Zim Slang Dictionary: 20 Words

We keep hearing the phrase, “use vernacular, we need more vernacular in our productions”. But let’s be honest, who here really speaks like they want us to sound on TV.

By Noxolo Sibanda (Journalist) and Terai Moyo (Journalist)

Research by Alex Gwaze (Researcher)


Noxolo: The other day I was in a kombi, on my way home, listening to these two young guys talking what sounded like Greek to me. When got home I sent an app to my old ‘uni’ friend, asking her, “have you heard the latest?”

Terai: I replied her, still in academic mode saying – “People always come up with new slang. Slang is colloquial so it’s made up of constantly changing informal words and expressions. It gives you some kind of secret access to a hidden life that’s is going on right in front of your eyes, but just under the surface. It’s like peeping through a keyhole and seeing nothing but you overheard the whole thing. I think it does a great job of condensing so many emotions and attitudes in a very direct and funny way. What I really like about it is that it shows you how people negotiate what is happening to them in their everyday life. Most of the time these words are not appropriate for formal occasions because some of these terms are seen as “lowbrow”, “ghetto” and vulgar. But, it is still ‘vernac’, probably the most vernacular of the vernacular yacho!

Noxolo: I replied saying – “Imagine ama2000s using such words on radio or at school or in church. Yoh! It’s not that hard to imagine actually, because we speak before we learn to write. You know, sometimes life forces you to invent new words just to redefine what is happening to us. While the words may change, the thematic areas like (sex, drugs, crime, insults, etc) always have new terms. So in the interest of making sure our ‘local’ languages do not disappear, we (myself, Terai, and Alex) thought we would start an online dictionary of words that means a lot (in the street). However, we are not experts, so the spellings and meanings of these phrases and expressions may be debatable, because they change in specific social contexts. Nonetheless, here are 20 “newish” words used by Zimbos and our definitions:

Amaganso / Bag / chiBag / umkwere / isikwara:

  1. Money, or cash money
  2. Investment or funding
  3. Financial reward


  1. Recreational drugs
  2. Addictive narcotics
  3. Drug that produces numbness or stupor, lethargy, inactivity or slowness

Bhaiza / Kubhaiza:

  1. Fall short, unsuccessful effort
  2. Fail to meet an expectation or standard
  3. Stuck, struggling

Bho / Bholato / Swi / Sho:

  1. Fine, good, okay
  2. All right, satisfied, correct
  3. “Super fine” or “very good” when expressed as Bholato.

Chaluwa / Dobe / Zoli / Zolo:

  1. A street name for marijuana, weed
  2. A strong-smelling plant whose dried leaves are prepared recreationally
  3. A soft drug that has a number of euphoriant and hallucinogenic effects

Guma guma / Kungwavhangwavha / Ukuhlanganisa / Ukukhwabanisa:

  1. Con, swindle sell something to or obtain something underhandedly
  2. Hustle, get by trying hard, dog eat dog
  3. Pressure or urge someone into an action


  1. A meal or food made from ground corn or mealies
  2. The staple food for Zimbabweans known locally as Sadza, Isitshwala or ‘Pap’
  3. Thick mealie porridge

Kosso / Insimbi:

  1. A beloved or special young woman
  2. A girl or young woman whom a man is romantically involved with
  3. A close female friend

Kubaya / Vaya:
Noun / Verb

  1. Departing or going from one place to another
  2. Proceeding purposefully forward
  3. Changing locations


  1. Diss, ridicule, “roast”
  2. Criticize negatively, harshly, insult
  3. Subject to laughter or ridicule

Ma1 / Pakaipa / Kuyayilahla:
Noun / Adjective

  1. To be in a difficult situation or bad state
  2. Problematic, vexed, perplexed
  3. Tight, knotty, tricky

Muface / My Guy / Ntwana:

  1. An informal term for a male youth
  2. A male who is the lover of a young woman
  3. Urban male youth

Adverb / Adjective

  1. why, what is the reason
  2. mystified
  3. how come

Salala / Saladi:

  1. An individual occupying the highest socio-economical position in society
  2. In a higher social status and of good or upper-class lineage
  3. Classy, fashionable, modern, posh


  1. Formally metal, informally used to describe a well built man or woman
  2. Sexually attractive man or woman, a good matrimonial or sexual prospect
  3. Something this deserving of the highest esteem or admiration

Verb / Noun

  1. Test, question, examine, measure
  2. Confront, provoke, hassle
  3. Face, screen

Tonaz / Sthila:

  1. The central business district of an urban area
  2. An administrative division of a county
  3. An urban municipality

Uyiswii / Urisei sei / Z’khiphani:

  1. Informal greeting – what’s up
  2. Hello or how are you
  3. A call for a response

Adverb / Interjection / Pronoun

  1. Mine, expressed informally to express a range of emotions
  2. An exclamation of expressive surprise, agreement, annoyance or disapproval
  3. Used as an intensifier

Zinto / Zvinhu:
Noun / Adjective / Verb

  1. An inclination to want luxurious items, such as fast food, clothes, cars, gadgets, jewelry or large homes
  2. Affected with excessive sexual desire, sex
  3. Corrupted or perverted envy or jealousy

Editor’s Notes:

Please ADD your own Zim slang and meanings below in the comments or contact MUD Journal on social media to submit your unique word and meanings to help us build our Zim slang database.


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