12+ Weird Malay Words: Phrases That Make You Sound Like A Local

What are the weirdest Malay words you know? If the answer is "none" then let's do something about that...

Hey Leng Zai/Leng Lui! Did you come across any weird Malay phrases that you don’t understand? We get it – Malaysians typically say many uncommon words that new learners need help understanding, making some feel just a little confused.

However, that doesn’t have to be the case! We’re here today to show you some of the weirdest words you may come across. From funny Malaysian slang words to examples of how to use them in Manglish (Malaysian English way), you’re in for a treat.

So strap in, and let’s get started. Don’t FFK on us!

Weird Malay Words – Funny Malaysian Slang Words To Remember

1. Chun

Do you know how we say something is “cool” when we approve of it in English? Malaysians have something similar: chun! This Cantonese word has become part of the many slang words Malaysians use daily.

And much like the English word “cool,” chun can be used in many contexts, but usually indicates that you find something… well, cool!


A: “Hey, this food is great, so chun!”
B: “Did you know we only paid RM 10 for the whole thing?”
A:Chun, we should bring our friends here next time!”

2. Gostan

Gostan, auntie, gostan! The makan is that way!

This word is one of those word choices that may sound weird but comes from a very sensible loan word! Gostan was taken from the nautical English phrase, “go astern,” which means to drive the boat or ship backward.

In Malaysia, it is usually applied as a driving term, which means to go backward. So your taxi and ride-sharing drivers will immediately understand when you say gostan!


A: Pakcik, we’re going the wrong way la. Gostan, please!

3. Abuden

Sarcasm is not lost in Malay, and this word proves it. While abuden‘s etymology remains unclear, most people agree that it is at least Hokkien in origin, comprised of two Hokkien words and one English: ar (if), boh (not), and then.

These words together form a complete statement: “if not that, then what?” In Malaysian slang, it is used as a sarcastic remark when someone is stating the obvious.


A: “We broke up, I feel bad.”
B: “But you cheated on her. Abuden?”

4. Boss

When Malaysians say “boss”, they don’t mean that they consider the person they are speaking to as their employer. Instead, it is used by either the workers or the customers on each other as a term of casual respect.

It works both ways – the other party will likely answer with a “boss” themselves. In Malaysia, it is not uncommon for random strangers to call each other “boss” when speaking with each other.


A: “Hey boss, you’re in my parking spot.”
B:Aiya, sorry boss, kosong-kosongya?”

5. Leng Chai/Leng Lui

Just look at this leng zai. He just makes my heart flutter!

If a Malaysian, especially from the Chinese community, calls you a leng chai or leng lui, consider yourself flattered – they’re calling you a handsome person! It is taken from Cantonese, and its literal meaning is “handsome boy (chai/zai) or girl (lui).

Some regions might pronounce it as zai, especially those closer to Chinese descent. However, most Malay and Indians in Malaysia, pronounce it as chai. Either way, it just means that someone is damn pretty, especially in Malaysia!


A: “Your boyfriend is a real leng zai, ya?”
B: “Stop staring, he’s mine la.

6. Fong Fei Kei

One of the more obscure (for foreigners, at least) Malaysian slang words in this list, fong fei kei is a peculiar one. This Cantonese phrase, which translates to “fly aeroplane”, is used to describe someone or a situation where someone backs out of an agreed meeting.

The word originates back to Hong Kong’s first plane flight. Due to inclement weather, the first flight got delayed for several days, hence the association with flakiness. Over the years, the meaning has been adopted by Malaysia. Native speakers usually abbreviate the phrase to FKK.

A: “Do you want to get bubble tea at the pusat penjaja?”
B: “You gonna FKK on me again?”
A: “Not this time! I promise!”

7. Potong Stim/Potong Steam

Potong stim (or steam, for some) means something cool, nice, or shiok has been taken from someone. An equivalent English word would be “killjoy” or “buzzkill”; the phrase is used the same way.

It translates to “cut steam”, and locals use it to express how their excitement was “cut” in some way or another. So whenever you visit Malaysia, don’t potong stim!


A: “Let’s go out clubbing tonight.”
B: “Can’t la, very pokai this month. Already spent all my money.”
A: “No potong stim, I belanja you tonight!”

8. Kacau

That dog is so kacau; it's been barking all night!

It sounds like Lightning McQueen’s “ka-chow!” and is just as annoying! Kacau is a Malaysian term that means to disturb someone or something; basically, to annoy. But, as far as Malaysian slang words go, this is pretty tame!

A similar word in Malaysia would be kekacauan, which translates to “chaos.” Kacau is the shortened form of the word, and is even easier to pronounce!


A: “Why won’t you let your cousin use your PC?”
B: “He is very kacau. Get him out of my room!”

9. Shiok/Syok

Syok nya ada Mat Kool! This term is used in many Malay-speaking countries and can even be considered the most popular among Malaysian slang words. Shiok means cool, and its origins can be traced to the Malay word seronok (enjoy.)

