A bientôt. (Fr.) See you soon.
Absinthe. (Fr.) A high-proof, anise-flavoured spirit derived from the flowers and leaves of the herb "grande wormwood". Absinthe traditionally has a natural green colour and is referred to as "la fée verte" (the Green Fairy). It is thought to have (potentially irreversible) mind-altering qualities above and beyond its alcohol content.
AFU. All Fucked Up, usually referring to Africa.
À l’heure. (Fr.) On time.
Allons-y. (Fr.) Let’s go or Let’s get out of here.
Alors. (Fr.) Then, or anyway.
Antananarivo. The capitol of Madagascar.
Attendez-vous. Je viens. (Fr.) Hold on. I’m coming.
Au boulet. (Fr.) Snap on it.
Au rabais. (Fr.) At a discount.
AWB. (S. Afr.) Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (Afrikaner Resistance Movement) was a far right secessionist party, committed to the creation of an independent Boer-Afrikaner republic. Their symbol was a modified swastika. They were shamed into irrelevance by the live television coverage of their failed Bophuthatswana coup.
Babalass. (Zim.) Hangover.
Baby Blue. The colour of the helmets of UN soldiers.
Bakkie. (S. Afr.) Truck or pick-up.
Bantu. Southern African Black.
Bantustan. (S. Afr.) see Homeland.
Bash. (Brit.) Party.
Baobab. Large African tree with a swollen trunk and large, hanging fruit. They store water and live for centuries.
Ben. (Arab.) Title of Respect.
Bent. (Brit.) Gay.
Bhundu. (Zim.) Wilderness, bush.
Biafra. Eastern region of Nigeria that tried to secede in 1967. 1 million of the Christian Ibo people were killed through war and starvation.
Bien sûr. (Fr.) Of course.
Bientôt. (Fr.) Soon.
Bienvenue. (Fr.) Welcome.
Biltong. (S. Afr.) Strips of dried and salted meat, made from anything from ostrich to antelope.
Bittereinder. (Afrik.) A Boer willing to fight to the bitter end.
Black Caesar. 18th century Africa pirate who terrorized the Caribbean.
Black Diamonds. (S. Afr.) Blacks in South Africa who became wealthy through either entrepreneurship or black empowerment schemes after the
end of Apartheid.
Bloat. Gastric volvulus, develops in larger dogs, lethal without surgery.
Boer. (S. Afr.) South African of Dutch descent, an Afrikaner.
Boeremusiek. (Afrik.) Popular music of the Afrikaners.
Boerekos. (Afrik.). Afrikaner cuisine.
Boetie. (Afrik.) Little brother.
Bop. (S. Afr.) Abbr. Bophuthatswana, a Bantustan or Homeland in South Africa during apartheid.
Bobonne. (Fr.) Darling.
Braai. (S. Afr.) Barbecue.
Buppie. (S. Afr.) Black, urban yuppie, professional or bureaucrat, implicitly nouveau riche.
CAA. (S. Afr.) Civil Aviation Authority of South Africa, their FAA.
Ça biche? (Fr.) How’s life? What’s happening?
Ça va. (Fr.) It’s ok. It’s going.
Cabo Delgado. Moçambique’s northernmost province, on the border with Tanzania.
Call Sign. Registration number of an aircraft. Tail Number.
Cape Doctor. (S. Afr.) Strong, dry, south-easterly wind from spring to late summer that scrubs Cape Town clean, said to cure disease.
C’est la zone. (Fr.) This is a bad situation.
CFA Franc. Communauté Financière Africaine Franc. The currency used throughout Francophone Africa. Tied to the French Franc (FF) and last
devalued on January 12, 1994.
Chef. (Port.) Chief, leader, commander.
Chez. (Fr.) At the home of.
Chiapa. (Moz.) A local ferry.
Chimurenga, First. (Zim.) The First War of Independence or the Second Matabele War, from 1896-1897. The Ndebele and Shona tribes revolted
against colonial rule of the British South Africa Company.
