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Colloquial Singaporean English, better known as Singlish, is an English-based creole language spoken in Singapore. It is one of two English dialects spoken in Singapore, the other being the higher variety Standard Singapore English. Singlish is used in informal contexts, where SSE is used in formal settings. Singlish has attained a bad reputation on the basis of campaigns against its usage. The government claim that Singlish has a negative impact on the standard of SSE (see linguistic interference). Opponents of such campaigns claim that speakers of both dialects are adept at code-switching.



English in Singapore derives from 141 years of British colonialization. The received standards of English during these years were British English and Received Pronunciation. Singlish developed as a pidgin form of English, spoken by those who acquired the language without formal institutional training. Over the years, Singlish has stabilized into a creole. Singlish is comparable to its Malaysian counterpart Manglish. The largest distincton between the two is their vocabulary - Manglish tends towards Bahasa Melayu slang, while Singlish vocabulary (and grammar) is distinctly influenced by Southern Chinese dialects.


Where SSE is used in formal contexts, Singlish is used in informal contexts - at home, with friends in a 'hawker centre'. Because of its lack of prestige, Singlish is generally avoided in formal contexts like meetings and interviews. However, select Singlish phrases are occasionally used to inject humour or build affinity in the audience, especially when a number of them are local.

The usage of Singlish in all contexts is strongly discouraged by the Government, who have stated that it is a 'bad' English that is incomprehensible to non-locals and stifles the proper learning and usage of English.

Some examples[edit]

  • Ah - a expression to express something is already known in a sentence, stressing on something.
  • Ah Mu or Ah Bu - in Hokkien is the name for Mother.
  • "Aiyo/Aiya" - to express something that is not this way, also used as an exclaimation.
  • AngMoh - in local Singlish or Hokkien (literally with red hair) means a westerner.
  • "Blur-like-sotong" - a very confused person.
  • Chapalang - literally in Hokkien means people who had eaten their fill. This is abusively used to label certain people who are likely busybodies or gossipers. The normal greeting for all Hokkien people in Singapore or those compatriots in Taiwan and Mainland China always greet one another with "have you eaten your fill? " Chapa buay"? as one would say "Good Morning" in English. The old locals are a polite people and they always say "chapa buay?"
  • Chope - Singaporean slang for "reserved".
  • "Chu pattern" - to describe something that is one track in nature.
  • Eh - a expression to express surprise (in question mark), or used to address a context, or stressing on something (used at the end of a sentence)
  • Garmen - Singaporean slang for "government".
  • Good-for-nothing - a rude way of telling someone. It is used as a catch phrase to try and draw someone's attention as in Singlish.
  • "hor" - used at the end of sentence to check with someone on something.
  • "kiasu" - someone who has a selfish attitude due to a fear of missing out on something.
  • "kiasee" - someone who is overly afraid and scared, of timid nature.
  • kena - derived from a Malay word that means "to encounter or to come into physical contact", usually used negatively in context.
  • lah/leh - a word filler as in Singlish.
  • "like dat" - a short form of "like that", used to describe something or someones behaviour.
  • "lor" - used to express something that is already known or is how it is.
  • mah - a word filler as in Singlish, used at the end of sentences to describe something that is already known.
  • meh - a word filler as in Singlish, used to at the end of sentences express surprise or to used to ask a question.
  • one - used at the back of sentences to express effect of something. (usually used for describing scenarios or behaviour).
  • "orh" - an expression to mention a point was taken or noted.
  • Orh hor - used to tell someone that they should feel guilty of what they just did.
  • oso - a short form of also.
  • "sia/siah" - used at the end of sentence, to express emphasis of something, usually surprise and shock.
  • tio - with the same meaning as kena, but can be used to express both positive and negative scenarios.
  • wah - same as wow-lau, used to express surprise or shock.

External links[edit]