All language has one central aim: communication - to carry across an idea or message from one person to another, or to persuade an individual to follow a particular course.

Although there are many ways in which people communicate with one another - gestures, body- and written language and graphic representation (art for example) - oral communication generally takes precedence, or is the most obvious.

Afrikaans is a language which is growing in South Africa, especially since many young students are choosing it as a second language at high school level. This and the fact that many see it as an easy language to learn as opposed to one of the indigenous languages, has contributed to its growth in many parts of the country.

We currently live in very harried times where everyone is trying to complete tasks in as short a time as possible. Also contributing to this way of doing things is cell phone technology and texting language. Young people don’t have the patience to type out words in full and communicate by way of abbreviations most of the time. To some of them this is fun, since it’s also a secret code that their parents don’t understand … although that is not always the case.

These young folks would also be pleasantly surprised to discover that Afrikaans is rich, not only in metaphor and idiom, but also in abbreviations (afkortings).

As the Afrikaans language has developed, so has the number of Afrikaans abbreviations, as people sought to speed up communication and the delivery of ideas and concepts. As with English, abbreviations in Afrikaans can occur in more than one form:

  • An abbreviation, shortened form of a word, such as Mev. for Mevrou (Madam)
  • A clipping is an Afrikaans word that was formed by removing part of a word, without having it change as a part of speech, e.g. laboratorium to lab (both common nouns).
  • An acronym, which is an abbreviation which can be read as a word, for example EVKOM (ElektrisiteitsVoorsieningsKommissie).
  • An initialism is spelled out by pronouncing each letter of an abbreviation, as in the case of SAUK (Suid-Afrikaanseuitsaaikommissie).

As you can see, from the length of some of the above words, abbreviations can be incredibly useful, since they can save one a considerable amount of time, while none of the words would lose any meaning.

An Afrikaans abbreviations list can be quite extensive and, so, a selection of the most utilised ones has been included as well as some interesting or useful-to-know ones. Many people love to abbreviate words such as people’s names, for example. Some find it easier to say JP as opposed to Jean Pierre or AK instead of Abdul Kader. Another famous one is, of course, Jo'burg for Johannesburg.

The tendency can grow so with some folks, that a friend or relative is simply referred to a letter: “I spoke to B (Beryl) yesterday, who told me to speak to C (Carol). Such examples may sound extreme and, yet, they do reflect a reality for many people … such is the obsession with abbreviations with some individuals. Let’s move on to something more serious before someone’s name gets shrunken down to a symbol.

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wooden scrabble letters
Afrikaans has many long words, so there is value in learning abbreviations. - Source: Pexels

Nowadays, abbreviations can be encountered in writing and in informal communication forms, such as texting, emails, social media convos (conversations) and online chats. They are also, however, utilised on formal settings such as offices and in official documents such as identity documents and passports.

A speaker of Afrikaans as a second or third language, you may already feel challenged, let alone having to learn a whole lot of abbreviations and what they represent. You will, however, soon find out that there is great value in knowing Afrikaans abbreviations. Lets us kick off with some common ones and learn how they should be spelled, what words they represent, which can be spelled out and which are best used only when on social media.

The Afrikaanse Woordelys en Spelreëls (AWS) is a great source of information for Afrikaans-users. It sets particular standards for language usage and spells out rules for spelling and orthographic rules/ precepts. Of course, the Internet can also be very helpful, as you would find out if you typed Afrikaans abbreviation examples into a Google search.

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Formatting Rules for Afrikaans Abbreviations

