AskDefine | Define afrikaans

Dictionary Definition

Afrikaans adj : belonging or relating to white people of South Africa whose ancestors were Dutch or to their language; "an Afrikaans couple"; "Afrikaner support" [syn: Afrikaner] n : an official language of the Republic of South Africa; closely related to Dutch and Flemish [syn: Taal, the Taal, South African Dutch]

User Contributed Dictionary

see afrikaans



  • /ˌɑːfrɪˈkɑːnz/
  • Rhymes with: -ɑːnz

Proper noun

  1. A Germanic language descending from Dutch; the primary language of the descendants of Dutch and other European settlers, as well as many mixed-race (e.g. Rehoboth Baster) living in South Africa and in Namibia. Also, one of the eleven official languages of South Africa and until 1990 one of three official languages of Namibia.
  2. A term sometimes used of people from South Africa and Namibia (who speak Afrikaans), more properly called "Afrikaans people" or Afrikaners.



  • Catalan: afrikaans
  • Croatian: afrikaans
  • Danish: afrikaans
  • Dutch: Afrikaans
  • Estonian: afrikaani keel
  • Finnish: afrikaans
  • French: afrikaans
  • German: Afrikaans
  • Greek: αφρικάανς
  • Irish: Afracáinis
  • Italian: afrikaans
  • Japanese: アフリカーンス語
  • Korean: 아프리칸스어 (apeurikanseu-eo)
  • Norwegian: afrikaans
  • Polish: afrykanerski
  • Portuguese: africâner (Brazil), africanês (Portugal)
  • Russian: африкаанс (afrikáans)
  • Slovene: afrikaans, afrikanščina
  • Spanish: afrikáans
  • Swedish: afrikaans
  • Vietnamese: tiếng Afrikaans
  • West Frisian: Afrikaansk


  1. Of or pertaining to the Afrikaans language.


of or pertaining to the Afrikaans language
  • Dutch: Afrikaans
  • Finnish: afrikaans kielinen

See also


Proper noun

  1. The Afrikaans language.



From Afrika, ‘Africa’ + -aans.


  • /ɑfrikans/


  1. African

Proper noun


Usage notes

Because "Afrikaans" is ambiguously "African" as well as referring to the language, Zuid-Afrikaans is often used instead.


Related terms

Extensive Definition

Afrikaans is an Indo-European language, derived from Dutch and classified as Low Franconian Germanic, mainly spoken in South Africa and Namibia, with smaller numbers of speakers in Botswana, Angola, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Zambia and Argentina. Due to emigration and migrant labour, there are possibly over 100,000 Afrikaans speakers in the United Kingdom, with other substantial communities found in Brussels, Amsterdam, Perth (Australia), Mount Isa, Toronto and Auckland. It is the primary language used by two related ethnic groups in South Africa: the Afrikaners and the Coloureds or kleurlinge or bruinmense (including Basters, Cape Malays and Griqua).
Geographically, the Afrikaans language is the majority language of the western one-third of South Africa (Northern and Western Cape, spoken at home by 69% and 58%, respectively). It is also the largest first language in the adjacent southern third of Namibia (Hardap and Karas, where it is the first language of 44% and 40%, respectively).
Afrikaans originated from the 17th century Dutch language. The dialect became known as 'Cape Dutch'. Later, Afrikaans was sometimes also referred to as 'African Dutch' or 'Kitchen Dutch', although these terms were mainly pejorative. Afrikaans was considered a Dutch dialect until the late 19th century, when it began to be recognised as a distinct language, and it gained equal status with Dutch and English as an official language in South Africa in 1925. Dutch remained an official language until the new 1961 constitution finally stipulated the two official languages in South Africa to be Afrikaans and English (although the 1961 constitution still had a sub-clause stipulating that the word "Afrikaans" was also meant to be referring to the Dutch language). It is the only Indo-European language of significance that underwent distinct development on the African continent. Afrikaans and Dutch are largely mutually intelligible.


Afrikaans was originally the dialect that developed among the Dutch speaking Protestant settlers, and the indentured or slave workforce of the Cape area in southwestern South Africa that was established by the Dutch East India Company (, ) between 1652 and 1705. A relative majority of these first settlers were from the United Provinces (now Netherlands), though there were also many from Germany, a considerable number from France, and some from Norway, Portugal, Scotland, and various other countries. The indentured workers and slaves were Asians, Malays, Malagasy in addition to the indigenous Khoi and Bushmen.
The Afrikaans School has long seen Afrikaans as a natural development from the South-Hollandic Dutch dialect, but has also only considered the Afrikaans as spoken by the Whites. Some believe that Afrikaans was originally spoken by the Khoisan people solely after using words they heard from the Dutch.
Though this 'theory' would imply the improbability of a language systematically developing out of a grammatology. Furthermore, this theory would fail to explain the systematic process of simplification from dialectical 17th century Dutch to Afrikaans, its geographically widespread and cohesive nature and also the persistent structural similarities between Afrikaans and other regional Franconic dialects including West Flemish and Frisian.
Afrikaans also remains akin to other West-Germanic languages (except English) in that it remains a V2 language which features verb final structures in subordinate clauses, just like Dutch and German.


