Singapore language, phrases and words
English is widely spoken in Singapore but you may find it hard to understand some of what’s being said. Many Singaporeans speak what has been dubbed ‘Singlish’ which borrows from the many different languages spoken in Singapore. Here’s a collection of ‘Singlish’ terms which you might find handy on your Singapore vacation:
Derived from the English language meaning to show off. For example – ‘he always likes to action in front of the ladies’.
Derived from the Hokkien dialect meaning couldn’t care less.
3. Chope (reserve)
A handy phrase if you want to reserve seats in a restaurant.
Derived from the Malay language meaning dumb or stupid.
You’ll hear this one a lot as it’s the most famous of Singaporean expressions! It’s used at the end of sentences for emphasis, for example ‘very funny, lah!’
6. Shiok (fantastic)
Derived from the Malay language, this is a handy one to describe a tasty dish. For example ‘that prawn mee soup was shiok!’
7. Kiasu (afraid to lose out to others or not to lose face)
Derived from the Hokkien dialect, kaisu is something the Singaporeans endeavour to avoid! For example ‘he sent his family to line up in different queues for the same item, so kiasu’.
8. Terok (troublesome or difficult)
Derived from the Malay language, you might hear this word if you’re being a difficult customer!
9. Ulu (rural)
Derived from the Malay language meaning rural or a deserted place. For example ‘this place is so ulu, you hardly see a single soul around even on weekends’.
10. Ya ya (boastful or arrogant)
He’s so ya ya, lah!
Now you’ve learned the lingo, check out our Singapore travel guide to learn more about this exciting country and book your trip!