Malaysian Slang Words Only Locals Use
Every visitor would have heard the Malaysian slang words that only the locals use when conversing – supposedly in English.
Over time Malaysians have developed an unofficial language known as Manglish.
It is a unique blend of original and slang words pulled from other vocabularies and languages, resulting in a single sentence that sometimes contains three or more languages!
Not many countries can speak an entire sentence that combines Malay, Tamil, and Chinese dialects like Cantonese, Hokkien, and Mandarin.
Not only do Malaysians understand each other, but they also have an uncanny ability to switch to a different language at the drop of a hat.
No wonder you get tourists with very “blur” faces when locals vehemently agree that they are speaking English.
Malaysians pepper their conversations with words from other languages.
Malaysians are very creative with their word choices and are so used to speaking Manglish instead of English.
With the LAH, visitors will get to know us better and know what’s unique about being Malaysian.
Malaysian Slang words make our Malaysian culture unique and endearing to travelers.
Many visitors are impressed by Malaysians to assimilate into this multi-lingual and multi-cultural melting “cooking” pot.
No matter what our background or ethnicity, the Malaysian food experience unites the multiracial population of Malaysians
For Malaysians, it’s how we all grew up in our communities and our everyday lives.
So come visit Malaysia and learn to use words like “yum cha,” “Jom Mamak,” “tapao,” and “bojio” during meal times like a Malaysian.
Travelstylus has compiled some of the most popular Malaysian slang words to start you along your journey into this incredibly innovative language.
Let’s dive in.
1 Abuden (Malaysian Slang)
Meaning: A sarcastic remark to indicate stating the obvious.
A: I’m so full.
B: Wah, you ate a lot, ah?
2 Action (Malaysian Slang)
Action is used to describe someone who is being braggy, cocky, or arrogant.
Example: “This guy is very active. He purposely drove out his BMW to go to the Pasar Malam.”
3 Alamak! (Malaysian Slang)
Alamak! is used to express shock, surprise, or frustration. It means “Oh my God!” or “Oh no!” Most Malaysians punctuate this with a’ face palm’ for dramatic effect automatically.
Example: “Alamak! I forgot to pay my saman (summons).”
4 Ais Kacang (Malay)
Meaning: Ais Kacang (literally means “ice bean”) is best known as Air Batu Campur (ABC). The original ais kacang in the 50s and 60s was made of only shaved ice, sweetened boiled red beans, and covered with syrup.
Over the years, the dessert evolved, making ais kacang a popular local dessert with a chockful of ingredients and various twists.
5 Ang Moh (Hokkien) Guai Lou (Mandarin)
Meaning: Terms that locals use to refer to ‘Western foreigners.’. Ang Moh and Guai Lou are more commonly used among Chinese.
6 Auntie/Uncle (Malaysian Slang)
If you’re approached by someone younger than you, especially children, it is pretty common to hear them address you as Auntie or Uncle.
It is a general term of respect to refer to your elders (even if they’re not related to you) as such, and rarely through their first names unless directly requested.
7 Atas (Malay)
In Malay, it can mean “up” or “above,” but Malaysians also use it to say “very bougie” or “high class.”
Example: “Wah, you don’t want chap fan (economy rice) for lunch ah? You so atas!”
8 Banana (Malaysian Slang)
Meaning: While banana means a type of fruit, in Malaysia, it’s used to represent a ‘type’ of human – a Chinese who can’t speak the Chinese language! Banana because… yellow on the outside, white on the inside!
Example: “He’s banana lah. He won’t understand if you speak in Mandarin.”
9 Banjir (Malay)
Meaning: With food, Malaysians love to order Roti Canai Banjir or Nasi Kuah Banjir.
Banjir means flood, and a Malaysian asks for extra gravy or curry to flood his Roti Canai or Nasi (Cooked Rice).
10 Belanja (Malay)
Meaning: Synonymous with ‘I got you covered, Belanja is used when someone is settling your food or drink bill for you. If you ever encounter a great Malaysian telling you that they belanja you, it means they are treating you, and the meal is on them!
