. Loose head

Translation: Loskop
Meaning: Used to explain forgetful or odd behaviour

afrikaans expressions Loskop

20. Kitten of the track

Translation: Katjie van die baan
Meaning: Describes an outgoing and fun person at an event

afrikaans expressions Katjie van die baan

21. Fetch a baboon from behind the hill

Translation: Die bobbejaan agter die bult te gaan haal
Meaning: To think or talk about problems that haven’t happened yet and thus possibly making them happen.

afrikaans expressions Die bobbejaan agter die bult te gaan haal

22. Talking a hole in someone’s head

Translation: Iemand ń gat in die kop praat
Meaning: To persuade someone
afrikaans expressions Iemand n gat in die kop praat

23. It’s a fact like a cow

Translation: Dis ń feit soos ń koei
Meaning: A fact you can’t argue with.

afrikaans expressions Dis n feit soos n koei

24. Stick a spoon in the roof

Translation: Lepel in die dak steek
Meaning: Euphemism for someone dying

afrikaans expressions Lepel in die dak steek

25. His church is out

Translation: Sy kerk is uit
Meaning: It’s all over for him

afrikaans expressions Sy kerk is uit

Watch these 10 Funny Afrikaans Idioms

Going to South Africa? Don’t miss these

Over to you!

Which one of these Afrikaans idioms is your favourite? Do you know any funny Afrikaans to English translations?
Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.

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Neil April 19, 2022 - 05:22

I am a rooinek who went to an Afrikaans laerskool for 3 years. I love the Afrikaans language. I havn’t been in S. Africa for 50 years. I live in Costa Rica and by coincidence ran into this young Afrikaner couple here, which brought all my bottled-up Afrikaans out. I always remember this (although not funny):” Stille waters, diepe grond, onder dwaal die duiwel rond. “I guess it means, watch out for those silent types, up to no good. Anyway, there’s always “Bobbejaan klim die berg, so hastig en so lastig”….Thanks for all the funny ones…

Michele April 27, 2022 - 14:15

Thanks for sharing, Neil :)

For those learning:
Afrikaans: Stille waters, diepe grond, onder dwaal die duiwel rond.
Literally means: Still waters, deep ground, underneath the devil wanders around
Meaning: Look/Watch out for those silent types

Jolene March 4, 2022 - 17:44

You forgot about.
O gatta patata!
Oh, hole in a sweet patato!

When you made a big mistake

Michele March 23, 2022 - 00:24

haha Brilliant! Thanks for sharing :)

Very July 8, 2021 - 17:55

My South-African mum used to say “Wat nie rent betaal nie moet uit” when she passed wind! Think it translates as “what doesn’t pay rent must come out”. Always made me laugh… (Apologies for mispellings, I’m not an Afrikaans speaker myself)

Michele August 20, 2021 - 17:34

haha That’s so great. I like that. Thank you for sharing :)

Clair June 19, 2021 - 15:18

Its been 24 years since I left my homeland, but I still remember the idioms I learned growing up. ‘n Aap is a Monkey, and a Bobbejaan is a Baboon.
Moenie die Bobbejaan Agter die Bult gaan Uithaal, meant, Don’t go Looking for Trouble.

and the correct version of the sausage in the dog kennel expression is –
So Skaars as Wors in ‘n Hondehok
As Scarce as Wors… Sausage is for Engelse, en Rooinekke. ;-)
Boerewors… in a dog kennel
I am sure some of these have changed a little over time, and perhaps are known differently in different areas of the country…

Afrikaans is also a very basic language. its plainer and more direct. So Twee Rye spore literally means, Two rows of tracks. aka Stumbling Drunk

Heuning om die mond.

A lot of times these were said about folks who thought a bit much of themselves and it was a way for older people to pull the mask off, so to speak…

Antie would say about a young person who is a bit of a charmer, Sjoe! Hy is met heuning om die mond gesmeer! a bit of a “watch out for that one!”

Another like that is one my Ouma used to say when we would brag about something we did “Jyt die ou bul se stert, ne’?” which to us meant… “Aren’t You too clever one!”

One of my long remembered phrases, “Sit ‘n bietjie handjie by?”(put a little hand in?)

Thanks for sharing , its a nice bit of nostalgia for me.
How about helping?

Michele August 20, 2021 - 17:42

This is fantastic, thank you so much for taking the time to share thi Clair :)

Michele August 20, 2021 - 17:43

Thank you so much for taking the time to share these Clair :)

Nobody January 6, 2021 - 13:32

Why hasn’t anybody mentioned “ignoreër jou soos n stopstraat.”? Translates to “ignore you like a stop sign.” Literally means to ignore something to the point of denying that it exists. Also “stokkies draai” or “turning sticks” means to skip school and “appels swaai” or “throwing apples” means to get into a fistfight. Also, we have a lot of words meaning “I’ll beat you up” like pot, moer, bliksem ect. (Don’t say those words to a South African or say anything starting with “Jou ma se…” Or “Your mother’s…” unless you are the masochistic type… We take an insult to our mothers very seriously.)

Graeme von Meyer September 7, 2020 - 13:37

What does it mean when we say: “kraaie gaap”.

