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Singlish is the dialect of the English language as spoken colloquially in Singapore.

Table of contents
1 Politics
2 Vocabulary
3 Grammar
4 Pronunciation
5 English words with different meanings in Singlish
6 External Links


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 most important dialect of the Chinese language 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 estate
  • 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?


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?"

Other idioms include:

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

External Links