Commonly used with buddies who are broke, or if you’re casually trying to ask someone out on a date.
A: I can’t go out – I spent all my money on bubble tea.
B: It’s okay. I belanja you this time.
11 Bo Jio (Hokkien)
Meaning: In Hokkien, Bo Jio means “never invite.” Malaysians love using this word, generally in jest, when referring to friends who didn’t invite them to an outing or gathering.
If you don’t invite your Malaysian friends out to hang, you will hear the phrase ‘why you bo jio?’
We have commonly seen these on Facebook comments (especially pictures), Twitter, and Instagram.
Warning: May cause irritation or annoyance for the other party. Expect a response: “Jio, you also you FFK one!” Exclamation Of Amazement
12 Boss (English)
Meaning: This is strange- not to be confused with your employer at work.
Typically, you will hear this at an alfresco Indian Muslim restaurant called the “Mamak”. you will hear this term being used by both the waiters and customers.
Malaysians call either the workers at a Mamak stall “Boss.” The Mamak also calls the customers “Boss.”
It works both ways. Conversations may go like this.
Customer: Boss, Kira semua. (Bill, please)
Mamak: RM50 saja Boss (RM50 only)
Customer: Boss, kira betul betul! (Too expensive, count again!)
Boss can also work between taxi or ride-sharing drivers and riders.
Mamak: Boss, you can not sit together, now got MCO.
Customer: Sorry, Boss. I Tapao LAH.
13 Bungkus (Malay)
If you’re ordering food-to-go in Malaysia, this is a handy one to remember. Tapau (Cantonese) and ‘bungkus’ (Malay) are synonymous and used when ordering a restaurant’s takeaway.
14 Butter and Kaya Toast (English and Malay)
Meaning: Kaya is a coconut jam made from a base of coconut milk, eggs, and sugar.
15 Char Kway Teow (Hokkien)
Meaning: Char Kway Teow is a Hokkien stir-fried “Kway Teow” flat rice noodle dish famous. It is sometimes referred to as a Penang Char Kway Teow as the original home of the hawker dish cooked in a hot frying wok.
16 Chup or Chope (Malaysian Slang)
Meaning: Chup has three implications: On one hand, it means “wait” or tell people to pause during a middle of a conversation to talk about something more urgent.
On the other, it means “I’ve claimed this.” or to “book” something
- “Chup! Where are we going to eat ah?”
- “I chup those free Beyonce tickets!”
Used in a sentence:
A: Can you chup this seat for me and help me order a drink?
B: Chup, I need to pick up this call first.
17 Chun (Malaysian Slang)
Meaning: It can be used in several ways but more or less shows a stamp of approval.
A: Wah, that girl is damn pretty, she’s so Chun.
B: I heard she likes you.
A: Chun, I’ll ask her out.
18 Chendul (Malay)
Meaning: Cendol is a shaved ice sweet dessert made with droplets of green rice flour noodles (called Cendol), coconut milk, and palm sugar syrup.
19 Cincai (Malaysian Slang)
Meaning: Pronounced “Chin-Chai.” It literally means “whatever.”
Customer: Eh, wrap nicely la, why you so cincai one?
20 Cold Storage Bread (English)
Meaning: Cold Storage is a supermarket chain in Singapore owned by Dairy Farm International Holdings.
21 Curi-Curi (Malay)
Meaning: Curi-curi means to steal
22 FFK / Fong Fei Kei (Cantonese)
Meaning: To back out of a previously agreed-upon meeting at the last minute.
Let Go Aeroplane???
“Fly Aeroplane” is an English way of saying it, as in, our friend must’ve ditched us because he went flying an airplane. (as in doing something more important than our appointment)
A: Okay, see you tomorrow okay, don’t Fong Fei Kei me.
B: Yes, so excited to meet you.
A: *Next day* Hey B, I’m here, where are you?
B: Eh, sorry, I suddenly can’t make it.
A: FFK LAH you.
23 F&N Orange (English)
Meaning: Fraser and Neave (F&N) make Soft Drinks with the Orange flavor as most popular during Chinese New Year celebrations in the 50s and 60s.