Chimurenga, Second. (Zim.) The Second War of Independence or Rhodesian Bush War, from 1966-1979. African nationalists revolted against minority white rule.
Chirumani. (Com.) Colourful, all-purpose, cotton, toga-like wrap used the women of Comoros, usually decorated with swirling earth tones.
Chocks. Wooden blocks placed underneath the tyres of the main wheels of an aircraft to prevent it from rolling while parked.
COMAT. Company Material.
Comprends tu? (Fr.) Do you (informal) understand?
Con. (Fr.) Cunt (female) or Shithead (male).
Corsaire. (Fr.) During the French Monarchy, corsairs were privateers working for the King of France attacking the merchant ships of France’s enemies. In France, they did not need to fear punishment for piracy (hanging) as they were granted a licence as combatants, the Lettre de Course, a document which legitimised their actions to the French justice system.
Cowling. Metal covering of the engine on the nose of an airplane, like the hood of a car.
Cull. To limit the size of a herd (usually applied to elephants), legally, when the herd has grown larger than is sustainable for a given area.
Cyril. See Ramaphosa, Cyril.
Dagga. (S. Afr.) Marijuana.
Dakota. (US) C-47 cargo airplane, the military version of the DC-3.
Dankie. (S. Afr.) Thanks.
Dassault Falcon 50. French-built, mid-sized, long-range corporate jet.
Dauphin. (Fr.) Dolphin, France’s most technically advanced jet helicopter.
DeHavilland Vampire. British jet fighter, used by the Rhodesian Air Force.
Department de Collectivités Territoriales d’Outre Mer. (Fr.) Government bureau that administrates France’s distant island colonies.
Departure Lounge. Waiting for death because you have HIV.
Dhow. (Com.) Wooden sailing boat of traditional Arabic design with a single mast and a mobile boom.
Djinn. (Arab.) Jinni, genie.
DO. Duty officer, the officer in charge for this shift.
Dorp, dorpie. (Afrik.) Village.
Dunia Duara. (Swah.) Literally, the earth is round; metaphorically, what goes around comes around.
Écoute-moi. (Fr.) Listen to me (familiar). Écoutez-moi. (Fr.) Listen to me (formal).
Effendi. (Arab.) Title of respect, equivalent to Sir.
Eina. (S. Afr.) Ouch.
Elevator Trim. Control dial on an aircraft that is used to relieve some of the control pressures.
ELT. Emergency Locator Transmitter, usually activated upon impact and then sends out an emergency signal so that Search and Rescue teams can
locate the crash site.
Empennage. The tail or rear assembly of an airplane, includes the horizontal and vertical stabilisers.
Enchanté. (Fr.) Pleased to meet you.
Et patati et patata. (Fr.) Yada yada yada.
Everest. Brand of cigarettes in Belgium, Holland, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Expliquez-vous. (Fr.) Explain yourself.
Firewall. v. To push the throttle all the way forward; n. a lead and asbestos barrier between the cockpit and engine.
Flare. v. To bring the nose up slightly just before touchdown to slow down the descent and land on the runway gently.
Fuel Selector Valve. Lever in some airplanes that direct the fuel from either or both of the wing tanks to the engine.
Gap it. (Zim.) Make a sudden departure.
Garde Présidentielle. (Fr.) Presidential Guard.
Gatvol. (Afrik.) Fed up (lit. gut-full).
Gauloise. (Fr.) Strong, pungent, unfiltered French cigarette.
Gesondheid. (Afrik.) To your health!
GIGN. (Fr.) Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale or National Gendarmerie Intervention Group, a special operations unit of the French Armed Forces, part of the National Gendarmerie, trained to perform counterterrorist and hostage rescue missions in France or anywhere else in the world.
Gitanes. (Fr.) Strong, pungent, unfiltered French cigarette.
Gnu. What the Afrikaans call the Wildebeest, the Khoi Khoi (San) call the gnou, because of their sporadic groans of “ga-nou”.
