What does Sian Singlish mean in English

21 Essential Singlish Phrases You Will Need In Singapore

Singlish may sound a lot like English, but when Singaporeans start speaking, visitors may find it a little incomprehensible. Be a proper Kiasu Singaporean and prepare yourself with these essential singlish phrases before visiting (don't say we bojio).

Note: English is the primary language for business and education in Singapore. Hence, it is easy for English speakers to communicate and get around. These Singlish phrases are unique Singaporean additions to the language and will help you score some pluses with the locals.

Greetings and essentials

Can / yes, of course

"Can" is an extremely versatile word, and a large part of what it actually means depends a lot on the tone used when speaking and / or the Singlish modifier you use with it.

An example conversation:

Can or not? (Can you do that?)

Can. (Yes I can.)

Can muh? (Are you sure?)

Can lah! (Yes sure!)

Onz (on-z) / Yes, I can confirm

A very concise and slang-headed way to confirm your participation in something, or a confirmation of your consent / consent. Another popular (but older) term is steady bom pi pi.


Ulu (Ooh-Loo) / out of the way

In tiny Singapore, any place that has to travel more than an hour by public transport or is particularly difficult to find can be called "so ulu".

Tompang (tohm-pung) / a ride

When someone asks you if they can "tompang," they usually ask you if you can take them somewhere or help them pass an item on to someone else.

Gostan (go-stun) / turn around or go backwards

A Singaporean version of the nautical phrase to 'go aft' (to the back of the ship), this phrase is most commonly used by lost drivers trying to find their way around.

In the restaurant / bar

Makan (Mah-Kahn) / eat or eat

This Malay term can be used to describe food ("Makan!") Or the act of eating (as in "Let's go Makan").

Tabao (da-bao) / Take away

This term is mostly used in hawker centers when you want to pack your take-away food. Some students also use this term when they have failed a test, e.g. "I tabooed my math exam".

Shiok (She -Oak) / very good!

Ate something tasty? "Shiok" can be used for anything that gives you an indescribable feeling. You will definitely make your stable owner happy if you tell them the food is "Shiok!"

Chope (joh-pe) / reserve

The Singaporean way of "chopping" something is most commonly seen in hawker centers, with packages of tissue indicating that the table has been taken.

On the market

Lobang (lo-bung) / opportunities or hole

Lobang is a Malay word that means "hole", but when you ask someone if they have lobang, you usually ask if they have any benefits or options for you. A "Lobang King" is someone who always has a few opportunities to tell you about it.

Kiasu (kyah-soo) / fear of missing out

Singaporeans are often described as "Kiasu Syndrome" which covers selfish FOMO (fear of missing out) behavior such as stacking plates of the most expensive food at the buffet or sending children to a variety of classes before school even starts .

Atas (ah-taas) / snobbish or high-class

"Atas" is what the layman Singapore sees as chic, expensive, or high-end (and in some cases even snobbish). A funnier term to describe someone who trades 'atas' is to call them a 'yaya papaya'.

Spoiler market (Spoy-Mah-Ket) / Overachieve

"Don't spoil the market!" is what you say when you want someone who keeps the status quo and doesn't raise the bar, which makes it harder for you and others to get involved. For example, when it comes to the amount you are tipping or the effort you put into providing a service, it may be in your best interest not to get too much!

Confirm plus chop / yes I'm very, very sure

The "hack" is an old colonial term and refers to a stamp or seal with which companies officially sign contracts. This means that a person is very sure that their words are correct. Another similar term that is often used is "double attestation".

find friends

Jio / bojio (chee-oh / boh-chee-oh) - invite / why didn't you invite me?

"I jio you" means inviting someone in person - and when you find out that your friends went to a cool party without you, "Bojio!" is the most common accusation used to show your displeasure at being excluded.

Kancheong Spider (Kun-Chee-ong Spider) / nervous or nervous

Someone who calls you a "Kaneong Spider" is basically saying that you should relax and not be so nervous.

Lim Kopi (Lim-Koh-Piss) / drink coffee or hang out

If someone asks if you have time to visit "Lim Kopi", they will ask you if you want to take a coffee from the Kopitiam (coffee shop) or if you just want to have a coffee (coffee optional).

For everything else

Sian (see-yan) / Bored or tired of something

Like 'Shiok', 'sian' is a very succinct way of describing anything that is bothersome or pulls you down. "Sian jit pua" or "Sian half" is a more colorful expression, but does not mean that the boredom is less.

Gahmen (gah-murn) / The Government of Singapore

This garbled form of the word "government" can often be found on online forums or used as a colloquium when Singaporeans are complaining about any political or public service.

Jialat! (Ji-ah-laht) / very bad!

A Chinese Hokkien phrase that literally translates to "eat strength" is a versatile phrase that you can use to scream about most bad things - whether it is a person, behavior, or circumstance.

Merlion (Merlion) / vomiting

The mythical half lion and half fish symbol of Singapore is not something to compare to unless you spit up the stomach contents - just like the famous statue in Marina Bay all day.