Green’s Dictionary of Slang

kaffir n.

also caffre, kaffer, kafir
[Arab kefir, an infidel; orig. a Xhosa-speaking African and by extension, any African; orig. (mid-15C) seen as a simple description of a given ethnic group, the term became insulting and abusive and its use is now actionable]
(orig. S.Afr.)

1. a derog. term for a black person.

J. Barros Conquest of the Orient II i 1: He learnt that the whole people of the island of S. Lorenzo [...] were black Cafres with curly hair like those of Mozambique.
J. van Reenen Journal of Journey from Cape of Good Hope in Moodie (1888) I 67: We arrived in 4 hours at the spring called Kruger’s Kraal, the boundary of the Christians and Kafirs. [Ibid.] 68: Several Kafirs came to us from their chief Sambee.
[US]Le Valliant Travels I 282: Fear made them imagine that they saw Caffres everywhere.
[SA]Grahams Town Jrnl 19 June 2/4: Caffer irruption [...] The gallant little patrole [...] killed eleven Caffers .
[UK]Kendal Mercury 2 Oct. 4/5: She Kaffirs, who unblushingly expose to the sun and moon almost all [etc.].
[UK]R.S. Surtees Young Tom Hall (1926) 19: She couldn’t bear the idea of her dear boy being cut up by the Caffres.
R. Godlonton Kaffir War 508: Last night seven of the School Kaffirs with their families decamped.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 26 May 2/6: William Wright, a foreigner, very much like a Caffre.
[UK]G.A. Sala Gaslight and Daylight 135: Whether the wretch was a Caffre, or a Zooloo something, or Hottentot [...] it matters not.
[UK]Trollope South Africa II 458: Our duty to the kafir of course is to civilize him.
R.M. Ballantyne Six Months at the Cape 44: The Red Kaffir is in truth a savage.
O. Schreiner Story of African Farm (1975) You child, of the child, of the child of a kaffir’s dog, come here!:
Queenstown Free Press (S.Afr.) 29 July n.p.: A Kafir brought me for sale a nesting owl.
[UK]Kipling ‘Ballad of the King’s Mercy’ in Ballads (1893) 19: The Kaffir grovelled under-hoof and clamoured for his life.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 29 Apr. 1/6: A young lady, insulted by a kaffir, used her tennis raquet to good effect.
[UK]Punch January 1031/3: To Col R.S.S. Baden-Powell, of Mafeking. A Message Per Kaffir Runner.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 21 July 4s/2: You may reason with a Kaffir, you may Christianise a Hun.
[UK]J. Buchan Greenmantle (1930) 188: I have been for years up and down in Africa [...] I know the ways of the Kaffir as no Englishman does.
[UK]R.H. Lindsey-Renton Diary 7 Mar. 12: I saw a few Kaffir kraals inhabited by what are called ‘blanket Kaffirs’.
[UK]G.H. Nicholls Bayete! 247: Half your time is spent running after a lot of stinking kaffirs.
[US]C. McKay Banjo 155: ‘Stand off, you bloody kaffir – nigger!’ said the white.
[US]E. Wallace ‘The Greek Poropulos’ in Goodstone Pulps (1970) 12/2: I have seen him take two quarreling Kaffirs [...] and knock their heads together.
[Ire]S. O’Casey Red Roses for Me Act I: We want no coon or Kaffir industry in our country.
[SA]A. Delius Young Traveller in S. Afr. 50: Always ready with some bad old name like Kaffir or Nigger or Tottie for the Bantu.
[SA]H.C. Bosman Cold Stone Jug (1981) II 25: Not even a kaffir-woman. Or a coolie-woman.
[UK]D. Jacobson Dance in the Sun 24: The kaffirs and the koelies will know their place. [...] All the educated Kaffirs should be shot.
[SA]H. Bloom Transvaal Episode 343: A lot of bloodthirsty black Kaffirs who’d murder me the first chance.
[UK]D. Bee Children of Yesterday 36: You can see it is used to shouting ‘you bloody kaffir’, and to hitting the ‘black kaffir’.
[US]P.A. Whitney Blue Fire 216: The officer concluded that it had been the act of some ‘Kaffir’.
[SA]G. Gordon Four People 68: Here, Kaffir, get along!
[SA]P. Baragwanath The Brave Remain 96: Two lithe men entered and said, ‘Follow us, Kaffir.’ To be called Kaffir by other Africans was too much.
[SA]H. Levin Bandiet 143: He could point a finger at him and shout ‘kaffir!’ The young black man smiled.
[SA]M. Matshoba ‘Glimpse of Slavery’ Call Me Not A Man 64: When I meet you in the street I’m going to shoot you, kaffer!
in O. Prozesky Wrath of the Lamb 22: The White Republicans labelled Joshua a ‘blaspheming kaffir’ in their publications, and the Pan Azanian Front dismissed him as an ‘Uncle Tom in love with his chains’.
[SA]P. Slabolepszy ‘Mooi Street Moves’ Mooi Street (1994) 282: He doesn’t like you, that guy. He said so. He tunes me – where’s the cheeky kaffir today?
[UK]Guardian Editor 28 Jan. 7: The laws on racial and sexual discrimination include a ban on words ‘kaffir’ and ‘coolie’.
[SA]A. Lovejoy ‘The Smell of Tears’ at www.acidalex.com [Internet] 25: When that dirty filthy fucking kaffir was hurting Tracey.
Ace’s View [Internet] These children known as izikhotane (the boasters) are the descendant of South Africans who were once regarded as ‘kaffirs’ (niggers) under European colonialism.