Gold Coast. North-eastern coast of Australia, centred on Brisbane, famous for its sun and surf.
Gombessa. (Com.) Local term for the Coelacanth.
Gommes. (Fr.) Erasers.
Grande Terre. (Fr.) “Big Land”. Mahoré or Mayotte.
Green Mamba. The less then affectionate nickname for a Zimbabwean passport.
Ground Effect. The phenomenon of increased lift and decreased drag that an aircraft wing generates when flying about 1 wingspan or less over the ground or water.
Habari, bibi, bwana. (Swah.) Hello, madame, sir.
Habillez-vous. (Fr.) Get dressed.
Hani, Chris. Former head of the SA communist party and Umkhonto We Siswe, the armed wing of the ANC, assassinated in 1993.
Hard. (Zim.) Handsome, good-looking.
Hexagone. (Fr.) Continental France, not including the outlying colonies or Corsica, because of France’s roughly hexagonal shape on a map.
Highveld. (S. Afr.) High country or highlands.
Homeland. (S. Afr.) Nominally independent territories (e.g., Ciskei, Transkei, Venda and Bophuthatswana) inside of apartheid South Africa, not
recognised as independent by the international community. Abolished by Mandela’s government immediately. AKA Bantustan.
Howzit? (S. Afr.) What’s up? How are you doing?
Huis clos. (Fr.) No exit.
Hunhu. (Zim.) Unhu, Ubuntu. A Southern African philosophy of Charity, Respect for Others, Selflessness and Life over Luxury, popularized by Nelson Mandela.
Hydrox. (US) A cookie sandwich with chocolate on the outside, vanilla on the inside. The Hydrox preceded the Oreo cookie, but the latter became more successful.
Imam. (Arab.) Moslem religious scholar and leader.
Izzit? (Zim.) Is it? Is it really? Really?
Jags. (S. Afr.) Horny.
Jane’s. As in “Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft”, annual aviation trade publication.
Jan Smuts. Johannesburg’s international airport, JNB, (now called the Oliver Tambo International Airport), originally named after one of apartheid South Africa’s earlier Presidents.
Je pige enfin. (Fr.) I get it, finally.
Jet A. Fuel for jet and turboprop aircraft, essentially kerosene.
Jonas. See Savimbi, Jonas.
Kaffir. (S. Afr.) Originally Arabic, meaning "heathen" or "infidel/unbeliever" and has been used by whites in Africa as a derogatory slur to describe
Kak. (S. Afr.) Shit.
Kamar. (Arab.) Moon, original Arabic name for Comoros.
Kandou. (Com.) Long, white cotton robe of Arabic design worn by the men of Comoros.
Karibu. (Com.) Welcome.
Katanga. Diamond and mineral rich region, which unsuccessfully sought independence from the Belgian Congo (later Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo).
Kingston’s. A government bookstore in Harare that sold official school texts.
Kirk. (Scot.) Church, usually the Church of Scotland.
Knots. Nautical miles per hour; 1 nautical mile is the equivalent of 1.15 statute miles or 1.85 kilometres.
Kommando. (S. Afr.) Small but tightly knit group of Afrikaners, originally organised for local defence from the British during the Boer Wars at the beginning of the 20th century.
Kopje. (S. Afr.) Small hill or granite outcropping that rises abruptly from the surrounding plain. As a proper noun, a neighbourhood in Harare. Pronounced “Koppie”.
Koussi. (Com.) Southwest trade winds that cool off the Comoros every afternoon.
Kraal. (S. Afr.) Hut, House, Home, Shelter for humans or an enclosure for animals.
Lac Salé. (Fr.) Salty lake, in Comoros usually formed when an ancient volcanic crater lies in close proximity to the ocean. Saltwater leeches in through the porous basaltic rock.
Laudanum. Tincture of opium, used for pain relief, quite addictive.
Leading edge. The front part of a wing, where a great many insects impact.
Lean-to. Simple form of shelter, having a single pitch roof that is propped up only on one side.
Leg. One segment of an airplane’s route.
