I've always believed that "Saffer" is a derogatory term for a South African.
But a few minutes earlier, I saw this tweet by ESPN:

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So, isn't "Saffer" a derogatory term?

  • There is a saying: "If you don't want to Saffer, avoid the suffer", lol... oh, wait... maybe the other way around... – Daniel Dinnyes Jun 26 '14 at 23:52

You might want to be careful using it with black South Africans, especially those who are culturally or traditionally inclined. "Old-school" black South Africans do not like to be called names they don't understand. In African culture every word has a meaning; colloquial language is considered to be rude especially when being used with elders. Do not say "Saffer" to any South African over the age of 35; that's where the modern boundary is drawn. However, you can ask; you might be surprised.

I am a young modern South African black female.

  • Even though you don't answer the question or go into the details of etymology, your point is a useful rule of thumb, and very welcome. – Daniel Dinnyes Jun 26 '14 at 23:43

No, not derogatory (at least in the above context). When three-letter abbreviations are used for countries, "South Africa" often gets the abbreviation "SAF" (standard in cricket), thus a "saffer" is someone from SAF. It's just a regional nickname like "Aussie" or "Ozzie" for someone from Australia or "Kiwi" for someone from New Zealand: in this context it's playful/colloquial, not offensive/derogatory.

It's self-applied often enough: see the Google results for "I'm a saffer", "am a saffer", "as a saffer", "us saffers", "we saffers".

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    So where is Saffer in that list? and ZAF is the ISO code for South Africa – mplungjan Feb 22 '11 at 10:32
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    @mplugan: Yeah, well… ISO three-letter codes are not used in cricket. :-) You can see there are about twice as many results for "south africa" "saf" as for "south africa" "zaf". – ShreevatsaR Feb 22 '11 at 10:45
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    As long as it is not Zef ;) – mplungjan Feb 22 '11 at 12:16
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    @mplungjan: what's wrong with 'Zef'? (it just seems to be the S.A. name for its variant of rap) – Mitch Jul 20 '12 at 2:32
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    AFAIK, the three-letter abbreviation commonly used for South Africa is RSA. – coleopterist Mar 5 '13 at 6:23

I would think derogatory since it rhymes with kaffer. But according to SA Friends it is not:

...simply short for 'saff efrican' as we would say it.

So there you have it from the Saffer's mouth ;)

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    [Citation needed] for the alleged relation to Affe. If that were really the case, where would be the r coming from and why? It would make no sense morphologically. (And yes, I have seen that answers.com post. Doesn't look reliable to me.) – RegDwigнt Feb 22 '11 at 10:46
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    Well, why would Cricinfo want to offend its South African readers? :-) Looking around on Google (I tried "saffers" and "a saffer" and with "cricket" added to those terms), it seems that in most contexts where "saffer" is used, there's no discernible derogatory intent… – ShreevatsaR Feb 22 '11 at 10:50
  • Maybe they think they are not? Perhaps the tweeter is an Aussie or Saffer him/herself – mplungjan Feb 22 '11 at 12:39
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    @Loo Why? Should I spell it out or what? – mplungjan Feb 22 '11 at 13:02
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    @Loo So it is gone - now vote me back up. Anyway, I cannot stand my real name next to or in a google search for such a word – mplungjan Feb 22 '11 at 13:31

Chiming in with another South African's view.

It wasn't something I'd used or heard much in South Africa, or when I lived in New Zealand. But once I'd moved to London, UK I heard it a lot - especially among the three expat groups commonly found together - Aussies, Kiwis, and "Saffas"/"Saffers". We all called South Africans that - whether it was "us saffas" or "it's saffa day" or today the "Aussies lost to the Saffas in the cricket". It was certainly never considered derogatory, almost friendly if anything.

However, I did have a couple of cautious friends ask me as well whether it's potentially offensive, so you're not alone in that thinking. However, aside from it possibly being misheard for a different historically racist word, you're pretty safe using it, especially among the young.

  • Yip. Commonly used in the UK esp. London and the Thames Valley. – Engineer Jul 13 '17 at 17:07

I'm South African and no, it's not derogatory or offensive.

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    I'm a South African too and I agree. – Brad Sep 27 '13 at 21:40

This term Saffer is even used amongst the tiny South African community that lives here in Tokyo, Japan. Since these South African folk are using the term to describe themselves, it would hardly be offensive! Still for me it is quite a new term - Still getting used to it!


In my experience, after working with a lot of people from the republic, Saffer isn't derogatory at all - its just like Aussie or Kiwi. They do get upset when you call them Yarpies though. That is considered a bit insulting.


Saffer's are expats and nothing more. Its a term given to those south africans with no intention of coming back.


Saffer is derived from the slang word SAFA which is derogatory and means "South African F*** Ass**le"

It has over time become known as Saffer for short slang. This is what it means and what is implied in New Zealand.

They have another internal term that is created along the same lines, that is Jaffa. Slang for JAFA which means "Just Another F***ing Aucklander."

I live in Auckland and am South African and I jokingly refer to myself, or my fellow South Africans as a Saffer. The term is so well used here that it has almost lost its derogatory nature and is as noted in post here just another slang term for a South African.

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