Urban dictionary African edition: You know what 'retweet' and 'download' mean. Or do you?

If you want to get a real sense of a country’s cultural pulse, listen to the slang. It’s one of the best indicators of how it perceives itself.

IF you want to get a real sense of a country’s cultural pulse, listen to the slang. It’s one of the best gauges of what a culture thinks about itself, and how it perceives the world.

Mobile technology and the Internet have taken Africa by storm in the past decade, and in the next two years, smartphones are expected to outsell feature phones on the continent.

Africa’s connections with the world are also mediated by its diaspora - in 2012, the amount of money sent as remittances by Africans abroad surpassed that of official development aid.

And unlike years ago when Africans would emigrate and disappear forever, today’s migrants continue to have close ties with home, sending money to invest and visiting ever so often.

So it was only a matter of time before these words found their way into urban dictionaries in Africa. There are many, but here are a few favourites:


  • Those who come back to visit home during their summer holidays from schools in the west (Uganda)


  • A brief, spontaneous sexual episode i.e. a quickie (Uganda)

“Bluetooth/ Scanning” 

  • When you go out and you are busy checking out the girls/ boys (Zambia/Malawi)


  • Same as Bluetooth above


  • Break up with someone and cut off all contact 
  • Kill or make disappear (Nigeria)


  • When writing an exam, very hurriedly writing out the answers that you’ve just crammed all night, in case you forget them (Kenya) 
  • Giving a moving oratory without referring to any written notes (Nigeria) 
  • Cling onto someone to profit from them, as a parasite e.g. ‘He’s just downloading that minister’ (Tanzania) 
  • Sexual climax (Nigeria)

“Dual Sim” 

  • People with more than one partner (Zambia)


  • To peep at someone through a keyhole e.g. while they are taking a shower (Tanzania)

“Intel inside” 

  • Pregnant (Kenya)


  • A slender young girl who is (often) in an extramarital relationship with an older man. Surprisingly, it’s supposed to be an endearing term e.g. “This fine girl is my laptop,” a man might say (Kenya)


  • Someone who has studied in India e.g. “She is marrying a monsoon!” (Uganda)


  • Someone who won’t let you have room to breathe, as they annoyingly follow you everywhere (South Africa)


  • A small or slender girl e.g. ‘Maria is a portable’ (Malawi)


  • Going back to an ex-boyfriend/ ex-girlfriend (South Africa)

Do you have a favourite you would like to share? Let us know by writing to [email protected]


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