There is little evidence to support the existence of strongly defined dialects as one might find in Dutch. Following early dialectical studies of Afrikaans it was theorised that three historical dialects may have existed before the Great Trek. These dialects were called the Northern Cape, Western Cape and Eastern Cape dialects. If these dialects ever existed, little of them remain in present-day Afrikaans. Modern-day standard Afrikaans is said to have developed from the Eastern Cape dialect (as this is where the Great Trek started and from where the rest of South Africa was initially populated).


The linguist Paul Roberge suggests that the earliest 'truly Afrikaans' texts are doggerel verse from 1795 and a dialogue transcribed by a Dutch traveller in 1825. Printed material among the Afrikaners at first used only standard European Dutch. By the mid-19th century, more and more were appearing in Afrikaans, which was very much still regarded as a set of regional dialects.
In 1861, L.H. Meurant published his , which is considered by some to be the first authoritative Afrikaans text. Abu Bakr Effendi also compiled his Arabic Afrikaans Islamic instruction book between 1862 and 1869, although this was only published and printed in 1877. The first Afrikaans grammars and dictionaries were published in 1875 by the ('Society for Real Afrikaners') in Cape Town.
The First and Second Boer Wars further strengthened the position of Afrikaans. The official languages of the Union of South Africa were English and Dutch until Afrikaans was subsumed under Dutch on 5 May 1925.
The main Afrikaans dictionary is the Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (WAT), which is as yet incomplete due to the scale of the project, but the one-volume dictionary in household use is the Verklarende Handwoordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (HAT). The official orthography of Afrikaans is the Afrikaanse Woordelys en Spelreëls, compiled by the Taalkommissie.


Comparison with Dutch, German and English


In Afrikaans many consonants are dropped from the earlier Dutch (see also the grammar section for a description of how consonant dropping affects the morphology of Afrikaans adjectives and nouns). This is a similar process to what happened with modern English. (compare: Afrikaans; regen=reën, and English; regn=rain.) The spelling is also considerably more phonetic than the Dutch counterpart. A notable feature is the indefinite article, which, as noted in the grammar section, is ′n , not '' as in Dutch. 'A book' is '', whereas in Dutch it would be ''. (Note that '' is still allowed in Dutch; Afrikaans uses only '' where Dutch uses it next to ''. When letters are dropped an apostrophe is mandatory. Note that this ′n is usually pronounced as a weak vowel ([ə]; like the Afrikaans 'i') and is not as a consonant. The Afrikaans word een is the number 'one'.
Other features include the use of 's' instead of 'z', and therefore, 'South Africa' in Afrikaans is written as , whereas in Dutch it is . (This accounts for .za being used as South Africa's internet top level domain.) The Dutch letter 'IJ' is written as 'Y', except where it replaces the Dutch suffix —lijk, as in = . It is interesting to note that the use of the hard 'k' is analogous to the pronunciation in parts of West Flanders. Also noteworthy is that, although the first 90 VOC settlers came from Haarlem in the Northern Netherlands, the majority of the population of that city at that time consisted of Southern Dutch immigrants. (Recent academic research also points to Afrikaans probably being a modern perpetuation of an earlier Dutch dialect, Amsterdams (Paardekoper)).
The letters c, q and x are rarely seen in Afrikaans, and words containing them are almost exclusively borrowings from French, English, Greek, or Latin. This is usually because words that had c and ch in the original Dutch are spelt with k and g respectively in Afrikaans (in many dialects of Dutch (including the Hollandic ones), a ch is spoken as a g, which explains the use of the g in Afrikaans language). Similarly original qu and x are spelt kw and ks respectively. For example instead of 'equatoriaal' and instead of 'excuus'.

