Culture

30 Singaporean Slang Words Only A True Blue Singaporean Will Know

Singaporean slang words – A guide to Singlish


Hearing Singaporean slang 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 30 Singaporean slang words is dedicated to all you true blue Singaporeans out there.


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 while walking normally*

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…


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:


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*

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*

*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


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*

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*


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

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:

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?


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…


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


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.

The everyday Singaporean:
What Monday morning classes feel like:


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 slang 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*


27. Shag


What it means: While the pronunciation is the same, Singlish shag doesn’t mean a carpet, hairstyle, or sexy time. It means you’re feeling super duper tired.

The everyday Singaporean: “Last night I OT-ed until 2am and then had to be back in the office at 8am. Damn shag sia.”


28. Act blur


What it means: If you’re acting blur, it means you’re pretending to be innocent or seem confused. Another saying you might come across often is “blur sotong”, which means a clueless or ignorant person. 

The everyday Singaporean: “Don’t act blur. I know you ate her cup noodles.”


29. Dabao


What it means: Singapore’s version of buying takeaway. Another variation you’ll see is tapao. While the term is derived from Mandarin, countries like China and Taiwan might not have a clue what you’re talking about.

 The everyday Singaporean:

A: Are you going to dabao food for lunch?
B: No, I brought food from home.


30. Arrow


What it means: A noun that acts as a verb, commonly used in the workplace. It means to assign someone a task that tends to be unfavourable.

The everyday Singaporean: “If no one volunteers to take the Saturday shift, I’ll have to arrow someone”.


Everyday Singaporean slang words

This isn’t the complete list of Singaporean slang words 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 slang is something both us and our foreign friends can enjoy.

Check out other similar articles here:


Original article published on 25th December 2013. Last updated by Samantha Nguyen on 17h June 2023.

Joshua Goh

I love eating, gaming, hanging out with friends and writing. I hope I can consider napping a hobby too but then it is sort of an unpleasant hobby so.. forget it. It's painful to grow up because all I do is grow fatter.

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