  • Capitalisation: Not all abbreviations are capitalised in Afrikaans. This is so because punctuation clearly identifies most words which have been contracted. SAUK (Suid-Afrikaanse Uitsaaikorporasie) would be capitalised as would be US (Universiteit van Stellenbos).
  • Full stops: Abbreviations in Afrikaans generally end in a full stop which indicate that the word has been shortened, acting as an apostrophe would to indicate that letters have been omitted. Where capital letters are used to create an abbreviation, full stops are not required, eg. ATM in Afrikaans is OTM (outomatiese tellermasjien) and PIN (persoonlike identifikasienommer).
  • Etiquette: When using an abbreviation for the first time, in formal writing, the abbreviated word should always be included in brackets (parentheses). If, for example, you wanted to write about Cape Town High School (CTHS), you should do so in this fashion before using only its abbreviated form, CTHS. This is a courtesy extended to the reader so that he or she is not left in the dark as to the meaning of your reference.
  • Familiarity: There are some abbreviations that have been used, almost, on a daily basis that people may have already forgotten the original word/s. This is the case with words such as VIGS (Verworwe immuniteitsgebreksindroom), which is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). If someone had told you that they had Verworwe immuniteitsgebreksindroom, you might not realise that they had contracted AIDS (VIGS).
  • Spelling: the abbreviation must be a shortened version of the original word and not a totally different word that is in no way related to the original word or sentence. The creation of disconnected words that are unrelated to the source word or term is, in all likelihood, not an English abbreviation but colloquialism or slang.

The abbreviation of titles

The abbreviated title is normally used, in formal as well as in informal writing. There is no need to write out the title in full, since the addressee will immediately recognise their title.

  • Mnr. is short for Meneer (Mister)
  • Mev. is short for Mevrou (Missus)
  • Mej. is short for Mejuffrou (Miss)
  • Dr. is short for Dokter (Doctor)
  • Ds. is short for Dominee (pastor)
  • Pred. is short for Prediker (priest)
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Abbreviations for South Africa and its Provinces

South Africa (SA) has nine provinces and their abbreviations are generally pretty predictable:

  1. EC - Oos-Kaap (Eastern Cape)
  2. FS - Vrystaat (Free State)
  3. GT - Gauteng
  4. KZN - KwaZulu Natal
  5. LP - Limpopo
  6. MP - Mpumalanga
  7. NC - Noord-Kaap (Northern Cape)
  8. NW - Noordwes (North West)
  9. WC - Wes-Kaap (Western Cape)

A very interesting fact is that South Africa, the country itself, has several abbreviations. Here are a few:

  • RSA – code used by Fifa (International Football Federation)
  • SA – used for delivery and armed forces purposes
  • S.Af. – abbreviation used by Encyclopaedia Brittanica and educational institutions
  • ZA – Zuid Afrika (used to identify Internet sites with a South African designation, such as in yahoo.co.za)
  • ZAR - (Republic of South Africa) from Zuid-Afrikaanse Republiek, originally a Dutch term

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The Huguenot Memorial, flanled by mountains, Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa
Do you know the abbreviation for the "Wes-Kaap" (Western Cape) province? - Source: Pexels

Abbreviations in Everyday Use

There are numerous abbreviations or contracted words that have been created over time, as Afrikaans has grown. Some of these are particular to Afrikaans, while others, as we shall see later, have retained the English form or hark back strongly to the original English term.

Listed here are a number of shortened forms, some of which are used in business and in academic writing.

  • afs. – afsender (sender)
  • antw. – antwoord (answer)
  • b.kw – buite kwartier (outside/ maids’ quarters)
  • b.v. – byvoorbeeld (e.g. – for example)
  • chem. –  chemie; chemies, chemiese (chemistry; chemical)
  • Chin.  – Chinees, Chinese (chinese)
  • chir.  – chirurgie; chirurgies, chirurgiese
  • Kie  – Kompanje (Company - Co)
  • Bpk – Beperk (Limited)
  • edms – eiendoms (proprietary)
  • ens. – ensovoorts (etc – etcetera)
  • EM – eerste minister (PM – Prime Minister)
  • HOD or H.O.D. - Hoër Onderwysdiploma (HDE - Higher Diploma in Education)
  • Ik – intelligensie quotiënt (I.Q. – Intelligence Quotient)
  • L.V. – Lid van die Parlement (Member of Parliament)
  • NRP – Nasionale Raad vir Provinsies (NCOP – national Council of Provinces)
  • RIV – rus in vrede (RIP – rest in peace)
  • RKK – Rooms-Katolieke Kerk (RCC – Roman-Catholic Church)
  • SAB – Suid-Afrikaanse Brouerye (SAB – South African Breweries)
  • SAUK – Suid-Afrikaanse Uitsaai Korporasie  (SABC – South African Broadcasting Corporation)
  • v – versus (vs in English)

Days of the Week

Purists do not abbreviate the days of the week or, in some cases, the months of the year. Where these are abbreviated, only the first two letters of the word are utilised and these are followed by a full stop (period).

