50 Powderful Singlish That S’poreans Are Proud of Using One Leh

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Singaporeans are unique in our own ways, one of them being Singlish. We speak in English but pepper our sentences with Mandarin AND Hokkien. “Eh today you free, 看电影 ai mai?” Translation: If you’re free today, wanna watch a movie?

Though it doesn’t mean we can’t construct correct, complete sentences in English, we’re proud of this Singlish that we picked up from when we were young. That’s what sets us apart from other countries, making us so uniquely Singapore.

Here are 50 common, must-know words to learn if you’re new to Singlish, or to be proud of if you are Singaporean!

Ai stead mai?
The ah beng and old school way of asking someone to be your girlfriend.

“Eh chio bu, ai stead mai?”

Bo jio
You didn’t invite me.

“Yesterday you go watch Jurassic World?? Bo jio sia!”

bojiohttp://www.mememaker.net

Catch no balls
Used when you don’t understand something.

“Teacher talk until so much, but I still catch no balls leh…”

Chim
Hokkien term meaning something is profound or deep or intellectual.

“Wah! You study law? Chim sia!”

Do you have a friend who’s always smiling? Watch this video and you’ll know why he or she is always so happy:

Dowan
A shorter way of saying “don’t want”.

“Dowan lah, I dowan to eat mcdonalds today can?”

Gahmen
Singlish mispronounciation of “government”.

Taxi uncle: “Walao the gahmen keep raising ERP, how they expect us to keep up? This gahmen ah…”

Gone case
A situation or person beyond help.

“We wanted to help him but I think he gone case already.”

Hoot
The ah beng way of saying “fight”.

Ah beng: “Oi! Kua simi kua? Ai tio hoot ah!”

Kan chiong
Cantonese for “being nervous” or “uptight”.

“Our exam is only next week, don’t so kan chiong can?!”

keep calmhttp://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

Kan chiong spider
It basically means someone who is very kan chiong.

Kope
To steal something trifle.

“Wow, where did you kope this keychain from?”

Jiak kantang
A pejorative term referring to condescending intellectuals who seem to be more English-educated. “Jiak kantang” literally means eating potato, which is more westernised than Asians eating rice.

“Oh, James’ English is quite good because he jiak kantang one.”

potatohttp://www.theguardian.com

Jialat
Used to describe a bad situation.

“He got caught for peeping into the girls toilet? Wah, jialat liao.”

jialathttp://memegenerator.net

Kannasai
Atrocious or literally means “like shit”.

“He this type of person can get such a high paying job? Kannasai!”

Kaypoh
Busybody.

“Why are you so kaypoh? Stop poking your nose into my business leh.”

Kiasu
Hokkien adjective meaning “afraid of losing”. Also a pejorative stereotype of Singaporeans.

“You went to queue for the free burgers at 2am?! So kiasu!”

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Image: Chatchai Somwat / Shutterstock.com (Image is for illustration purpose only)

Kum gong
Hokkien phrase for “blur” or “stupid”.

“How come you so kum gong until you really believe he was telling the truth?”

Lagi
Malay for “again”, “more”, or “still”.

“This Friday I need to OT until 11pm, Saturday I still need to work until 5pm, lagi best!”

Lah
An exclamation at the end of the sentence, but pronounced differently if it’s a question.

“I was using my laptop lah.”

“If you think it’s so simple, you do it lah?”

Leh
Similar to “lah”. Used to emphasise the sentence.

“Wah, you were studying leh.”

Lor
Spoken in a casual manner, signifying resignation.

“Bobian, what to do? Like that lor.”

Macam
Malay for “like” or “resembling something”.

“The food from this stall tastes so bad, macam eating grass sia.”

Mai siao siao
“Don’t play play” or “don’t joke around”.

“Eh, he used to study in one of the Ivy Leagues. Mai siao siao!”

mai siao siaohttp://blog.myfatpocket.com

Meh
A singlish tag accompanying a question. “He studies in Ngee Ann meh?”

Neh mind
Deliberate misspelling of “nevermind”.

“Neh mind lah, don’t cry over spilt milk.”

Never see before meh?
Denotes that someone is a mountain tortoise.

“That white-and-gold-or-blue-and-black dress went viral online, you never see before meh?”

Obiang
Embarrassingly out of fashion.

“Check out her style, quite obiang hor.”

Or bi good
Serves you right.

“Who ask you so careless that you misplaced your camera. Or bi good!”

Pai seh
Hokkien for “embarrassed”.

“Pai seh lah, I forgot to remind you to bring your calculator for exam only what.”

paisehhttp://memegenerator.net

Powderful
A deliberate misspelling of “powerful”. (We don’t know how or why this word came about in the first place…)

“His engrand (England/English) quite powderful sia.”

Relac
A deliberate misspelling of “relax”a.

“Relac one corner lah, exam next week what!”

Shiok
An expression of satisfaction.

“He paid for her buffet dinner, that’s why she ate until so shiok.”

Sia
An exclamation.

“Look at that rat! Very huge sia!!!”

Sian jit pua
“Ji pua” means “by half” in Hokkien, so if you put the words together, the phrase means “boring by half”. Which, essentially, means extremely boring.

“Sian jit pua, I thought their concert would be more exciting than this!”

high expectationhttp://diylol.com

Siao on
Someone who’s extremely enthusiastic or hardworking.

“Alec is a very siao on guy – regardless what he does in life, he gives it his all.”

Siao liao
A Hokkien exclamation used when something has gone horribly wrong.

“Siao liao!! I forgot to accept the job offer from half a year ago!”

siao liaohttp://memecrunch.com

Step
To act as if.

“Don’t step hipster please.”

Sua ku
Hokkien for mountain tortoise.

“I’m sure you know how to use the internet. You’re not so sua ku, are you?”

Sure can one
You definitely can do it.

“Scoring straight A’s isn’t difficult for Asians. Sure can one!”

Toot
Used to describe weird behaviour.

“That boy’s actions are a little toot sometimes.”

Very what one
Describing something irritating about someone.

“She has this aura around her that irritates me. Sometimes she can be very what one!!”

Wah lau / wah piang
A frustrated exclamation for “what the heck”.

“Wa lau, you don’t like durians???”

Wake up your idea
Popularly used in the army, it means get your sh*t together.

“You want to be a billionaire overnight? Wake up your idea lah!”

What thing?
“What are you talking about?”

What talking you?
What thing? Can repeat?

Xia suay
A disgrace or embarrassment.

“Eh stay away from me later. Don’t xia suay me with your stupid jokes.”

Yaya papaya
Used to describe someone’s arrogance.

“He got promoted to CEO in such a short while so he can yaya papaya mah!”

Your head
Mild curse used when someone makes an incorrect assumption.

“Are you sure she won the beauty pageant? Your head lah!”

Zai
To be super good at something.

“Wow, I thought you are quite zai in the art of talking nonsense?”

Zxzxsc
The ah lian way of ending a word or phrase with “zxsc”, just so it looks cute. (Nah, we’re kidding! This is just for laughs.)

And if you aren’t local, don’t worry – sometimes we still learn more Singlish as we grow older.

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