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  Wikipedia: Singlish

Wikipedia: Singlish
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

 Major English dialects:
American English
Australian English
British English
Canadian English
Caribbean English
Indian English
Jamaican English
Liberian English
Malaysian English
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Singapore English
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Singlish is the dialect of the English language as spoken colloquially in Singapore. Singlish formally takes after British English (in terms of spelling and abbreviations), although naming conventions are in a mix of American and British ones. For instance, local media have "sports pages" (sport in British English) and "soccer coverage" (the use of the word "soccer" is not common in British media).


The Singaporean Government considers Singlish a "pidgin" and a "handicap", and in the interest of promoting equality and better communication with the rest of the world has launched the Speak Good English Movement to eradicate it. Use of Singlish on television or radio is banned and schools can fine students caught speaking Singlish.

Most Singaporeans, on the other hand, think "bladi Garmen si peh kaypoh one, why always so bedek kacang hor?". This sentence can be approximately broken down into:


Singlish is influenced by both British- and increasingly American-English. It uses many words borrowed from Hokkien, the dialect of more than 50% of the Chinese population in Singapore, and from Malay.


  • ah - eh? huh?
  • Ah Beng - uneducated Chinese man, butt of jokes
  • aiyah! (Hokkien) or ayoh! - (Malay oh, no!)
  • alamak! -- surprise/shock (Malay)
  • ang moh - white person, Caucasian (from ang moh kau meaning "red haired monkey", Hokkien)
  • boleh - can (Malay)
  • COE (Certificate of Entitlement) - (very expensive) permit for car ownership
  • CPF (Central Provident Fund) - government savings scheme
  • chop - rubber stamp (from Malay cap) - "Immigration will chop your passport."
  • hawker centre - outdoor food court
  • kiah su - somebody who fears losing out (Hokkien)
  • makan - eat (from Malay)
  • HDB (Housing Development Board) - public housing
  • ISA - Internal Security Act
  • Mindef - Ministry of Defence
  • MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) Often pronounce as "M, MA, T" - metro system
  • NS - National Service
  • PAP - ''People's Action Party - governing party since 1959.
  • SAF - Singapore Armed Forces
  • shiok - cool! (Hokkien)
  • sotong -- lit. squid (Malay), fig. stupid (see also "blur")
  • ulu - rural, remote
  • wah! - wow! (Hokkien)


The ubiquitous word 'lah' is used at the end of a sentence, for emphasis. In Malay it is used to make a verb into a command. To drink is minuman, but 'drink!' is minumlah. Hence a Singaporean would say 'drink, lah!' In common with other non-native forms of English, is it? or isn't it? are generic, like the French n'est-ce pas?:

  • They should study hard, isn't it? - They should study hard, shouldn't they?
  • You don't like that, is it? - You don't like that, do you?

The order of the verb and the subject can also vary when asking a question.

  • "Excuse me, do you know where is the shopping centre? "Excuse me, do you know where the shopping centre is?"

The word one is used with an adjective:

  • So stupid one! - He's so stupid!

When asking if you want something, it is common to drop the subject, and end the sentence with or not?

  • You want or not? - Do you want it / any / some?

Instead of answering yes or no when asking whether one is able to or permitted do something, the answer is can or cannot.

  • Can I have a sweet too? Can! - Yes/go ahead/yes, you can.

Frequently the word already is used at the end of the sentence to indicate past tense.

  • He throw it already - He threw it away (already)


Singlish pronunciation, while built on a base of British English, is also heavily influenced by Chinese and Malay.

  • Sentences are often pronounced according to Chinese tone patterns, which to the native speaker may sound like the final syllable of each phrase is stressed or elongated: "Lis-sen! You can hear the du-rian drop-ping!"

  • The final consonants of syllables tend to be clipped: Goodwood Park becomes Gu'-wu' Pa' . The plural S in particular is almost always omitted, since Chinese does not distinguish between single and plural nouns.

  • L and R are not distinct, as evinced by TV personality Phua Chu Kang's oft-repeated refrain to "Use your blain!".

English words with different meanings in Singlish

  • blur - stupid
  • choose - browse - "Choose, choose, choose, but never buy, is it?"
  • cock - rubbish, nonsense - "Don't talk cock, lah!"
  • follow - to come along - Can I follow?
  • heartlander - person from working class HDB estate
  • keep - put away - "Please keep your notes"
  • send - to take somebody to somewhere - "I'll send you to the airport."
  • spoil - to be damaged "This one, spoil."
  • stay - to live (in a place) - "She's staying in Ang Mo Kio."
  • shy (don't shy!) - come on!
  • upgrade - to improve - "The service has been upgraded."
  • what? - eh? huh? - "You never give me, what?"
  • throw - to throw away "I throw it already"
  • on, off - to turn on/off "I on the TV"

Other idioms include:

  • ice water - water with ice
  • plain water - water without ice
  • return back - give back
  • toast bread - toast

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 
Modified by Geona