Singaporean slangs – a guide to Singlish

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.

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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*

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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:

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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 firstB: Bro…

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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:

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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 lorBoy: Ok lor, we go Japanese?Girl: I don’t want*gets in a fight*

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*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 pleaseB: Wah this guy damn guai lan.

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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.