Singaporean slangs – a guide to Singlish


Singapore slangs cover


Hearing Singaporean slangs like, “WAH, SO FAT ALREADY AH!” or “AH BOY, MAMA MISS YOU LEI,” is so heart-warming especially when you step into Changi Airport after being away from home for a long time.

Something about hearing Singlish always hits home after an eternity of trying to convince the world that Singapore isn’t part of China.  This post of 26 Singaporean slangs is dedicated to all you true blue Singaporeans out there.

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1. Atas


What it means: A Malay word that means “above” or “upstairs”, used to refer to people who have high SES or places that are expensive.

The everyday Singaporean:

A: *going to 7-11* Eh you want water?
B: Ya but only Evian or Fiji, thanks.
A: You so atas for what I only got $2!
B: *drinking from their overpriced tumbler and can’t be bothered*


2. Rabak


What it means: Used to refer to a person or situation that’s out of control, usually meaning something negative.

Variations: Rabz, Rabz kebabz

The everyday Singaporean:

A: *trips and falls onto train tracks*

Commuter Accidentally Falls Onto BTS Tracks, Others Frantically Wave At Train To Stop And Save Her Life
Image credit: @ping_ka

B: Aiyo you damn rabak leh.


3. Eye power


What it means: No, Singaporeans don’t have super-powered eyes. It’s a term used for people who are just watching others do manual labour instead of helping.

The everyday Singaporean:

Recruit A: Faster sweep leh the sergeant coming.
Recruit B: Then you help la!
Recruit A: I help with eye power.
Recruit B:


4. Pokkai


What it means: When you’ve used up all your pocket money or salary before the end of the month and you’re broke AF.

The everyday Singaporean:

A: Guys let’s go Haidilao for dinner.
B: Sorry bro, I pokkai, pay haven’t come in.
A: Come bro I lend you first
B: Bro…

Dividend payouts


5. Suay


What it means: Used to describe a person who’s unlucky or a situation that’s not favourable.

The everyday Singaporean:

A: OMG I just stepped in some dog poop.
B: Haha you damn suay


6. Yaya papaya


What it means: A term meant for arrogant people who just love to show off.

The everyday Singaporean:

A: Eh long time no see!
B: Ya bro have you heard from *insert your rich friend’s name here*
A: No leh but you see his Instagram story anot he got a new car sia.
B: Aiya, he yaya papaya only.
Rich friend who’s probably in some hotel in Switzerland:

Singaporean slangs: yaya papaya

7. Bo jio

What it means: Arguably the most overused words in Singapore, “bo jio” is amazingly applicable to almost every situation in life. A Hokkien phrase which means never invite, your friends will probably say it to you if you fail to share this awesome article with them.

The everyday Singaporean:

A: *Posts an image on Instagram having an awesome time somewhere*
B: Bo jio

Example of an irrelevant use of bo jio:

A: *Takes a photo of him and girlfriend*

Singaporean slangs: bo jio

B: Bo jio

Counter:

My personal favourite comeback: Bo jio? Jio also you never come!

8. Whatever / anything lor


What it means: Anything lor, whatever lor. The typical response when you have no idea what you want, but you are just too shy or lazy to suggest something. You’re likely to reject the first few suggestions too, shame on you!

To make it #SoSingaporean, we add the Singlish word “lor” for the emphasis.

The everyday Singaporean:

Boy: Wat u wanna eat?
Girl: Anything lor
Boy: Ok lor, we go Japanese?
Girl: I don’t want
*gets in a fight*

Singaporean slangs

*but works it out anyway*

9. Guai lan

What it means: Literally meaning strange dick in Hokkien, “guai lan” usually refers to people who are difficult to deal with or are just plain annoying.

The everyday Singaporean:
A: Eh help me leh, please please please please
B: Wah this guy damn guai lan.

10. Wah lau eh

What it means: A Hokkien phase which when translated stands for “my father eh“, “wah lau eh” is an expression typically used to portray surprise or disappointment.

Similiar phrases: Wah piang eh, wah kao

The everyday Singaporean:

Boss: So does anyone have any suggestions to fix this?

*krik krik*

Boss: Vic, how about you?
Vic: Wah lau eh

your mind wanders - signs you have a crush

11. What time already

What it means: “What time already is meant for that one friend who is never, ever on time for gatherings.

The everyday Singaporean:

A: Eh bro, where are you?
B: On my way, reaching soon..

*30 Minutes Later*

apple watch

A: EH BRO, WHERE YOU?
B: Reaching reaching!! 10 min!! Pai seh pai seh.
C: OIIIIII, what time already!!!?
B: *leaves house 1 hour after meeting time*

Pins and needles

12. Pai seh

What it means: A Hokkien phrase which means 不好意思 or a feeling of embarrassment. “pai seh” is used mainly as an apologetic response or a portrayal of the feeling of embarrassment.

The everyday Singaporean:

A: *thinks of an excuse to pang seh*
B:
A: Paiseh ah I need to fetch my mum.
B: Lol… sure…

13. Kao pei kao bu (KPKB)

What it means: Meaning cry father, cry mother in Hokkien, the crying indicates noise and “KPKB” is used for people who kicks up a big fuss about something. It can also be used in short form “kao pei la” to scold someone who sprouts nonsense.

The everyday Singaporean:

Student: Eh teacher, you see, you see, he take my pencil!!
Teacher: *can’t be bothered* KPKB la

Listening to music - introvert

LOL okay, that doesn’t actually happen but, you guys get the idea.

