The Origin of ‘Alamak’: It’s Allegedly Used First By the Japanese & It’s Used Mainly by Females


Last Updated on 2020-12-17 , 6:18 pm

Language is evolving over the years. Nothing is really considered ‘wrong’, for ‘right’ is determined by how widely it’s used among humans in the world.

So you could really invent a word like ‘Eleven’ and use it as an exclamation over strange things. It just needs to go viral and have it on urban dictionary.

That’s the wonders of language. Always changing and debatable.

And now, we see how a commonly used expression is reported to be used by the Japanese instead of Singaporeans / Malaysians.

This word is ‘ALAMAK’.

As y’all know, ‘Alamak’ is often a substitute of “OMG”, “oh no” and it can be an expression for a state of shock, disappointment or disapproval.

Ask anyone what language ‘Alamak’ is and they would probably tell you it’s Malay.

Presently, there’s another school of thought for us to consider. Written as “あらまあ” in Japanese characters, it is pronounced with an “r” instead of an “l” (Ara mā). Listen to the pronunciation here.

According to Alexandria McPherson, an ESL teacher and Japanese to English translator, “あらまあ” (Ara mā) is a more feminine expression which has the meaning of “oh my”, as demonstrated by these Japan-exclusive LINE stickers.

According to Google translate, it is “oh well”.

Any Japanese lovers out there who can confirm the actual meaning of “あらまあ” (Ara mā)?

Speculation has it that the locals took the expression from the Japanese during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore in World War II from 1942 to 1945. But it could be the other way round so there’s no definite answer.

In fact, there are similarities across languages all over the world.

So I won’t say that it’s a “who copied who” kind of discussion but more a matter of lexical similarities in linguistics.

There are other words that are of higher mutual intelligibility – a relationship between languages or dialects in which speakers of different but related varieties can readily understand each other without prior familiarity.


Food for thought in the form of English / Malay / Japanese:

  1. America / Amerika / アメリカ (pronounced as “Amerika”)
  2. Camera / Kamera /  カメラ (pronounced as “Kamera”)
  3. Memory / Memori /  メモリ (pronounced as “Memori”)
  4. Guitar / Gitar / ギター (pronounced as “Gitā”)
  5. Panda / Panda / パンダ (pronounced as “Panda”)

The above translations are based on research and with the help of my very good friend, Google. So let us know if there’s anything wrong or anything else you would love to add to the list!

This is the reason why it’s sometimes easier for certain people to learn a new language because their mother tongue has a higher percentage in terms of lexical similarity with the new language they are learning.

With that said, English was evaluated to have a lexical similarity of 60% with German and 27% with French. So if there’s even anything new you want to pick up for the new year, make it German or French.

Viel Glück!