Glyphs in loan words

Loan words from languages that use Latin characters, are loaned with glyphs intact. For example, letters from Scandinavian languages, like å, ä, ø, letters from Bantu languages, like ḓ, ṱ, ḽ, ṋ, ṅ, and letters from Esperanto, like ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ, ŝ, ŭ are retained in Afrikaans loan words, although writing these may represent difficulties for Afrikaans users of word processors and e-mail.
One exception is the Dutch digraph which looks like a 'y' with diaeresis (often called the 'long y' or the 'Greek y') and is usually typed as 'ij', which in Afrikaans becomes two separate letters 'i' and 'j' (rather than a 'y' with diaeresis, 'ÿ'). In Afrikaans, this digraph from Dutch loan words is always written as 'y', never as 'ij', except in proper nouns.


All letters in the Latin alphabet are acceptable in Afrikaans, although for non-loan words only the 26 letters of the English alphabet and certain vowels with diacritics are used.
The vowels with diacritics in non-loanword Afrikaans are: á, é, è, ê, ë, í, î, ï, ó, ô, ú, û, ý. These thirteen letters are pronounced the same way as their non-diacritic counterparts in isolation. For the purpose of alphabetic ordering, these diacritic letters are regarded as equivalent to their non-diacritic counterparts. It is not acceptable to replace them by their non-diacritic equivalents in situations where typing the diacritic forms may be difficult. In the early days of e-mail and on primitive computer systems, the diacritics were often left out or written next to the character, and computer illiterate users may still do so today.
When a sentence is written in the uppercase, the diacritic letters stay in the lowercase form.

Initial apostrophes

A few short words in Afrikaans take initial apostrophes. In modern Afrikaans, these words are always written in lower case (except if the entire line is uppercase), and if they occur at the beginning of a sentence, the next word is capitalised. Three examples of such apostrophed words are 't, 'k, 'n . The most common is 'n , which is the indefinite article, and the other two may soon be regarded as archaic.
'k Het hom lief (I love him)
similar to Dutch words: ik heb hem lief
'k 't Dit gesê (I said it)
similar to Dutch words: ik heb dit gezegd
'n Man loop daar (A man walks there)
similar to Dutch words: een man loopt daar
Daar is 'n man (There is a man)
similar to Dutch words: daar is een man
The apostrophe and the following letter are regarded as two separate characters, and is never written using a single glyph, although a single character variant of the indefinite article appears in Unicode, .
Some modern word processors have autocorrect features that incorrectly treat an apostrophe (also known as a 9-quote) at the beginning of a word as a single quote (also known as a 6-quote).
In non-stylised fonts, it is acceptable to use a straight quote for the apostrophe, and this is often done in electronic communication.

Table of characters

Afrikaans phrases

Afrikaans is a very centralised language, meaning that most of the vowels are pronounced in a very centralised (i.e. very schwa-like) way. There are many different dialects and different pronunciations — but the transcription should be fairly standard.
  • [ɦaləu ɦu xaˑn dət] Hello! How are you? (more closely 'How goes it?')
Closely in Dutch: Hallo! Hoe gaat het?
  • [bajə xuˑt danki] Very well, thanks.
Closely in Dutch: Vrij goed, dankje
  • [prɑˑt jəi afrikɑˑns] Do you speak Afrikaans?
Closely in Dutch: Praat jij Afrikaans?
  • [prɑˑt jəi ɛŋəls] Do you speak English?
Closely in Dutch: Praat jij Engels
  • [jɑˑ] Yes.
  • [neˑə] No.
  • [ə biki] A little.
Closely in Dutch: Een beetje
  • [vat əs jəu nɑˑm] What is your name?
  • [di kənərs prɑˑt afrikɑˑns] The children are speaking Afrikaans.
Closely in Dutch: De kinderen praten Afrikaans
An interesting sentence having the same meaning and written (but not pronounced as it sounds more closely to Dutch) identically in Afrikaans and English is:
  • My pen was in my hand. ([məi pɛn vas ən məi hɑnt])
Closely in Dutch: Mijn pen was in mijn hand
Similarly the sentence:
  • My hand is in warm water. ([məi hɑnt əs ən varəm vɑˑtər])
Closely in Dutch: Mijn hand is in warm water has almost identical meaning in Afrikaans and English although the Afrikaans warm corresponds more closely in meaning to English hot and Dutch heet (Dutch warm corresponds to English warm, but is closer to Afrikaans in pronunciation).