2. a pimp, an unpleasant person.

[SA]A. Lovejoy Acid Alex 17: They agreed unanimously that the mashonas were all a rotten bunch of Bad Kaffirs.

3. a generic name for any indigenous language spoken in S. Africa.

[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 23 Aug. 3/3: ‘Sacca borna,’ Mister Norton / (Witch are Kaffre for ‘good day’).

4. an insult, irrespective of race.

All Sloper’s Half-Holiday VI 268 15 June 1/3: [cartoon caption] ‘One hundred francs, you scoundrel, for a bottle of dirty claret! [...] Take that, you dirty kaffir!’ .
[UK]Edinburgh Eve. News 16 Sept. 2/5: [She] was fined 10s. for using improper language [...] having called her husband a bleary-eyed Kaffir, a Bashi-Bazouk, a Bulgarian atrocity, an ugly monkey, a baboon.

In compounds

Kaffirland (n.) (also Cafferland, Caffreland, Kafirland)

the Cape provinces; latterly South Africa.

A. Sparrman Voyage to the Cape of Good Hope I 335: The elephants in this colony are now becoming more wary, withdrawing [...] into Cafferland.
[SA]Grahams Town Jrnl 19 June 2/5: Extracts from my letter from an eye-witness of the late interesting events in Cafferland.
[UK]Caledonian Mercury 22 Sept. 2/4: The distinct boundary that divides Caffer Land [...] from that held by Dutch Boers.
R. Godlonton Case of the Colonists 71: Kaffirland, a country of mountain, of forest.
[SA] J. Stirk in Cook Maids and Madams (1980) 219: Fifty-five Kaffir women arrived here from Grahamstone on their way to Kaffirland.
[UK]G.J. Whyte-Melville General Bounce (1891) 81: The dreamer looked forward [to] nightwatches in a savage country — for the 20th were even then in Kaffirland.
[UK]G.A. Sala Gaslight and Daylight 83: The adventurous sketching journeys he has undertaken [...] when lion-hunting in Caffreland.
[UK]L. Duff Gordon 3 May Letters from the Cape (1875) 336: I would have run up Algoa Bay or East London, by sea, and had a glimpse of Caffreland.
[UK]Aberdeen Eve. Exp. 15 May 3/2: [headline] Uneasiness in Kaffirland.
[SA]D.C.F. Moodie Hist. of the Battles and Adventures of the British, the Boers, and the Zulus II 33: It was the frontier Kafirs, under the great chief Sandilli – that is, Kafirland proper – who had made war.
[SA]B. Mitford Fire Trumpet III 134: He cracked his fingers in the direction of Kafirland.
[UK]Daily Press (Newport News, VA) 4 Oct. 5/4: There are fairies of all kinds in Kaffir-land — so at least you would be told by the [...] children.
[SA]O. Walker Kaffirs are Lively 97: The old frontier Boers [...] consolidated their encroachments in Kaffraria, or ‘Kaffirland’, by seizing water-holes. [Ibid.] 189: He returned as a qualified preacher to ‘Kaffirland’.
U. Long Journals of E. Lees-Price 230: Africans living on the borders of Cape Colony in Kaffirland.
[SA]K. McMagh Dinner of Herbs 19: About the year 1846 when small bands of ‘Wild Kaffirs’ frequently strayed from [...] the borders of ‘Kaffirland’ and infiltrated into the surrounding districts.
[SA]J. Cock Maids and Madams 219: Travelling to Kaffirland must have been hazardous.
[SA]R. Malan My Traitor’s Heart (1991) 48: He said, ‘These kaffirs must all go back to kaffirland.’.
kaffir-lover (n.)