  • Ma. -  Maandag (Monday)
  • Di.  - Dinsdag (Tuesday)
  • Wo. - Woensdag (Wednesday)
  • Do. - Donderdag (Donderdag)
  • Vr. - Vrydag (Friday)
  • Sa. - Saterdag (Saturday)
  • So. - Sondag (Sunday)

The Months of the Year

In Afrikaans, the months of the year are, in the main, spelled differently to their English counterparts, viz. Januarie, Februarie, Maart, Mei, Junie, Julie, Augustus, Oktober, Desember. Those not shown are spelled the same.

The abbreviated forms of those that differ significantly from the English form, are reflected below:

  • Mrt. - Maart (March)
  • Okt. -  Oktober (October)
  • Des. - Desember (December)

Time

Time and different periods of time are also indicated in a similar way to the original English format. Some are, however, uniquely, Afrikaans.

  • ADAnno Domini (in die jaar van ons Here, dieselfde as n.C.) (English: in the year of our Lord)
  • c./ ca. - circa (approximately)
  • h – uur (hour - from the Sanskrit hora)
  • vm. - voormiddag (a.m. – morning/ before noon)
  • nm. - Namiddag (p.m.- after noon)
  • v.C. - voor Christus (before Christ)

Measurement and Currency

These tend to follow the international (English) abbreviations:

  • kilometer per uur– km/h
  • kilogram – kg
  • millimeter – mm
  • milliliter - ml
  • sentimeter – cm
  • liter -   l
  • meter - m
  • Rand (South African currency equal to 100 cents) -
  • sent – c (cent)
  • vierkant meter (sq.m – square metre) - vk.m

The abbreviation ‘k’ is also used to indicate ‘thousand’ as in kilometre, but also as regards monetary amounts, e.g. R50k would represent fifty thousand rand.

Countries and Organisations

Included below are examples of where Afrikaans differs from English in terms of the name of the country or organisation and its abbreviation.

  • OAE – Organisasie van Afrika-eenheid (vervang in 2001 deur AU – Afrika-  Unie (OAU – Organisation of African Unity replaced in 2001 by the AU - African Union)
  • OPUL – Die Organisasie van Petroleum Uitvoerlande (OPEC – The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries)
  • NAVO - Noord-Atlantiese Verdragsorganisasie (NATO – North Atlantic Treaty Organisation)
  • VK (UK) - Verenigde Koninkryk (the United Kingdom)
  • VN – Verenigde Nasies (UN - United Nations)
  • WWF – Wêreldnatuurlewefonds (World Wildlife Fund)
  • VSA (USA) - Verenigde State van Amerika (the United States of America)
girl studying with laptop and notebook
Learn abbreviations with the help of an online Afrikaans tutor. - Source: Pexels

South African Bodies, Businesses and Institutions

South Africa has various institutions which were originally state-established entities and many are now para-statals, meaning that they are partially state- and partially private-owned. Telkom is one of them and as its name implies, it is a telecommunications company.

Iscor, the Iron and Steel Corporation (Yskor - Yster en Staal Industriële Korporasie), was sold in 2004, in a partial buy-out, and became known as Ispat Iscor Limited. So ended an era where Iscor provided steel to the country since 1943.

Eskom, the Electricity Supply Commission (Evkom - die Elektrisiteitsvoorsieningskommissie), is responsible for around 95% of South Africa’s electricity supply.

Sasol, the South African Coal Oil and Gas Cooperation (Suid-Afrikaanse Steenkool-, Olie- en Gasmaatskappy) is an entity which was established in 1950 to produce oil from coal, for a country which had no oil, but did have major coal reserves.

SAL - Suid-Afrikaanse Lugdiens (SAA -South African Airways) – was once the premier African airline, flying to destinations on all continents on the globe.

Every working adult dreads doing their taxes, right? That’s when you have to tangle with SAID (Die Suid-Afrikaanse Inkomste Diens). Not everyone enjoys their encounters with SARS (The South African Revenue Service).