Lekker. (S. Afr.) Nice, tasty, of pastry or of women in a lascivious way.
Librium®. A benzodiazepine traditionally used to prevent alcohol withdrawal, quite addictive.
Loskind. A really slutty girl, usually wears revealing clothes and is easy to get with.
Madiba shirt. A colourful Indonesian silk (balik) print shirt, made famous by Mandela and named after his clan.
Mandela, Winnie. Winifred Mandela, Nelson’s second wife, formerly quite powerful in South African politics despite the scandal in 1988 in which her personal security detail, the Mandela United Football Club, abducted, tortured and killed 14 year old Stompie Moeketsi.
Masala. (Ind.) Mixture of spices, from India, of ginger, pepper, onion and garlic.
Matric. (S. Afr.) Matriculation, graduation from high school.
Meneer. (Afrik.) Mr. or Sir.
Micro. Microbus, a 6-12 passenger taxi.
Mielie Meal. (S. Afr.) A relatively coarse flour (much coarser than corn flour or corn starch) made from maize.
Mierde. (Fr.) Shit.
Minder. Watcher, assigned to observe and report back to his superiors the actions of the person being observed.
Mobylette (Moby). (Fr.) Popular brand of moped.
Mon ami. (Fr.) My friend.
Mon frère. (Fr.) My brother.
Mopane. “Worm”, a large edible caterpillar and an important source of protein for millions of indigenous Southern Africans. The final stage of the mopane worm's life cycle is the adult Emperor moth, which has a distinctive large orange eyespot on each hind wing.
Mufti. (Arab.) Moslem scholar who interprets the Shari’a.
M’zungu. (Swah.) White person. Literally, “Aimless wanderer” in reference to Europeans throughout the centuries (slave traders, missionaries or colonialists).
Naff. (S. Afr.) Wimp.
Não importa. (Port.) It doesn’t matter.
Não faz mal. (Port.) Don’t worry about it. Never mind.
Ndebele. (Zim.) Second largest tribe in Zimbabwe, predominantly in the west.
Nê. (S. Afr.) Really? Is that so? Not! Often used sarcastically.
N’ganga. (Zim.) Shona shaman or medicine man.
Nightjar. Small, nocturnal, insectivorous bird that has a distinctive call.
N’importe quoi. (Fr.) Whatever.
Numbers. The numbers painted on a runway that identify its orientation, also the preferred touchdown zone on the runway.
OAU. Organization of African Unity.
Ocker. (Aus.) Unsophisticated, fool.
Olga. (Russ.) Slang for prostitute.
Ouen. (Afrik.) Blokes, Plural of ou.
Ousie. (Afrik.) Black female.
Papamadit. (Fr.) The nickname for Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, son of French President François Mitterrand. Literally means “Papa told me”. He was advisor to his father for African Affairs and implicated and ultimately imprisoned for receiving payments for facilitating the sale of Russian arms to the Angolan government (“Angola-gate”).
Pain au chocolat. (Fr.) Chocolate-filled breakfast pastry.
Pan. Dry or near dry lake or watering hole.
Pas de quoi. (Fr.) Short for il n’y a pas de quoi. Not at all. Don’t mention it.
Peri peri. (Afr.) Chile Pepper [Port. piri piri].
Pernod. (Fr.) A major brand of Pastis, an anise flavoured liqueur, distinct from Absinthe in that it does not contain the herb grand wormwood.
Pétanque. The aim of the game is to get large, heavy, balls as close to the small ball, 'jack' or in French, le cochonnet. It is very popular especially in France where it may often be seen played in any open space in villages and towns. It is also referred to as Bocce, Boules or Bowls.
Petite Terre. (Fr.) “Small Land”, Pamanzi, an island off of Mahoré, Grande Terre, where Mayotte’s international airport is located. The rocky outcropping of Dzaoudzi, once a separate islet, is linked to Pamanzi Island by the Boulevard des Crabes, a road constructed atop an artificial dike.