Michele September 7, 2020 - 14:11

Hi Graeme, it literally means “crows yawning”. You say it when it’s really warm, as in, it’s so hot the crows are yawning. Dis so warm die kraaie gaap :)

Angel February 20, 2020 - 10:12

boude-vlieg, meaning butt fly (annoying person)

Michele February 20, 2020 - 20:43

haha thanks for sharing, Angel :)

Vicky April 24, 2018 - 13:02

Sorry, my last idiom was supposed to be the other way around – “Moenie die wa voor die os inspan nie.” and wa = wagon

Michele April 24, 2018 - 20:36

thanks for clarifying :)

Vicky April 24, 2018 - 09:59

Almost like yours, but we say : “Die koël is deur die kerk.” Literally – The bullet is/went through the church meaning its to late. (mostly when something bad has happened and theres no way of undoing or fixing it)

“Dt is so warm die kraaie gaap.” Literally – Its so hot the crows are yawning. Meaning its very hot (refering to weather only)

“Sy/hy is in warm water.” Literally – she/he is in hot water. Meaning the person is in trouble

“Moenie jou eier lê nie.” Literally – Dont lay your egg. Meaning dont interupt in a conversation that does not concern you or said to someone who gives uncalled for advise or an opinion in a matter that does not have anything to do with them.

“Moenie die os voor die wa inspan nie.” Literally – Dont (put? (“inspan”)) the oxen infront of the (carriage?(“wa”)) meaning dont get ahead of yourself or calmdown, dont make a bigger deal out of something than it really is ( mostly when something negative has happened or such a situation might arise)

Thank you for contributing to the Afrikaans language – my much loved mother language
Dankie dat jy bydra tot die Afrikaanse taal – my geliefde moedertaal.

Michele April 24, 2018 - 20:35

Hi Vicky, these are so wonderful! Thank you so much for taking the time to share some of your favourites :) They’re great! I especially love “Dit is so warm die kraaie gaap.” haha :)

Derek February 10, 2018 - 18:04

Sorry, I keep thinking of others just as funny, like this one: “Daar is ‘n paar vlermuise los in die kloktoring” Rough translation – “there are a few bats fluttering about in the bell tower” It means a person has lost his/her mind, or, said differently, the person is “batty”

Michele February 11, 2018 - 09:46

Haha this reminds me of what we say in Australia, to have a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock haha :)

Derek February 10, 2018 - 17:53

Another one is: “Tiermelk drink” Literally translated it means “drinking tiger’s milk”. Meaning – drinking strong liquor and getting drunk

Derek February 10, 2018 - 17:36

Another difficult-to-transate saying is: “Gogga maak vir baba bang” Translated it roughly means “Litte bug scares little baby”. Meaning – one small-minded person scares a lesser one

Michele February 11, 2018 - 09:44

Hey Derek, thanks so much for sharing these. They’re great! Baie dankie :)

Wilma Mans October 31, 2017 - 04:01

My favourite is “Hy kan slange vang.” Literally it’s He can catch snakes. Means he’s really mad. My mom takes it one further and says she’s so mad she could catch snakes by their teeth.

Michele October 31, 2017 - 22:20

Wonderful addition Wilma! thanks so much for this :)

Christian August 27, 2017 - 19:42

Hy het die bul by die bal beet – He grabbed the bull by the ball. To get the story all wrong, misunderstand something.

Michele September 16, 2017 - 19:29

Haha thanks for the addition, Christian :)

CHANTELLE November 4, 2016 - 19:11

“Windgat” – cheaky.

Michele November 5, 2016 - 10:48

Love it! Thanks Chantelle :)

CHANTELLE November 4, 2016 - 19:05

Another one for you guys.
“Ek sal jou klap laat jy skuins kyk”
Meaning – I’ll smack you so hard you will look any other way but staight.

Michele November 5, 2016 - 10:49

Oh this one is brilliant! Looks like I’m going to have to write another post! :) Dankie

CHANTELLE November 4, 2016 - 18:57

How about asking an afrikaans speaking person to to translate your funny english sayings into afrikaans.

Michele November 5, 2016 - 10:49

I like your style, great idea Chantelle :)

KCAnne November 4, 2016 - 09:05

“jakkels trou met wolf se vrou” is also know as “a monkey’s wedding” in English.

Cornelia August 27, 2016 - 21:45

Thanks for encouraging the speaking of Afrikaans! Dankie vir die aanmoediging om Afrikaans te praat!
Best wishes,

Erin July 26, 2016 - 13:43

Die aap is uit die mou is more commonly known as “Let the cat out of the bag” or the secret is revealed

Michele July 26, 2016 - 22:42

Love it! Thanks for sharing Erin :)

Kirby Maglione March 14, 2016 - 04:34

Given that English gets some 70 some odd percent of our vocabulary from places other than its Germanic origins, I think that s as close to an original English word for the concept as we\re going to get!

John Galt February 19, 2016 - 08:19

no. 3 & 13 exist in Arabic (Eastern Mediteranean)

Michele February 19, 2016 - 17:29

Oh really? That’s fascinating! Thanks for sharing John :)


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