24 Geng – (Malaysian Slang)
Meaning: No one knows what language geng is derived from. But it’s most understandably a sound that people make when describing something as impressive.
Not to be confused with “gang” – as in gang members. It’s pronounced “g-eh-ng,” which rhymes with ah beng.
Example: You scored 99% on your exam? So geng ah you?
25 Gostan (Malaysian Slang)
Meaning: Derived from the nautical English phrase “go astern” which means “to go backward”. Malaysians use it to mean “reverse” (a vehicle).
People usually shout “Gostan! Gostan! Gostan!” when directing a driver without the need for any other words.
26 Har? (Malaysian Slang)
Meaning: Har? is used to express reluctance.
Example: “Harr… why do I have to do this?”
27 Iced Ang Tau (Manglish)
Meaning: Ang Tau Sng (Hokkien for iced red bean) is a sweet dessert. See Ais Kacang
28 Ice Ball (English)
Meaning: An ice ball is a large, shaved ice form into a spherical ball and covered with two or three types of syrup. Malaysian children eat this cold dessert by holding it in their hands.
29 Indian Roti Man (Malay)
Meaning: The Roti Man is a dying breed of nostalgic Kaya Bread and Snacks Vendor in Malaysia.
There used to be one Roti Man in every neighborhood who used to come by on a big black bicycle. Nowadays, the Roti Man comes on a motorcycle.
30 Kacang Puteh (Malay)
Meaning: Kacang Putih means white nuts).The actual Kacang Putih are steamed Chickpea (Kacang kuda) is sold as street snacks with fried Indian snacks like murukku and assorted fried nuts.
31 Kacang Puteh Man (Malay)
Meaning: Kacang Puteh Man is the vendor.
32 Kacau (Malay)
Meaning: To tease, disturb or disrupt someone or something.
Mom: Don’t kacau the cat.
Kid: We’re not.
33 Kapok Guitar (English)
Meaning: The Guangzhou Kapok Guitar Co is one of the largest guitar makers in China. Malaysian teenagers first learned to play using this cheap guitar.
34 Kantoi (Malay)
Meaning: Kantoi is a word used when someone gets “caught red-handed”, or busted and used when catching someone in a shameful situation.
This term is quite famously used in a song by Malaysian singer-songwriter Zee Avi about catching her boyfriend cheating.
35 Kee Huat Fantastic Facts and Fancies (English)
Meaning: The Kee Heat Radio’s ‘Fantastic Facts and Fancies’ was on every Sunday. The DJ will tell an interesting story and then play seven popular songs of the era.
36 Kena (Malay)
Meaning: Literal meaning is “get.” Kena is used in pretty much any context, like getting punished, falling sick, and even striking the lottery.
But it’s often used for dramatic effect since it sends chills down any misbehaving kid’s spine.
Don’t be naughty, or else you sure kena from your mother.
37 Kua Chi (Hokkien)
Meaning: Also spelled as Guazi, Kua Chi is roasted plant seeds. The Chinese communities love to munch on the seeds as snacks especially when they are in the cinema watching a movie.
38 Lah (Malay)
This is the ultimate slang used by Malaysians everywhere.
One would argue that you’ve never heard a real Malaysian conversation if you haven’t encountered the famous ‘lah.’
There is no explanation for ‘lah’ as the word itself means nothing; Malaysians use it to add ‘flavor’ and’ emphasis’ to their sentences.
Fair warning, using ‘lah’ can be rather addictive once you get the hang of it.
39 Leng Chai (Cantonese)
Meaning: Handsome boy. Leng Zai is more commonly used among Chinese, while Leng Chai is more commonly used among Malays and Indians. It’s just a matter of pronunciation.
40 Leng Lui (Cantonese)
Meaning: Pretty girl, but even if you call an Aunty Leng Lui she wouldn’t mind and smile back.
While these words are normally used as a compliment, Malaysians sometimes call random strangers “Eh, Leng Cai!” or “Eh, you Leng Lui” to get their attention, rather than the usual “excuse me.”