14. CB

What it means: No, we’re not making references to a certain legendary leaf we army boys discover in Tekong. CB is also known as “chio bu“, a Hokkien phrase which means actually means buxom lady. In the Singaporean context, however, it is the guys’ favourite phrase to describe the presence of an attractive girl.

The everyday Singaporean:

A: Eh bro, chiobu! 6 o’clock!
B:

OWNDAYS' Transitions lenses

B: Wah chiobu sia.
C: Oh please even my ah ma prettier

15. Last warning

What it means: Have you ever felt like kicking your friend’s ass for doing something really stupid or for being impossibly smart at exams? Just like a referee brandishing a yellow card in a soccer game, “last warning” is one of those Singaporean slangs used at people whose face you feel like punching for whatever reason; or for things that just tick you off and makes you go LOL or ARGH.

The everyday Singaporean:

A: Eh bro look at that auntie digging her nose on the bus.
B: Wah last warning sia…

16. Eee-yer

What it means: Pronounced “e-year”, “eeyer” is a slang to signify a person’s disgust or dislike when encountering something gross or just plain disgusting.

The everyday Singaporean:

Girl: Hey babe, check out my oozing pimple..
Boy: Eeyer… Want me to pop anot?

17. GG

What it means: A popular gamer’s term, “GG”, also known as good game, has in recent years been added to the Singaporean’s list of slangs to represent the feeling that something is going to or has already ended in a disaster.

The everyday Singaporean:

A: Eh, project when due?
B: Erm.. Tomorrow 2359. Why you haven’t started yet ah?
A: Ya man, how siaaa…
B: GG bro.

18. Siao

What it means: Meaning crazy in Hokkien. “siao” is used as a reply to a crazy idea or proposition by someone, or to describe a crazy person. Check out the video below for a typical Singaporean’s usage of “siao“:

The everyday Singaporean:

Boy: *To girl best friend* Actually, after all these years of being friends, I just wanted to tell you.. I love you.. A lot..
Girl best friend: LOL SIAO AH?

Singaporean slangs: siao

19. Come I clap for you

What it means: “Come I clap for you” is a sarcastic response to anything in which you know a praise is due or expected but.. you just didn’t feel like being genuine about it.

The everyday Singaporean:

A: Eh bro you know what?
B: What?
A: Yesterday I managed to get the girl’s number after planning my approach for 4 weeks!
B: Well done, come I clap for you.

20. No link

What it means: “No link” is the Singaporean way to describe when someone says something that has completely no relevance to the conversation and which makes you go “???”.

Honestly, we can just say “this has no relevance” but.. We love shortcuts.

The everyday Singaporean:

A: *on the phone* Eh you know yesterday Charlie got attached to Charlene!
B: Attached as in attachment? Like internship?
A: ???
C: *overhearing* What the hell, no link bro…

Singaporean Slangs: no link
Image credit: TheSmartLocal

21. Pang seh

What it means: A Hokkien term which basically means to abandon. “Pang seh” is used to describe someone who habitually does not turn up for meetings or appointments, or who always gives excuses to not show up at the last moment.

The everyday Singaporean:

A: Eh tomorrow don’t pangseh me hor
B: Ok ok.

*the next day*

B: Eh bro, sorry I last minute cannot make it.
A: *not surprised* Kbyeee

Singaporean slangs: paiseh

22. Jialat

What it means: The exact translation of “jialat” is sapping energy in Hokkien. However, the usage of “jialat” is to describe a tragic or disastrous situation.

The everyday Singaporean:

Girl: Do I look fat in this dress?
Boy: No, you look gorgeous babe.
Girl: Come on, I want to hear your honest opinion. I won’t get mad!
Boy: Errr okay, maybe hot pink doesn’t really suit you.
Girl: OMG I knew it! YOU DON’T CARE AT ALL ABOUT ME DO YOU?!
Boy: Wah sibei jialat

23. Sian

What it means: “Sian” is a Hokkien word which conveys boredom, frustration, weariness or monotony.

Singaporean slangs: sian

The everyday Singaporean:
What Monday morning classes feel like:

Singaporean slangs: sian

24. Steady

What it means: “Steady” used to be a term which implies that a boy and a girl are in a serious relationship. I still remember those secondary school days where the guys will go, “Wanna stead?” when asking a girl to be his girlfriend. These days, “steady” has evolved into one of those Singaporean slangs that’s a positive reply in response to a suggestion or idea.

The everyday Singaporean:

A: Eh bro, tonight New Year’s countdown, we go drink then party?
B: Steady la

25. Liddat

What it means: If you ever observed a Singaporeans’ exchange of messages or listen in to a conversation, you most probably would have come across something that spells “L-i-d-d-a-t” or sounds like “Lie-dat”. “Liddat” is the Singaporean’s shortcut to “like that”.. because we just like to do everything fast(er).

The everyday Singaporean:

*5 Hours before project deadline*

A: Eh, David say he got to send his parents to airport, so he cannot complete his part of the project. He asks us to help him finish.
B: Liddat win liao lor

26. Simi

What it means: Simi” bascially means what in Hokkien. It is usually paired with “tai-ji” meaning problem or “sai” meaning shit to give the words:

Simi-taiji: What’s the problem?
Simi-sai: What the shit / Whatever shit

The everyday Singaporean:

*during final exams*

Students: Simi sai is this??!! *runs away*

Singaporean slangs: simi sai

Everyday Singaporean Slangs

This isn’t the complete list of Singaporean slangs in our vocabulary, but these are some of the more common ones. There are many others that we didn’t include in this list, maybe even some new ones. Either way, these Singaporean slangs are something both us and our foreigner friends can enjoy.

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Original article published on 25th December 2013. Last updated by Alvy Rose on 27th March 2020.