(S.Afr.) one who is deemed (by racists) to to be overly friendly to blacks.

[SA]IOL News (Western Cape) 4 June [Internet] Shaik claimed he was beaten up and called k*****-lover.

In phrases

go to the kaffirs (v.) [derog. var. on SE colloq. phr. go to the dogs]

to deteriorate, to decline socially .

S.G.L. Millin King of the Bastards 3: ‘He thought no more of such things than our own young men who go to the Kaffirs,’ said Carolus Buys.
Jack Kaffir (n.)

a generic term for black people.

[SA]B. Mitford Fire Trumpet II 3: Jack Kafir [...] has the bump of acquisitiveness very highly developed.
[UK]B. Mitford ’Tween Snow and Fire 76: We’ll pay off some old scores on Jack Kafir’s hide.
kitchen kaffir (n.)

pidgin Zulu language.

[UK]J. Hobbs Thoughts in a Makeshift Mortuary 92: Though she came from Natal, she did not use the pidgin Zulu once known as kitchen kaffir, but now that the word ‘kaffir’ was acknowledged as insulting, called Fanagalo.
white kaffir (n.)

1. a derog. term for a white perceived as behaving badly by their peers.

[UK]Blackburn & Caddell Secret Service in S. Afr. 183: Here and there one comes upon creatures who have chosen deliberately the lot of the white Kaffir. They are invariably degenerates.
[SA]C. Hope Separate Development 104: ‘My blood’s all right. Skin’s the problem. Say a whitekaffir, then . . . ’ ‘Well, I suppose you mean as opposed to a Bantu, a non-white, an African, a native, or an ordinary common-or-garden kaffir?’.

2. a white who has become overly close to or assimilated into the black community.

[SA] Natal Witness 31 July n.p.: One of the white caffers have [sic] been taken into custody on suspicion [DSAE].
[SA]C. Hamilton Life and Sport in South-Eastern Afr. 264: In my opinion the Dutch Boer is little else than a White Kaffir [DSAE].
[SA]J.P. Fitzpatrick Outspan 27: You can’t imagine — my surprise when I found that my naked white Kaffir sailor-friend, Sebougwaan, was the man of the hour [DSAE].
[UK]D. Blackburn Leaven 38: ‘He educated a kaflr girl and married her. That’s the result,’ Betts indicated the huts ... ‘He’s a white kafir now, with plenty of time on his hands for educating his nigger family.’.
[UK]Blackburn & Caddell Secret Service in S. Afr. 182: Most of the whites living in seclusion with native wives have much the same excuse. [...] Naturally, any social relationship with white neighbours ceased [...] and in the course of a few years the white Kaffir has become absolutely irreclaimable.
[SA]S.G.L. Millin South Africans 209: (Swart), In the old days men, thrusting their ancestry, their traditions [...] completely behind them, became what people sometimes call in South Africa ‘white Kaffirs’ [DSAE].
[SA]C. Bullock Rina 91: Sailors who were shipwrecked or had deserted from their ships had sometimes sought refuge in African kraals and become ‘white kaffirs’ [DSAE].
[SA]W. Illsley Wagon on Fin 88: If he appeared familiar and friendly with the Africans, the white people dubbed him a white kaffir, a destroyer of white prestige, and ostracized him from their social life [DSAE].
[SA]S. Cloete Chetoko 150: Trelawney’s his name .. and he’s a white Kaffir ... He’s gone native [DSAE].
M. de Lange Muzzled Muse: Lit. and Censorship in S. Afr. 92: A bus driver, for example, throws him from a whites-only bus, calling him a white kaffir.
[SA]P.-D. Uys No Space on Long Street (2000) 7: ‘Full of hippies,’ that’s what Gracie said. ‘Druggies. Queers. White Kaffirs.’.
(con. 1922) J. Krikler White Rising 149: For many whites, to be ground down into poverty and dependence was to become a ‘white kaffir’.

3. an albino.

[SA]L.G. Berger Where’s the Madam? 164: He and his charwoman wife had between them bred three ‘white Kaffirs’ — albino natives with white hair, pink eyes, white freckled skin, yet unmistakable native features.
[SA] informant in DSAE.
[SA]C. Hope Separate Development 31: ‘White kaffir!’ His words carried very well. In fact they were positively bruited abroad. Passersby took the full force of them and stared at me.
[SA]R. Malan My Traitor’s Heart (1991) 50: An albino came in. The Greeks started taunting him, saying, ‘You’re a white kaffir, aren’t you, a white kaffir, hey?’.