90 Singlish phrases to help you navigate everyday life in Singapore

Expat life
19 May 2024
6 mins read
Written by Team Instarem

Planning to move to Singapore? Here are some quick Singlish phrases that you should know. Singlish is a unique form of English that is spoken in Singapore. It combines English with Malay, Chinese, and Tamil. Singlish is very different from traditional English, so it may take some time to get used to it.

 

However, Singlish is a very useful language to know if you want to live in Singapore. In this blog post, we will give you 90 Singlish phrases that will help you get by in everyday life!

 

Here are some quick Singlish phrases for you to pick up:

Food and Beverages

Singlish Terms

Meanings

 Jelak

Heavy and overwhelming taste

Q / QQ

Chewy and springy

Sedap

Delicious

Wok Hei

Pleasant, charred smokiness

Bao Jiak

Guaranteed delicious, for durians

Chao Ta

Burnt

Chao Cho / Qi

Foul-smelling Seafood

Hiam

Spicy

Da Bao

Takeaway your order

Shiok

Very enjoyable

Bagus

Very good

Makan

Eat

Teh

Tea

Kopi

Coffee

The art of ordering coffee and tea in Singapore
 

Coffee

Tea

Milo

Original

Kopi

Teh

Milo

Cold version

Kopi Peng

Teh Peng

Milo Peng

Evaporated milk and sugar

Kopi C

Teh C

 

No milk with sugar

Kopi O

Teh O

Milo O

No milk no sugar

Kopi O Kosong

Teh O Kosong

Milo O Kosong

Less sweet

Kopi Siew Dai

Teh Siew Dai

Milo Siew Dai

No milk, less sugar

Kopi O Siew Dai

Teh O Siew Dai

 

More sugar

Kopi Gah Dai

Teh Gah Dai

Milo Gah Dai

Strong (more powder)

Kopi Gao

 

Milo Gao

Strong with sugar but no milk

Kopi O Gao

 

Milo O Gao

Less caffeine

Kopi Po

  

Extra strong caffeine

Kopi Di Lo

  

Butter

Kopi Gu You

  

With Egg

Kopi Ga Kweh Nrng

  

With room temperature water

Kopi Pua Sio

  
Tarik (pulled) version
 

Kopi

Teh

Pulled version (with condensed milk and sugar)

Kopi Tarik

Teh Tarik

With sugar

Kopi O Tarik

Teh O Tarik

Milo Dinosaur and Godzilla

Milo Dinosaur: Ice version with condensed milk and sugar and lots of milo powder on top

 

Milo Godzilla: Ice version with condensed milk and sugar PLUS a scoop of ice cream and lots of topping

Descriptions

Singlish Terms

Meanings

Act blur

To play the innocent card or act ignorant

Agak agak

Rough estimate

Aiyoh

An expression of surprise, and/or annoyance

Alamak

Singlish equivalent of “oh my gosh” or “oh man”

Arrow

To dump a task on someone else, rather than complete it yourself

Atas

To be posh or of high social status

Bo liao

Feeling bored or idle like there’s nothing better to do

Boleh

A Malay word for ‘can’, or ‘possible’

Can or not

A way of asking if something is possible or can be achieved

Catch no ball

To be absolutely clueless

Chiong

To rush, to hurry, or to give your all to complete something

Chope

To reserve a place or call dibs on something

Eye power

Someone who doesn’t extend help. Instead, they stand around and stare as if their eyes can offer assistance

Lepak

Chilling without a care in the world or loitering around aimlessly

Common Singaporean Phrases

Phrases

Meanings

Don’t spoil market

What you say when you want someone to maintain the status quo and not raise the bar, thus making it hard for you and others to compete

Confirm plus chop

Super sure

Lim Kopi

Grab a coffee and hang out

Got lobang?

Are there any opportunities

Die Die Must Try

Must Try no matter what

Talk Cock

Untrue stories

Don’t sabo me please

Don’t sabotage me

Blur like Sotong

Someone who is slow at catching on or just generally clueless

On the ball

Top at their job

Own time own target

Do things at your own pace

Boh jio

Why didn’t you invite me

Don’t kaypoh lah

Stop being such a busybody

Abuden

A sarcastic way of saying you don’t say

Bo chup

Used to describe someone who does not care

Chop chop

Singlish term used to hurry people

CMI

Short form for cannot make it. Can be used to turn down someone or to describe a person as less than satisfactory (derogatory)

Don’t play play

Used to tell someone not to fool around or to take a matter seriously

Hao lian

Describes someone who likes to show off. Hao lian bo la liang, is a longer form of this phrase.

Lah, leh, lor, liao, hor, mah, meh, sia

Doesn’t it sound like a whole new language? It might seem extremely confusing when you first arrive in Singapore. But after a few weeks, you will realise that it’s not that complicated. In fact, it’s just a way of shortening most British English sentences with some punctured grammar.

 

It’s like a little abbreviation secret code, you know? And hey, it gets the point across, right? Sure, you might sound a bit silly using it at first, but after a while, you’ll start to enjoy it.

Lah

Adding “Lah” to any sentence just adds that extra oomph of confidence.

 

  • Queen’s English: I’m sure the coffee will taste alright!
  • Singlish: The kopi here okay one lah!
Leh

You’re not feeling too sure about this whole situation

 

  • Queen’s English: I’m not too sure how to order a coffee in Singapore.
  • Singlish: I not sure how to order kopi leh.
Lor

Accepting a situation that is not within your control.

 

  • Queen’s English: The coffee is out of stock.
  • Singlish: The kopi boh liao lor.
Hor

Usually, a question that requires agreement.

 

  • Queen’s English: Are you sure you would like a cup of coffee and not tea?
  • Singlish: You sure you want kopi hor?
Mah

Confident or referring to the obvious. Mildly attempting to persuade.

 

  • Queen’s English: Would you like to try the coffee from this shop?
  • Singlish: You want to try the kopi from this shop mah?
Meh

Use when in doubt about other things or people.

 

  • Queen’s English: Are you sure they sell coffee?
  • Singlish: They got sell kopi meh?
Sia

Use at the end of the sentence when one is genuinely surprised.

 

  • Queen’s English: The coffee is really expensive.
  • Singlish: The kopi sibeh expensive sia.

Moving to Singapore?

At this point, you’ve already brushed up on your Singlish! As an expat, after going through the process of relocating and adjusting to a new country like understanding Singlish, there might be one final challenge – how do you send money back home? Traditional banks can be costly, leaving you with fewer funds.

 

That’s where Instarem comes in.

 

With no hidden fees and competitive exchange rates, we make it easy to send money home.

send money with Instarem

*rates are for display purposes only.

Try Instarem for your next transfer by downloading the app or sign up here.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. All details are accurate at the time of publishing. Instarem has no affiliation or relationship with products or vendors mentioned.

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