Ever heard someone say "Syok" (best) or "Cincai" (whatever) numerous times, or are you simply on the hunt for the meaning of some of the most popular funny Malay phrases? In today's post, we will walk you through the normally used slang words and expressions guaranteed to bring a smile to the faces of the locals or score you some brownie points.
If you are fond of watching Malaysian dramas or their rap music, perhaps you have heard of particular words such as Kantoi (caught red-handed), Abuden (sarcasm), Lah (to affirm), or Mat Salleh (foreigners). These are considered Manglish, and it greatly reflects the complexities of the Malay language.
The Malay language is heavily influenced by other languages such as English, Tamil, Cantonese, and Hokkien. For this reason alone, the locals say that their slang and usual expressions are best known as "rojak" or simply a good mixture of words. Such a notion is somewhat similar to what other Southeast Asian countries have linguistically developed, like Taglish, Japanglish, and Konglish. However, Bahasa Malaysia or Bahasa Melayu is still unique as it is also related to Persian, Portuguese, Arabic, and Dutch languages! So before you hop into the plane and learn the Malay travel phrases, let's level up your set of vocabulary words by starting with these phrases and everyday slang.
To get yourself started on how to engage with the locals authentically, check out the Malaysian-approved meanings for the slang words below. We will also give you an example of how to insert the words, especially when speaking English, since the locals like using Manglish with foreigners. If you'd like to discover more words related to this, be sure to check out our premium list of 50 Malay slang words too!
Example: "Wow! The food is yummy lah!"
This three-letter word is a catchall type of modal particle to express some softened emotion. This can be used for diverse contexts such as affirming, showing emphasis, indicating politeness, or just as a filler word. It stemmed from the Chinese 啦, which is also used when someone wants to sound convincing or persuasive.
Example: "Want to go for some yum cha?"
Like Chinese and Koreans, Malaysians are in love with drinking tea, so they have this exact phrase to describe that they should get some tea. Do not be surprised today, though, since most youths do not really use this to refer to tea but actually means to "hang out" over some food and non-alcoholic drink (like Teh Tarik, Bandung, or simply coffee).
Example: "Where is the nearest mamak?"
If ever you get an invite from someone asking you to go on a Mamak adventure, you shouldn't worry at all as this is not dangerous! Despite its name, Mamak refers to a food stall that sells Indian-based meal selections. These pop-up stalls are popular in Malaysia and are considered the go-to place for people searching for authentic Malay and Indian cuisine. Since these shops are always filled with people, you can always order some Tapau or take away food and eat it at home with some friends.
Example: "You won the contest? Walao -eh!"
Perhaps this is the word that you'll most likely hear during your travel. This awesome word is also popular among Malaysians as it is used to describe surprise or disbelief. It is also known as walao eh or walao wei and can also be used as a word to compliment someone's skill or achievement.
Example: "I thought I ordered a hot coffee drink yet she brought me a frappe. Potong stim!"
At first, you might think that the string of letters making this word up may refer to some sort of positive characteristic. However, please note that this word is technically not something you want to say, especially if you are not close to someone. This means "killjoy" in English and is used by the Malaysians to say that someone is ruining the mood.
Example: "Let's have some spicy chicken. I will belanja you this time. "
There are two ways that you can normally use this to express that you want to treat someone out. Firstly, you can use this with a boy/girl to casually invite them out on a date, or you can also clarify and use it among your friends. This awesome word usually means using your own money and literally treating the other person out.
Example: "What would you like to eat today, boss?"
No matter where you are in Malaysia, you can simply talk to anyone and call them the boss. Don't be surprised if the locals will call you one too, as this is viewed as a catch-all word that is casual yet polite.
Example: "Why you bo jio?"
Have you ever felt so out of touch because your friends went to an event and did not invite you? Malaysians have the right word for this moment! This funny expression is popular online, and you can always hear this being said between friends. Technically, this Hokkien word means "never invite" and can be used to comment to someone if they did not invite you to something.
Example: "You ate lots of food and now you are so full. Abuden?"
Ever wondered if there are sarcastic remarks in the Malaysian language? They actually have one that shows that you are stating the obvious: the Abuden (also known as abudhen, or abuthen). This can be compared to the English remark "You think so?" and "What did you expect?"
Example: "Eh! Don't gostan or you will hit the wall!"
The word gostan means "to go backward", and it is funny since it is believed to come from the English phrase "go astern" and was formed since the Malaysians simply pronounced it as gostan. Today, you can use this to give directions about backing up or reversing a car.
Now that you know the essential Malay slang, allow us to give you a few more points and further understand the Malaysian expressions. Below are some of the funny phrases and their meanings.
|Malay Phrase||Direct Translation||Meaning|
|Ham sap||Salty wet||Felling naughty|
|Kan cheong spider||You are a tight long spider||You are so uptight or anxious|
|Kelam kabut||Disorderly||Someone who is confused|
|Cincai||Green vegetables||A casual attitude about something|
|Makan angin||Eat wind||Set on a vacation|
|Chia lat||Eat strength||When something requires too much effort|
|Ya ke||Is it?||It's like the English version of wow!|
|Blur like sotong||Blur like a squid||When you are not sure if something is silly or just insensitive|
|Tan ku ku||Wait a long time||Forget it|
Which of these are you planning to use? Could it be Tapau, Syok, or Mat Salleh? No matter what it is, we bet that you'll surely surprise the locals with your newfound knowledge on these.
Now that we literally know every single Malaysian slang word and expression, it's time to use any of these in real-world situations. Do remember that all that we have shared here today are only those that are ideal to be used by foreigners since they will not give any other meanings. If you'd like to learn how to describe your thoughts better with a friend, we highly recommend that you try out learning Malay with Ling App today!
Ling App is a language learning application developed by Simya Solution with the goal of helping enthusiasts master 60+ foreign languages for free! From the inside of the platform, you'll learn new vocabulary words, phrases, and event grammar rules so that you can construct a sentence like a pro! So download it today and get your learning on the go!