It is used in the way English speakers utilize the word “cool” – it is used to denote something nice, or you know… cool! It doesn’t have any deeper meaning to it, just something Malaysians use to say when they’re pleased with something.


A: “Bro, check out this cool bike I got.”
B: “Very nice la, so shiok!”

10. Chin Chai

Not much to say about this one. It’s whatever.

No, really — chin chai means “whatever.” Malaysians use it how English speakers do – as an answer or a punctuation to a sentence. It’s just a matter of context! You may also see this spelled out as cin cai sometimes, depending on where you may be in Malaysia.


A: “Do you want to be fondly remembered or forgotten when you die?”
B:Chin chai. I’ll be dead anyway!”

11. Belanja

If they say belanja, hide your wallet!

Malaysians don’t like leaving people hungry; this slang word shows just how important food is to its culture. Belanja is a term meaning “I’ve got this,” when talking about settling a bill, usually when it comes to food.

If you dine with Malaysians as a visitor, you may hear them saying “Belanja, belanja” as you get caught red-handed fiddling with your wallet. Consider this Malaysian hospitality: they can’t let you pay for something they want you to enjoy truly!


A: “Excuse me boss, I’d like to pay for this…”
B: “Oh no please, let me, belanja you this time.”

12. Geng Ah

No one knows where geng ah comes from, although you shouldn’t confuse them as “gang members.” There is an extremely high likelihood that it comes from Cantonese, however. It is a term of endearment, usually applied to situations where someone did something impressive.

In Malaysia, it’s a bit like shiok – cool – but would better translate as “wow, cool!” or “wow, impressive!” Malaysian slang words such as these rely a lot on context!


A: “I borrowed mum’s tudung today – does it look nice?”
B: “It goes so well with your outfit! So geng ah you!”

13. Ang Moh/Guai Lou/Mat Salleh

Ang moh like her can be found in all the hawker markets!

All these three words mean the same thing: they are used to describe Caucasians. After all, a white dude in a sea of Malaysians will stick out like a sore ibu jari (thumb). Ang Moh is a Malay term, borrowed from the Chinese ang mo, which means Westerner. Guai Lou also comes from Chinese.

The only homegrown Malay term is mat sallehwhose origin is still contested. Some experts speculate that it comes from early Malaysians’ experience with white sailors during the colonial period, from the English “mad sailor.”


A: “Did you see the ang moh Fatimah was with yesterday?”
B: “I know, so geng ah her.”

14. Bo Jio

Hokkien in origin, this word embodies the spirit of the English term, “FOMO – fear of missing out”. Bo jio simply means “never invite”, and Malaysians love to use this word (usually joking) on Facebook comments on their friends who traveled or met up with familiar friends without them.

While being told bo jio does not usually lead to irreparable trouble (a friendship being over, for example) most people would do well to remember to invite their friend next time.


A: “We went to the beach yesterday.”
B: “Why bo jio la?”
A: “Because you FFK last time!”

15. Walao Eh

Walao eh, or sometimes just walao, is an expression of surprise, awe, or shock – depending on the intonation with which it was pronounced. The closest English translation would be how we say, “Oh my god!” as an expression!

In Malaysia, people usually say this when something sends chills down their spines: huge sales, cheap flights and accommodations, or even just having a delicious teh tarik -they’ll likely be saying walao eh! 


A: Walao eh, what bad weather!”
B: “I know, it’s been hujan lebat all week la.”

16. Yum Cha

Malaysians love to eat and drink together, and this is another one of those Malaysian slang words that reference how much Malays love food. Yum cha is a Cantonese word that translates to “drink tea.”

In Malaysia, it is used in people’s everyday lives as an invitation to have snacks or hang out, usually where there’s food. So people would head to their local mamak to socialize, drinking Chinese tea and eating tons of dim sum!


A: “Work’s finally over!”

B: “Yum cha? I want some dim sum!”

Malaysian Slang Words And Their Translations

That was a lot of words we covered, so let’s list them all down before you forget:

English MeaningMalay Word/PhrasePronunciation
Cool/Cute, general approval Chunchoon
Go backwardGostango-stehn
Stating the obviousAbudenaah-boo-then
Term for literally everyoneBossbohss
Handsome guy/girl Leng Chai/Leng Luilahng-chay/lahng-loowee
Flaking outFong Fei Kei/FFKfawng-fay-kay
KilljoyPotong Stimpaw-thong steem
Annoying thing Kacauka-chow
Also cool Shiokshawck
WhateverChin Chaichin-chay
My treatBelanjabuh-lahn-jah
ImpressiveGeng Ahgehng-ahh
FOMO/No inviteBo Jiobow-jeeow
Let’s eat/hang out Yum Chayum-chaa

These words will help you sound more local when practicing Malay in Malaysia! And speaking of which, have we got something you’ll love…

Learn Malay With The Ling App

Learn Malay with Ling App

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