Friday, June 17, 2016

The South African Exclamation "Eish" (Definitions & Examples)

Edited by Azizi Powell

I came across the word "eish" in three separate comments in the discussion thread for the video When I first read the word "eish", I thought it was another form of the word "ish" which in the United States is a contemporary euphemistic way of spelling or saying the word "sh&t". But I'm not certain about that now.

Here are the three comments with the word "eish" that I read in that discussion thread:
1. Sibulele Mjali, 2011
"ndihlupheke ndijejeje...ndizilahlela kuwe Baba! Eish...Wendy had some pipes!"
In the context of this sentence, "pipes" is an American slang term that means "a powerful singing voice."

2. sthembiso mishack, 2014
"eish during those hard times"

3. Sibulele Mjali, 2014

"Ndihlupheke ndijena ndizilahlela Kuwe Baba!..."

Powerful words right there."
That commenter wrote that "Ndihlupheke ndijena ndizilahlela Kuwe Baba!" are Xhosa words whose their English meaning is "troubled as I am, I throw myself unto you Father". For what it's worth, Google translate's results for those Xhosa words was ""I suffer like this and throw to you!"
Those comments are included in this pancocojams post: Sarafina (1992 Movie About The Soweto Uprising) - The Funeral Songs

Here are definitions that I found out from googling the word "eish":
(These definitions are given in no particular order. I've assigned numbers to these definitions for referencing purposes only.)

Definition #1:
From South Africa World Cup Slang by Vivienne Hambly, 26 February 2010
"Drawing from 11 official languages - with English, isiZulu, isiXhosa and Afrikaans - being the most dominant, South Africa's slang reflects the country's diversity, history and the rapid socio-political change the nation has experienced since 1994. Here's how to make yourself understood when you visit. Let us know if you have any more of your own to add...

Eish (ay-sh). An isiZulu and isiXhosa expression good for everything from resignation, to exasperation, to pleasant surprise. "Eish! I can't believe they're playing so badly," or, "Eish! That goal was incredible. Think this could be our year." "

Definition #2 & #3

Used in South African English and Afrikaans to express exasperation or disbelief. The word was first transliterated from the Xhosa language to Afrikaans, and then into South African English.
"So, there's been ANOTHER power outage, hey, bru? Eish."

"Daar is petrol in Suid-Afrika??? Eish!"
#no way #really #is it #seriously #good grief"
by Cpl. Springbok November 11, 2007


A South African word derived from Xhosa, now used in all languages within South Africa and some neighbouring countries.

Eish is one of the reasons South Africa is so great, it can express anything from excitement to horror.

I will explain in the examples:

1. Excited
2. Horrified
3. Angry
4. Happy
5. Shocked
6. Accident

A) Taxi

B) Domestic worker

"Hey, we're off to watch the latest blockbuster movie!"


"What's that behind you!"


"Um, not sure how to say this but I dropped your lamp and it shattered."


"We just won the Lotto!"


"Luke, I am your father"



A) Driver: "Accidentttt.....!!!"

Passenger: "Eish!"

B) Domestic worker: "yoh, dropped a dish. Eish not again."
#eish #eaish #yoh #south africa #funny #africa #hsie"
by xX_Shox_Xx January 01, 2012
"yoh" – an expression of surprise e.g., "Yoh, that was rude" "Yoh, you gave me a fright!", (Police-chief talking about the poor physique of his policemen) "They should look at our men and say "yoh!". [from South African Slang Words Wikipedia page; link given below]

Definition #4:

Eish! (Pronounced 'aysh') - a phrase of exclamation eg. Eish! I am so tired

Definition #5:

eish! - Wow! What? Expression of surprise. Of Bantu origin.

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