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Popular Singlish terms

Updated on May 29, 2017

The basic concept of Singlish is quite simple. It is an English with everything shorten and without tenses. But since many of the words are taken from other dialects like Malay and Hokkien, it can sound like a totally different language for a foreigner. Before starting your trip in the Lion City, familiarise yourself with a few useful phrases of the colloquial language.

If you have a funny/memorable experiences with Singlish, share with us in the comment section!


-lah = It simultaneously softens the force of a sentence (That's not what I meant lah), but can also be used as brusque, short, negative responses (Don't want lah!).

-lor = Carries a sense of resignation, or alternatively, dismissiveness like 'it happens this way and can't be helped' (Don't have work to do, then go home lor).

mah = Used to assert that something is obvious and final (He also know about it mah! – He knew about it as well, [so it's not my fault!])


Aiyo! = Oh dear!
Aiyo, I can't wait anymore!

Alamak! = Oh my God!
Alamak! I already told you dozens of time!


Shiok = Delicious

He shui mah? = (What) Do you want to drink?

Mai hum = No/without cocklesDoesn't mean the same thing Black Eyed Peas said, mai hum in Singapore means "no cockles". It is important to use when ordering laksa.

Makan = Eat

Coffee = Milk coffee
Unlike anywhere else, for some reasons, ordering "coffee" in Singapore will get you a milk coffee instead. And it's not fresh milk, it's condensed milk. If you want a black coffee, try "kopi O".

Tea = Milk tea
Same concept with coffee, say "tea" alone will get you tea with condensed milk.

Kopi/Teh O Kosong = Black coffee
Please never say "Americano" in hawker center or foodcourts here, there's a slim chance they understand that and a high chance you'll get scolded by the seller.

Kopi/Teh C = Coffee or tea with creamer
This is the closest you'll get to coffee/tea with fresh milk.

For more detailed distinctions for types of coffee in Singapore, here's a cheat sheet:



Ah then?
So what? What else?
Example: If you don't what to go to the park, ah then?

Or not?
Example: You understand anot?

Exclamation for enthusiasm and happiness.
Example: Hosay! My boyfriend just won lottery.

Example: Don't be so kaypoh lah!

Neh mind
Never mind
Example: If you don't want to go out, then neh mind.

What talking you?
What are you saying? What are you talking about?

Special occassions

Gong xi gong xi = Congratulations!

Gong xi fa cai = Congratulations and be prosperous.
Said during Chinese New Year.

Shen ri kuai le = Happy birthday!

Wan shi ru yi = May you find success in everything.
More usually said during Chinese New Year.

Xin nian kuai le = Happy New Year
May you find success in everything.
Can be said both during New Year and Chinese New Year.

Fighting back

F**k you
Koreanised version: Kananisayeo.

Like shit.
Example: Stop singing, your voice kanasai.

Talk cock
Talking bullshit.



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