Total Rewards Asia Summit 2024 Singapore
Let's go makan: Here's a guide to the most popular Singlish words you need to know

Let's go makan: Here's a guide to the most popular Singlish words you need to know

Speak like a local by using 'alamak' or 'walau' to express your surprise or shock, and more fun insights from this report.

A survey of 1,500 residents of Singapore has uncovered the most popular Singlish words (also known as 'Singlish slang') used in Singapore.

Singlish, as most readers would know is an informal language best summarised as Singaporean English, incorporating its own unique grammatical structures and a distinctive pronunciation. Widely considered as a cultural marker for the nation, the intonation, sentence structure, and vocabulary of Singlish are influenced by Malay, Indian languages such as Tamil and Hindi, and the main Chinese dialects spoken in Singapore, such as Hokkien, Cantonese, and Teochew.

The study, undertaken by Preply, found the following as the most popular Singlish words among respondents:

  1. Alamak - used by 65.78% - defined as "an expression to display dismay, shock or alarm"
  2. Makan - used by 60.92% - defined as "to eat"
  3. Lah/lor/leh/meh - used by 57.92% - defined as "to add emphasis after an expression or a statement"
  4. Paiseh - used by 56.99% - defined as "shy, embarrassed or feel a bit of shame"
  5. Kaypoh - used by 56.46% - defined as "nosy"
  6. Steady - used by 56.13% - defined as "for sure, sounds good"
  7. Shiok - used by 55.39% - defined as "to describe something delicious, or simply good"
  8. Bo liao - used by 54.33% - defined as "being in a situation of idleness"
  9. Kiasu - used by 54.19% - defined as "afraid of losing out"
  10. Atas - used by 52.86% - defined as "luxe/upper class"

While on the topic of 'slang', the survey also found the most commonly-used Gen Z terms in Singapore. How many of these do you know the meaning of?

  1. Slay - used by 35.15% - defined as "to do a spectacular job"
  2. Sus - used by 30.76% - defined as "suspicious"
  3. G.O.A.T. - used by 27.43% - defined as "greatest of all time"
  4. Salty - used by 26.03% - defined as "when you are upset over something little"
  5. Spilling tea - used by 25.77% - defined as "sharing gossip"
  6. Flex - used by 22.70% - defined as "to show off"
  7. Simp - used by 22.50% - defined as "when someone does way too much for a person they like"
  8. 'Cap', tied with 'shook' - used by 21.50% each - defined as "lying" and "surprised or shocked" respectively
  9. Situationship - used by 20.84% - defined as "a romantic relationship that is unclear or undefined"
  10. Rizz - used by 20.11% - defined as "charisma"

ALSO READ: Fun Friday: Do you know what your Gen Z employees' slang terms mean?

Photo / 123RF

Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!

Free newsletter

Get the daily lowdown on Asia's top Human Resources stories.

We break down the big and messy topics of the day so you're updated on the most important developments in Asia's Human Resources development – for free.

subscribe now open in new window