In South African English, the word "skadonk" is colloquially used to describe an old car that is usable, but nearing the end of its lifespan. It is onomatopoeic with the sound that such a car would make (a noisy drive).

I grew up thinking this word was standard English, however recent conversations with American friends indicate that they have never heard it before.

I have done a bit more research and googling online and have really struggled to find an official definition of the South African usage of this word anywhere. In fact, it's very difficult to find it referred to in this way online at all, even though it is used all the time here. Is it defined somewhere, and where does it come from?

  • If you spell it with an e instead of an a you get better search results.
    – Jeanne
    Mar 8, 2019 at 10:46

1 Answer 1


According to Oxford Dictionaries Online, the spelling is skedonk:

[South African informal] An old, battered car.
'Back then my hippy, varsity friends and I all piled into a few skedonks and headed for the mountains.'

ODO says the word is of unknown origin, but your suggestion that it's onomatopoeic seems reasonable.

  • 1
    Ah, that's why I had difficulty finding it. Good find!
    – user77261
    Jun 12, 2016 at 10:56

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