Afrikaans is the first language of approximately 60% of South Africa's Whites, and over 80% of the Coloured (mixed-race) population. The race with the highest number of Afrikaans speakers are the Coloureds(3 million), followed closely by whites (2.6 million). Some 200,000 black South Africans speak it as their home language. Large numbers of Bantu South Africans, and English-speaking Whites (Anglo-Africans) also speak it as their second language.
Some state that the term Afrikaanses should be used as a term for all people who speak Afrikaans, irrespective of ethnic origin, instead of 'Afrikaners', which refers to an ethnic group, or 'Afrikaanssprekendes' (lit. people that speak Afrikaans). Linguistic identity has not yet established that one term be favoured above another and all three are used in common parlance.
It is also widely spoken in Namibia, where it has had constitutional recognition as a national, but not official, language since independence in 1990. Prior to independence, Afrikaans, along with German, had equal status as an official language. There is a much smaller number of Afrikaans speakers among Zimbabwe's white minority, as most have left the country since 1980. Afrikaans was also a medium of instruction for schools in Bophuthatswana Bantustan
Many South Africans living and working in Belgium, The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom are also Afrikaans speakers; and there is now an Afrikaans newspaper in London, called Die Stem. New Zealand has an Afrikaans club which is based in Auckland and which organises Afrikaans dances and meetings (
Afrikaans has been influential in the development of South African English. Many Afrikaans loanwords have found their way into South African English, such as 'bakkie' ('pickup truck'), 'braai' ('barbecue'), 'tekkies' ('sneakers'). A few words in standard English are derived from Afrikaans, such as 'aardvark' (lit. 'earth pig'), 'trek' ('pioneering journey', in Afrikaans lit. 'pull' but used also for 'migrate'), 'spoor' ('animal track'), 'veld' ('Southern African grassland' in Afrikaans lit. 'field'), 'boomslang' ('tree snake') and apartheid ('segregation'; more accurately 'apartness' or 'the state or condition of being apart').
In 1976, high school students in Soweto began a rebellion in response to the government's decision that Afrikaans be used as the language of instruction for half the subjects taught in non-White schools (with English continuing for the other half). Although English is the mother tongue of only 8.2 per cent of the population, it is the language most widely understood, and the second language of the majority of South Africans. Afrikaans is more widely spoken than English in the Northern and Western Cape provinces, several hundred kilometers from Soweto. The Black community's opposition to Afrikaans and preference for continuing English instruction was underscored when the government rescinded the policy one month after the uprising: 96% of Black schools chose English (over Afrikaans or native languages) as the language of instruction. Many historians argue that the language issue was a catalyst for the uprising rather than a major underlying cause (which was racial oppression). Others argue that the primary cause of the uprising was one specific aspect of the government's language instruction decision: that non-White (i.e., Black, Coloured and Indian) South African children be denied instruction in all but the most basic topics of mathematics, sciences, fine arts, etc. The government justified this policy by claiming that non-White South Africans would never have an occasion to use such knowledge; see History of South Africa.
Under South Africa's democratic Constitution of 1996, Afrikaans remains an official language, and has equal status to English and nine other languages. The new policy means that the use of Afrikaans is now often reduced in favour of English, or to accommodate the other official languages. In 1996, for example, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reduced the amount of television airtime in Afrikaans, while South African Airways dropped its Afrikaans name from its livery. Similarly, South Africa's diplomatic missions overseas now only display the name of the country in English and their host country's language, and not in Afrikaans.
In spite of these moves (which have upset many Afrikaans speakers), the language has remained strong, with Afrikaans newspapers and magazines continuing to have large circulation figures. Indeed the Afrikaans language general interest family magazine Huisgenoot, has the largest readership of any magazine in the country. In addition, a pay-TV channel in Afrikaans called KykNet was launched in 1999, and an Afrikaans music channel, MK, in 2005. A large number of Afrikaans books are still published every year, mainly by the publishers Human & Rousseau, Tafelberg Uitgewers, Struik, and Protea Boekhuis.
Afrikaans music is also flourishing, from retro pop artist like Nicholis Louw, Eden, and Shine 4 to more forceful/avant garde outfits (Kobus!, Fokofpolisiekar, Buckfever Underground etc.) singing in the language.
Modern Dutch and Afrikaans share 85 plus per cent of their vocabulary. Afrikaans speakers are able to learn Dutch within a comparatively short period of time. Native Dutch speakers pick up written Afrikaans even more quickly, due to its simplified grammar, whereas understanding spoken Afrikaans might need more effort. Afrikaans speakers can learn a Dutch accent with little training. This has enabled Dutch companies to outsource their call centre operations to South Africa
Afrikaans has two monuments erected in its honour. The first was erected in Burgersdorp, South Africa, in 1893, and the second, better-known Afrikaans Language Monument () was built in Paarl, South Africa, in 1975.