Pinotage. A varietal of grape used for red wines, created and popularized in South Africa/
Pissed. (Brit.) Quite drunk.
Piste. (Fr.) Playing field, for pétanque. Runway for airplanes.
Pitch. (Brit.) Playing field, for football or rugby.
Pitot tube. Tubular device on the outside of an airplane that is connected to the airspeed indicator, usually covered by a sock-like piece of cloth when the plane is parked to prevent debris from clogging the opening.
PK. (Zim.) WC, toilet.
Plaisir. (Fr.) Pleasure.
Por Avion. (Fr.) Air Mail.
Povos. (Port.) The poor.
Pourquoi; Pourquois pas. (Fr.) Why, because; Why not?
Pronking. (Zim.) Happily jumping about, like an antelope at play.
PT-6. Pratt and Whitney turboprop engine, noted for its near 100% reliability.
Quai d’Orsay. (Fr.) The location in Paris and nickname of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Quel erreur. (Fr.) What a mistake.
Quel que soit. (Fr.) Whatever.
Que milagre. (Port.) What a miracle.
Que voulez- vous? (Fr.) What do you want?
Qui est là? Qui ȇtes vous? (Fr.) Who is there? Who are you?
Qur’an. (Arab.) The Holy Koran.
Ramp. That part of the airport where the airplanes park.
Rand (1). The South African currency. In late 1989, the exchange rate was approximately 2.50 ZAR per 1 USD. By April 1994, the Rand had devalued to approximately 3.50 ZAR to 1 USD. In 2023, 18 ZAR to 1 USD.
Rand (2). (S. Afr.) Short for Witwatersrand, the greater Johannesburg metropolitan area.
RENAMO. (Port.) Resistência Nacional Moçambicana, the Moçambican National Resistance. It fought against the FRELIMO in the Moçambican Civil War from 1975 to 1992 and against the Zimbabwean government of Robert Mugabe on behalf of Rhodesia which sought to prevent the FRELIMO government from providing a safe haven for ZANLA. It also received support from South Africa and the US.
Republic. The Republic of South Africa, also known as the Rainbow Republic after the fall of Apartheid.
Ramaphosa, Cyril. Anti-apartheid activist and trade unionist, elected head of the ANC in 2017 and officially succeeded President Zuma in the elections of 2019.
Rhodie. (S. Afr.) Derogatory slang for a white Rhodesian or Zimbabwean, red neck.
Roo Bar. (Austral.) The bars on the front of cars and trucks in Australia, meant to protect the vehicle in the inevitable, non-accidental event of colliding with a kangaroo, considered a pest by some.
Rope. (S. Afr.) Derogatory for an Afrikaner, thick (stupid), hairy and twisted.
Rue. (Fr.) Street.
SA. South Africa or South African.
SAA. South African Airways.
SAAF. South African Air Force.
SABC. South African Broadcasting Company, their BBC.
Said. (Arab.) Title of respect.
SAMID. South African Military Intelligence Division.
SAP. South African Police.
Savimbi, Jonas. Angolan, leader of UNITA, opposed to the communists, backed by South Africa in the Angolan Civil War.
Serval. A medium-sized African wild cat, descended from the cheetah and closely related to the Caracal and the African Golden Cat.
Servo. Servomotor, an electric motor, used in airplanes, for example, to raise or lower the gear or flaps.
Shari’a. (Arab) Islamic Law.
Sheila. (Aus.) Slang for a female, woman.
Shona. (Zim.) Predominant Bantu tribe in Zimbabwe.
Show pony. (Brit.) Someone who tries hard, by his dress or behaviour, to impress others.
Skellum. (Afrik.) Rascal.
Skies. (Zim.) Local (Rhodie) name for Bulawayo.
Skokiaan. (Zim.) Illegal self-brewed alcoholic beverage typically brewed over one day in large barrels left in the sun for faster fermentation, may contain methylated spirits (methanol), which can lead to blindness.
Skin. Outside covering of an airplane: aluminium, wood or fabric.
Slainte. (Scot.) To your health!