41 Macha (Tamil)
Meaning: Slang for ‘brother.’ Malaysians refer to their good friends as ‘macha,’ and it’s often considered the local equivalent of the English slang ‘fam.’
42 Mamak (Malaysian Slang)
Meaning: A Mamak originally refers to Malaysians of a Tamil-Muslim origin. It is now mainly used as a type of restaurant or stall that serves typically Indian Muslim food.
Some places offering a fusion of Malaysian cuisine.
These ‘Mamaks’ joints are favorite hangout spots for Malaysians from all walks of life.
Malaysians describe it as: ‘the British have their pubs, we have our Mamak shops.’
Mamak are opened 24/7 and can be incredibly lively during massive sporting events.
43 Mata-Mata (Malay)
Meaning: Mata refers to the eye in Malay. Still, mata-mata generally means policeman (or watchman), where a patrolling policeman of the olden days was the “one on all eyes.”
Don’t play the fool. You won’t want the Mata-Mata to catch you.
44 Mat Salleh (Malay)
Meaning: A word used to describe Caucasians. Mat Salleh is more commonly used among Malays and Indians.
45 Mr. Singh (English)
Meaning: Reference to a Punjabi man
46 Mampus or Mampos (Malay)
Meaning: You’re in irreparable trouble, and there’s an extremely high likelihood that punishment will follow.
Example: The cat tore up mum’s tudung while I was playing with it. Mampuslah when she finds out.
47 Muruku (Tamil)
Meaning: Murukku is typically made from rice flour and urad dal flour. Chakli is a similar dish, typically made with an additional ingredient, Bengal gram (chickpea) flour.
Deepavali, you got invite me to your house for Makan and Murukku?
48 On (Malaysian Slang)
In English, ‘on’ is a preposition, for instance, “The book is on the table,” or used to indicate wanting to use an electrical appliance such as turning on the lights.
In Malaysia, we use ‘on’ to indicate that we’re ‘up for the plan/activity.
Example: “We are going to Mamak tonight, you on ah?” “On lah!”
49 On the way (Malaysian Slang)
Generally, it’s used when someone is at least halfway to the destination. In Malaysia, even if someone hasn’t left their home, they would still consider themselves to be on the way.
Example: Just leaving the house = “I’m on the way!”
50 One (Malaysian Slang)
No, we don’t mean ‘one’ the numerical digit. We often use this word as a confirmation for our statement or question, usually added at the end of each sentence.
Example: “Ask this girl any questions about Malaysia. She sure knows one.”
51 Pattern (Malaysian Slang)
When English speakers say ‘pattern,’ they mean repeated decorative designs. In Malaysia, this word is frequently used to describe a person who acts in various unusual behavior.
Example: “So you’re telling me that you like banana-flavored ice cream but not the fruit? Can you don’t so pattern ah?”
Malaysian Phase: Pattern more than badminton.
52 Paiseh (Hokkien)
Meaning: Hokkien for shy or embarrassed. Expect this if you’re asking someone to do something outside of their comfort zone.
53 Perasan (Malay)
Meaning: Perasan means “notice”. However, Malaysians use it to say, “don’t flatter yourself” as in a Sarcastic Response.
A: Omg, that guy can’t stop staring at me!
B: Don’t perasan la.
54 Potong Stim or Potong Steam (Malay)
Meaning: Synonymous to the English word “killjoy,” which refers to someone being a wet blanket or a good moment being ruined.
It is usually used after something syok has been taken away from you.
A: OMG! I see a parking spot up ahead!
A: Kancil parked already. Potong stim only.
55 Power/Terror (Malaysian Slang)
We use these two words to indicate how excellent/great something or someone is. It can be food, a person, or just about anything really!
Example: Jason just helped me solve this super complicated math question! So power/terror, right!
56 Roti Bengali (Malay)
Meaning: Contrary to popular belief that this beloved local bread was introduced by the Punjabis (Punjabis were commonly referred to as Bengali by locals).
Roti Bengali is mostly sold by Indians and Indian Muslims and is named “Mamak Roti.”