Future for Afrikaans

The end of apartheid has meant a loss of government support for Afrikaans, in terms of education, social events, media (TV and Radio), and general status throughout the country, seeing as how it now shares its place as official language with ten other languages. Nevertheless, Afrikaans remains more prevalent in the media - radio, newspapers and television - than all the other official languages, except for English. More than 300 titles in Afrikaans are published per year . Further, some legal advertising is still provided in the Government Gazette bilingually, in English and Afrikaans.
Afrikaans is still viewed negatively by some. Through all the problems of depreciation and migration that Afrikaans faces today, the language still competes well, with Afrikaans DSTV channels (pay channels) and high newspapers and CD sales as well as popular internet sites.

Some well known songs in Afrikaans

- Jan Pierewiet, Jan Pierewiet, Jan Pierewiet staan stil. ('Jan Pierewiet, Jan Pierewiet, Jan Piereweit, stand still.')
- "Mamma, ek wil 'n man hê" ("Mum, I want to have a husband")
- "Sarie Marais" - "Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" (former national anthem - parts of which have been incorporated into the current anthem)
- " Aai Aai die Witborskraai" ('Oh, Oh the Pied Crow')
- "Afrikaners is plesierig" ('Afrikaners are fun')
- "De La Rey" (popular song by Bok van Blerk)
- "Kom Saam Met My" (Johannesburg-native alternative band Seether, formerly known as Saron Gas.)



  • Roberge, P. T., 2002. Afrikaans - considering origins, in Language in South Africa, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom. ISBN 0-521-53383-X
  • South African Afrikaans: History Slang

Portals and links lists


Spell checkers

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afrikaans in Afrikaans: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Arabic: لغة أفريكانية
afrikaans in Aragonese: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Asturian: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Bengali: আফ্রিকান্স ভাষা
afrikaans in Belarusian: Афрыкаанс
afrikaans in Breton: Afrikaneg
afrikaans in Bulgarian: Африкаанс
afrikaans in Catalan: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Czech: Afrikánština
afrikaans in Welsh: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Danish: Afrikaans
afrikaans in German: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Estonian: Afrikaani keel
afrikaans in Modern Greek (1453-): Αφρικάανς γλώσσα
afrikaans in Emiliano-Romagnolo: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Spanish: Afrikáans
afrikaans in Esperanto: Afrikansa lingvo
afrikaans in Basque: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Persian: آفریکانس
afrikaans in Faroese: Afrikaans mál
afrikaans in French: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Western Frisian: Afrikaansk
afrikaans in Irish: Afracáinis
afrikaans in Scottish Gaelic: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Galician: Lingua afrikaans
afrikaans in Korean: 아프리칸스어
afrikaans in Armenian: Աֆրիկանս
afrikaans in Croatian: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Indonesian: Bahasa Afrikaans
afrikaans in Xhosa: IsiBhulu
afrikaans in Zulu: IsiBhunu
afrikaans in Icelandic: Afríkanska
afrikaans in Italian: Lingua afrikaans
afrikaans in Hebrew: אפריקאנס
afrikaans in Georgian: აფრიკაანსი
afrikaans in Cornish: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Swahili (macrolanguage): Kiafrikaans
afrikaans in Latin: Lingua Africana
afrikaans in Latvian: Afrikandu valoda
afrikaans in Lithuanian: Afrikanų kalba
afrikaans in Ligurian: Lengua afrikaans
afrikaans in Limburgan: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Hungarian: Afrikaans nyelv
afrikaans in Macedonian: Африканс
afrikaans in Malay (macrolanguage): Bahasa Afrikaans
afrikaans in Dutch: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Dutch Low Saxon: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Japanese: アフリカーンス語
afrikaans in Norwegian: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Norwegian Nynorsk: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Novial: Afrikansum
afrikaans in Low German: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Polish: Język afrikaans
afrikaans in Portuguese: Língua africâner
afrikaans in Romanian: Limba afrikaans
afrikaans in Russian: Африкаанс
afrikaans in Northern Sami: Afrikánsagiella
afrikaans in Scots: Afrikaans leid
afrikaans in Saterfriesisch: Afrikoansk
afrikaans in Sicilian: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Simple English: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Slovak: Afrikánčina
afrikaans in Slovenian: Afrikanščina
afrikaans in Serbian: Африканс
afrikaans in Serbo-Croatian: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Finnish: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Swedish: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Tamil: ஆபிரிக்கான மொழி
afrikaans in Thai: ภาษาแอฟริคานส์
afrikaans in Vietnamese: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Turkish: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Ukrainian: Африкаанс
afrikaans in Venetian: Afrikaans
afrikaans in Samogitian: Afrėkanu kalba
afrikaans in Chinese: 南非語
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