Ghana has more than seventy ethnic groups, each with its own distinct language. There are seven major languages which are English, Ga, Twi, Fanti, Ewe, Dangbe and Hausa. English is one of the most spoken languages, but a lot of it is Pidgen English (also known as broken English). It may be a little hard to understand at first (especially if it is your first ever time in a West African country) so here are the most common slang words in Ghana which will help you integrate better and even surprise a few Ghanaians!
Slang words in Ghana you should know
Chale /Charlie / Charley
Charlie (pronounced Chale) is probably one of the most popular Ghanaian slang words. It is widely used among friends during informal conversations. It would be the equivalent of “dude”.
The origin of this word is pretty interesting and dates back to colonial times when Ghana was known as the Gold Coast and was under British imperial rule. Two of the most used names by British lords were Charlie and Jack.
These names became so popular amongst the Ghanaians (Gold Coasters during those times) that they began to refer to strangers as Charlie and/or Jack, the same as Americans would use “dude”.
- Overtime, Charlie converted into “Charley” whilst Jack remained Jack.
- Nowadays, if you do not know someone’s name or forgot their name, “Charley” could be a pretty good escape because almost anyone can be “Charley”, except for when you refer to older people to whom you need to show respect.
- You may also find the word “chale” in “Chale Wote”. Currently Chale Wote is a very popular festival which takes place in James Town, Accra every August, bringing together an alternative platform with art, music, dance and performances out on the streets.
- The literal meaning of the word Chale Wote is flip-flops. It is also a Pidgen English expression meaning “hey man, let’s go!”.
Next time you see your friend, why not greet them with a “Wassup Chale!”
Although it is originally a Nigerian word, you will hear Ghanaians using the word “comot” pretty often. It can be used in a more rude way – “comot for der” meaning “move from there” or “go away”. It can also be used in everyday normal speech – “chale comot, make we go” meaning, “Dude/man, let’s go”.
Yawa dey (Pidgen word) is another way of saying “there is a problem” or that something wasn’t good. So you could say something like “Chale, yawa dey oooo”, and someone would respond to you saying “wey yawa” meaning “what happened”.
You will also find that the “ooo” at the end of many phrases is very common. They use it to stress the importance of the statement being referred to and if one ignores this, there will be a consequence following soon! Some more examples, ‘I don’t like that ooo’, ‘He said he will bring it ooo’.
Literally meaning “I beg” but for Ghanaians it means “please”. One of the first sayings you may actually hear or learn is “chale abeg” meaning “please, dude”. It can be practically used in any situation; when you are at the local market and you want to know the price of a mango, “abeg how much be the mango” or even when asking the time, “abeg what be the time?”.
“I’m coming” may be a little confusing at first because to us it may mean that you are going somewhere right? In Ghana, “I’m coming” is another way of saying “give me a second”. So for example if you ask a question to a person and that person is in the middle of something, he or she may respond “im coming”.
They may also use “i’m coming” when they are going somewhere. Very funny because instead of saying “I am going” they start walking away and tell you “I am coming”, how confusing and funny is that?!
The person saying this expects you to give him/her a gift either monetary or otherwise.
Paa is used to add emphasis to whatever you’re saying (a bit like “ooo”). They can say “Ekom di mi paa” meaning “I am REALLY hungry”. Sometimes you might even hear “papaaapa” which is really heavy emphasis.
“To chop” means to eat. You will also hear this word in “chop bars”, local Ghanaian food joints serving local dishes at affordable prices. A Ghanaian may ask you “you chop?”, meaning “have you eaten?”
If you visit a chop bar you should try akpeteshi, also locally known as “Apio” or “kill me quick”. This is a Ghanaian spirit made from fermented palm wine. It is pretty strong. We warned you!
This may be one of the first words (apart from “Akwaaba”) you will hear as soon as you land at the airport. “Obroni” in Twi and “Blofoniyo” in Ga, is the term used for a white person. Before even asking your name, Ghanaians may straight away call you by “Obroni” – “obroni where are you from”. Do not take it personally because it is not used in an offensive way.
Tro Tro and mate
These are two terms used for the local transportation in Ghana. “Tro tro” being like the public bus used to move around inside the city and from city to city, and “mate” being the person inside of the tro tro in charge of calling out the direction the tro tro is going and collecting the money.
Obolo is the word for fat. Unlike in many other parts of the world, being called “obolo” is actually something good. Being curvy in Africa is seen as beautiful!
If you happen to know other slang words in Ghana, don’t hesitate and drop us a comment below! We’re Green Views, a residential complex in Airport Residential Area, offering deluxe accommodation options in Accra.