The Roti Man is here. Quick buy the Roti Bengali.
57 Roti Canai (Malay)
Meaning: An Indian-influenced flatbread, the Roti Canai is eaten with curries and is sold at Mamak Stalls. In Singapore, it is known as Roti Prata.
Boss, Roti Canai Banjir.
58 Samseng (Malay)
Meaning: A Samseng is a thug or a gangster and gang member.
Don’t behave like Samseng lah you.
59 Siamese Fighting Fishes (English)
Meaning: The earliest record of the betta fish in Thailand was during the Thonburi Period (1767–1782). These colourful fishes are called Fighting Fishes for their ability to fight.
They are restrained by keeping the fish separately in glass jam jars.
Malaysian keep the Siamese Fighting Fishes for gambling purposes.
60 Steady (English)
While English speakers use this to describe something firm or stable, we Malaysians use this word when we’re describing someone who’s laid back and chill.
Example: “Sean is taking his big exam today, but he still seems very steady ah.”
61 Slumber (English)
People would think you mean ‘sleep’ when you say the slumber. But in the Malaysian context, it’s used to describe a person who isn’t anxious nor worried about something.
Example: “He came in 3 hours late to work, but he’s still so slumber.”
62 Stoned (English)
English speakers use this word to describe a person who’s drunk or under the influence of drugs, especially marijuana. However, we Malaysian are so laid back that we get stoned just by staring into blank space. Or sometimes used to describe someone who looks lifeless.
Example: “Eh, didn’t sleep well yesterday? You look super stoned.”
63 Susu Lembu (Malay)
Meaning: Cow’s Milk. In Indian restaurants, you can order a Bru Coffee or Teh Tarik made with fresh Cow’s Milk.
Annee, Bru Coffee!
64 Syok/Shiok (Malay)
Meaning: Amazing, or something that feels good.
Most fondly remembered as the tagline of any neighborhood ice cream man selling Mat Kool frozen lollies.
Mat Kool Mat Kool kawanku,
Mari kita ikut Mat Kool,
Main main selalu
Syoknya, syoknya ada Mat Kool.
65 Tackle (Englsih)
This one can be tricky for foreigners! When someone asks you to ‘tackle’ a person in Malaysia, 90% of the time, it means approaching and flirt with an individual. Don’t end up beating someone up!
Example: “I think she likes you. Quickly go and tackle her lah!”
66 Tapau (Cantonese)
Meaning: Tapau means to pack food or “takeaway.” In Malaysia, especially when someone stands up during lunch and exclaims, “Tapau, guys?”
Alternative: Bungkus (Malay)
Example: “Can you tapau food for me?”
67 Top of the Pops (English)
Meaning: Top of the Pops (TOTP) is a British music chart television program made by the BBC and originally broadcast weekly between 1 January 1964 and 30 July 2006.
68 Uncles (English)
Meaning: In Malaysia, the locals call older people Uncle or Aunty out of respect regardless of their race or differences.
Its old fashion usage is a kind of ‘one size fits all’ that includes non-relatives.
Morning Uncle, where is Aunty?
69 Walao eh! (Malaysian Slang)
Meaning: A word is used to describe the feeling of surprise or disbelief but is used for emotions or situations. An exclamation that is equivalent to “Oh my God!”. The meaning of this phrase differs based on delivery and tone. It can either be an angry statement or one of awe and shock.
A: I think I saw a ghost behind you.
B: *Turns around* Walao eh!
Example: “Walau eh! I just won free tickets to Taylor Swift’s concert.”
70 Yerr (Malaysian Slang)
Meaning: Used to express disgust.
Example: “Yerrrr, you’re so smelly!”
71 Yum Cha (Cantonese)
Meaning: Yum Cha means “drink tea” for the Chinese community. It means drinking tea and having dim sum.
Malaysians have adopted the words outside of its original context to mean ‘hang out’ over drinks (usually non-alcoholic) or food at the local coffee shop or ‘Mamak.’
Want to give these funny Malaysian slang words a shot?
Fly to Malaysia to learn how you can use your favorite Malaysian slang word with gusto?
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