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Namibia


Communication in Namibia

A glossary of some important Namibian words

The official language of Namibia is English, although this has only been the case since independence in 1990. Prior to independence English & Afrikaans both held 'official language' status, although in reality the majority of communication on an official basis was conducted in Afrikaans. There just under 30 languages & dialects spoken by the inhabitants of Namibia many of which influence how English is spoken inside the country. Other terms and expressions have been borrowed from South African English (which in turn borrows heavily from that countries domestic languages).

As the majority of Namibians speak English as a second or third language many local terms have been adopted - this new hybrid language is often referred to as Namlish! Here we will try to guide you through a few of these terms & expressions

Baas
Literally boss, often used to refer to any white male.
Babbelas
Hangover
Bakkie
A pick up truck / utility truck. They come in various shapes and forms and owning a large powerful one is more of a status symbol than owning a Porsche
Biltong
Dried meat - sometimes likened to jerky but a completely superior product. South Africans will claim biltong as their own invention - but everyone knows that Namibia has the best biltong! An essential for long road trips.
Braai
A barbeque - taken to completely unfathomable social heights
Broetchen
A bread roll - so common is the usage that even those Namibian's who profess English to be there mother tongue may initially look at you blankly if you ask for a bread roll!
Cherrie
Pretty girl or girlfriend. 'I met my cherrie at the shebeen, then we hopped in my bakkie and drove around town drinking beer'
Cuca Shop
A bar (mainly in the northern areas of Namibia - while central and southern Namibia would usually use the term Shebeen), the name was derived from a Portuguese beer once sold in Angola.
Dankie
Thank you
I will phone you back
You will never hear from me again
Koppie
A small hill rising out of the veld
Lapa
Thatched outside living area. Often equipped with a braai and a bar
Meme
Polite term for an older lady
Nawa
Nice or good
Oom
Literally the Afrikaans for uncle - but used as a term of respect towards older people
Paining
It hurts ( eg. My head is paining? Is it because you have a babbelas? No baas! you know I never drink during the week!)
Potjie
A three legged cooking pot - designed for being placed on an open fire or coals. Potjiekos - is the food produced in the pot.
Robot
A traffic light. Once you leave Windhoek these are not something you will frequently encounter.
Shebeen
A cuca shop not situated in northern Namibia. Once was used only for unlicensed drinking places - but most now have official shebeen licences.
Skinner
Gossip
Sosatie
Meat on a stick - basically a Kebab
Stoep
Verandah
Takkies
Sneakers / running shoes
Tate
A term of respect for an older man
Tjaila
Time to leave work
Tombo
Locally produced sorghum beer
Tsotsi
A criminal
Wors
Or Boerewors (literally 'farmers sausage'). A staple at braais around the country

Find out about collective nouns for animals

To help you out while travelling you may want to invest in the Otjiherero dictionary