Slim. AIDS. Victims waste away in the final stages.
Slobbovia. A remote, underdeveloped, unenlightened but imaginary country (from Bugs Bunny).
Slops. (S. Afr.) Flip-flop sandals.
Snice. (Zim.) Wow, cool or excellent.
Société Anonyme (S.A.) (Fr.) Corporation or limited liability company.
Sorbonne. (Fr.) Perhaps the top university in France, in Paris.
SOS. Save our Souls or, more currently, Same Old Shit.
Souq. (Arab.) Open-air market.
Spectacle. (Fr.) Theatre, show performance.
Spoor. (S. Afr.) Track or dropping of an animal.
Stall. The sudden loss of lift in an aircraft when the critical angle of attack has been exceeded.
Standing on a Nail. So thin from AIDS, that you could stand on a nail.
STOL. Short Take Off and Landing.
Straat. (Afrik.) Street.
Sûreté. (Fr.) French national police force.
Surget, Alain. French novelist, famous for his young adult adventure series.
Take the Gap. (Rhod.) Emigrate from Zimbabwe.
Tanzanite. A precious gem with a pale blue colour that is only found in Tanzania, in only one mine.
Tarmac. Company that developed the substance that comprises a tarred road or in aviation, the paved portion of an airport: ramp, taxiways and
Tarred. (Brit.) Paved.
Taxi-brousse. (Com.) Peugeot pick-up truck used a bus in countryside.
Tekkies. (S. Afr.) Sneakers.
Terr. (Rhod.) Terrorist.
Three-point landing. Excellent landing in a tail-dragger airplane: the main gear and tail wheel land at exactly the same time.
Tibé. (Com.) Supreme leader of the Islands.
Tinashe. (Shona) God is with us.
Toarab. (Com.) Bash that can last up to three weeks after a wedding ceremony in Comoros.
Top Dressing. Spraying pesticide or fertiliser on crops from an airplane.
Toute suite. (Fr.) Immediately.
Trailing edge. The back part of a wing, where the flaps and ailerons generally are.
Transkei. (S. Afr.) Homeland on the southern coast of South Africa, birthplace of Nelson Mandela, dominated by Xhosa.
Transponder. Airplane instrument that sends a signal to the air traffic controller about the plane’s location, altitude and call sign.
Transvaal. Northern state in South Africa, dominated by Boers.
Trek. (S. Afr.) Hike, travel a far distance.
Tricolour. (Brit.) French flag, vertical bands of blue, white and red, known in French as le drapeau tricolore.
TV5. Popular French television station.
Type. (Fr.) Informal, dude, guy.
UCT. University of Cape Town.
Uni. (Brit.) University.
UDI. Unilateral Declaration of Independence.
Comoros: On July 6, 1975, the President Ahmed Abdallah Abderemane declared independence from France.
Rhodesia: On November 11, 1965, Prime Minister Ian Smith declared independence from Britain.
Vas-y-mollo. (Fr.) Take it easy.
V-day. Victory Day, the end of World War II.
Vachement. (Fr.) Quite.
Veld. (S. Afr.) The wild or wilderness, open grassland.
Vert. (Fr.) Green, slang for marijuana.
Very Flare. Signal flare, named after its inventor, Edward Very (US).
Vespa. An Italian motor scooter, equipped with a hand clutch.
VFR. Visual Flight Rules, rules for aviators when instrument conditions do not exist (clear skies).
Vic Falls. Victoria Falls or Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders), a waterfall located in southern Africa on the Zambezi River between the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The falls are some of the largest in the world.
Virga. Wisps of precipitation streaming from a cloud but evaporating before reaching the ground.
Vous. (Fr.) You, formal.
Vraiment. (Fr.) Really.
VSI. The Vertical Speed Indicator measures the rate of ascent or descent in hundreds of feet per minute.
Vx. Velocity at which an airplane can achieve its steepest climb rate.
ZBC. Zimbabwean Broadcasting Company, their SABC or BBC.