Below are listed several home-grown South African institutions, some of which have achieved international acclaim and had placed the country as a leader in various fields, including armament production, in Africa and on a world-wide basis.

 

AbbreviationTermEnglish
WNNRRaad vir Wetenskaplike en Industriële NavorsingCouncil of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
KRYGKOR Krygstuigkorporasies van Suid-AfrikaArmscor – the Armaments Corporation of South Africa
MEDUNSAMediese Universiteit van Suider-Afrika*Medical University of South Africa
SASCOCSuid-Afrikaanse Sportkonfederasie en Olimpiese CommitteeSA Sport and Olympic Committee
SAD*Suid-Afrikaanse Droëvrugtekoöperasie BeperkSA Dried Fruit Co-op

*name has since changed

Other home-grown organisations include:

  • SASKO – SA Sentrale Koöperatiewe Graanmaatskappy (SASKO - No English translation)
  • RSG – Radio Sonder Grense (no English translation)
  • SADOU – Suid-Afrikaanse Demokratiese Onderwysunie (South african Democratic Teachers' Union)

Other Abbreviations

Where prepositional phrases have been abbreviated, the full stop is used to separate the letters from one another, as reflected below. Many of these, which can be found in documents and textbooks, make for ease of reading, take up less space and save time … if you know what they mean, of course. The shortened form i.v.m. (in verband met) reminds me of the English contraction ‘re’ from the word regarding. This abbreviation performs the same function.

 

AbbreviationOriginal term
English meaning
a.g.v .
as gevolg van
as a result of
asb
asseblief
please
bl.
bladsy
page
bv.
byvoorbeeld
for example
b.o. blaai om
please turn over
b.nw. byvoeglike naamwoord adjective
bg.bogenoemde
above-named/ -mentioned
d.i.dit is that is
d.m.v. deur middel van by way of/through
d.w.s
dit wil sê that is to say
e.d.
en dergelike and the like
i.v.m. in verband met
in connection with/in relation to
i.p.v.
in plaas vanin place of
k.b.a. kontant by aflewering
COD – cash on delivery
m.a. w
met ander woordein other words
m.b.t. met betrekking tot with reference to
m.i.
myns insiens in my opinion
m.b.v. met behulp van with the help of
t.s. ter sake
in connection with
t.o.v
ten opsigte van with regard/reference to
t.w.v
te waarde van to the value of
vlg.
volgens according to
v.l.n.r
van links na regs from left to right

There are also several abbreviations which retain their English form, either because Afrikaans-speakers have chosen not to find an Afrikaans equivalent for them or because the Afrikaans translation uses exactly the same letters. They include:

  • BMX – (an off-road/ motocross bicycle)
  • BMT – bus en minibustaxi (bus and mini-bus taxi)
  • SABS – Suid-Afrikaanse Buro van Standaarde (South African Bureau of Standards)
  • SALT – (South African Large Telescope – no Afrikaans translation). A very large telescope in the town of Sutherland, Western Cape.
  • SAPA – Suid-Afrikaanse Pers-Assosiasie (South African Press Association)

Then there are also abbreviations with a legal bent and with Latin roots.

  • c.q. – casu quo (in which case/ if that be the case)
  • cet.par – ceteris paribus (other things being equal)
  • q.a. – quod attestor (to which I am a witness)
  • q.e. – quod est (which is)
  • q.q. – qualitate qua (in the capacity as)
  • q.q. – quantum sufficit (as much as necessary)
  • v.c.  - verbi causa, byvoorbeeld (for example)

An important point to bear in mind is that, except for a few well-received examples (for example, o.a.), abbreviations do not meet the standard set for formal writing, e.g. letters, academic writing and reports. Where they are used, the original word should be written out in full first, followed by the abbreviation in brackets. A set of Afrikaans lessons, with a Superprof tutor, would be a brilliant way to wade through this minefield. What are you waiting for? Master Afrikaans abbreviations m.b.v. (met behulp van/with the help of) a Superprof tutor.

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Trevor

Career teacher turned writer. Passionate about family, running, and the great outdoors.