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The Coxford Singlish Dictionary

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...or View the Pow-Ka-Leow Index
(42 entries out of 817)

MACAM  (Contributed by Wendy Tan)
Malay term of comparison, equivalent to "like" in English. When used in Singlish, it can seem redundant, but in fact adds emphasis.
1. "Wah piang, this dessert macam taste like shit."
2. "That bugger dress up until like that, macam look like come from outer space."

MACNONER/MEHNONER  (Contributed by Bertha)
The proper pronunciation of the famous American fast food chain, used especially by neighbourhood aunties and ah sohs.
"Ooi, Ah Boy. Tonight not cooking dinner, hor. Buy you french fries and hambugger at Macnoner, can?"

(mah farn)
Mandarin for "bother" or "bothersome"; used either as a verb or adjective.
"Why you always come and mah fan me one?"
"Why they want to ask so many questions? So mah fan one?"

See also: Kang Kor  Leceh  

Hokkien for "don't" or "don't want".
1. "Mai like that, I warn you ah!" (Don't be like that, I'm warning you!)
2. "My char kway teow mai hiam." (I don't want chili in my char kway teow.)
3. Beng: "Want to go karaoke?"
Seng: "Mai, lah."

MAI GEI LAH!  (Contributed by Bubba)
(muy kay lah)
Literally from Hokkien: "Don't bluff, lah!"

"Mai hiam buay pai" is Hokkien for "If you're not picky, it's not bad." The phrase gets extra emphasis when tagged with "ai hiam kena sai", which literally means "if you are picky, you'll get shit".
"Have you seen the girl Ah Seng dumped Ah Lian for? Not say I say what, ah, but he is a clear case of maihiam buay pai, ai hiam kena sai."

(muy seow seow)
Hokkien for "don't be crazy". A warning not to fool with things beyond your ability.
See also: Don'ch Play-Play  Mai Sng Sng  

The Hokkien source of the popular Singlish phrase, "don't play-play". A warning against hubris: do not fool with things beyond your ability.
"Skydiving is si beh dangerous, okay. Mai sng-sng, I warn you ah."
See also: Don'ch Play-Play  Mai Siao-Siao  

From the Malay word "main", meaning to play. Often used synonymously with "played out".
"Basket, I trusted the bugger, but instead I kena main by him." (I trusted him, but he played me out.)

MAIN CONTROL  (Contributed by Jeff)
(mah-in control)
Nothing to do with telepathy, the phrase is derived from the Malay word "main", meaning "to play". The phrase originally described the ability to juggle balls proficiently, but is now the Singlish equivalent of"multi-tasking".
"Adoi, the boss arrow me so many things, I really have to exercise main control, sial."

A Mat-ism, it is an exhortation to stay cool and steady. Like "relac'", "balan" is the singular form of "balance".
See also: Relac  Jangan Tension  

MAK KAU  (Contributed by Mat)
(mah' cow)
A Malay expletive, which is equivalent to Kan Ni Na Bu.
See also: Kan Ni Na Bu  

Malay for "meal" or "to eat". Sometimes used to mean to swallow or trample upon someone.
1. "Eh, let's go to Palm Beach for makan."
2. "I told Johnny not to go and get involved with that gang. Now he kena makan by them."

Malay for "shame", "embarrassment" or "loss of face".
"When you talk to Jenny, don't make me malu okay?"

Racist way of addressing an Indian person.
See also: Thambi  

Corner stall selling miscellaneous sundry goods, often run by Indian shopkeepers. A dying breed.

MAMBO  (Contributed by J Tai)
A phrase which originated from the retro Mambo Jambo nights at Zouk, it has become a generic reference to going clubbing, or enjoying 80s music like Belinda Carlisle (pronounced in Singapore as"Kah-Liss-Lay").
"My course damn stress lah... pai sah (wednesday) call people go mambo leh!"

A hybrid of Malay (Mana - "Where") and Hokkien (Eh sai - "can"). A phrase loosely translatable as, "How on earth is this possible?" Anglicized as"How can?"
"I oreddy give him discount, he still bargain. Mana eh sai?"
See also: How Can?  

Hybrid Malay-Hokkien phrase used to express incredulity at being asked to do something frivolous or unimportant when one has better things to do.
"Go and play golf? Mana ooh eng?"
See also: Boh Eng  Chiak Sior Eng  Chiak Pah Boh Sai Pang  

MANGKUK  (Contributed by Turd Eye)
A Malay word which means "bowl" or "hollow part of a tobacco pipe", "mangkuk" has somehow come to be used to describe someone as stupid or brainless. Can be either a noun or adjective.
1. "Why you so mangkuk one? Everything also cannot understand? Chih!"
2. "See those two mangkuks over there, whole day sell flags."

Derived from the Malay word meaning "to pamper", it describes gooey, childlike and coquettish behaviour by women designed to elicit sympathy or pampering by men.
"His girlfriend is damn manja, one. Hear her speak only can kena diabetes."
See also: Teh  

MANYAK  (Contributed by Maryanne Bell)
A common mispronunciation, usually by Chinese, of the Malay word 'banyak', which means 'a lot' or 'very'.
"Alamak, this place, ah, manyak Ah Beng, sial!" ("Oh dear, there are a lot of Bengs here!")

The automobile of choice for the established towkay. The bigger the model number, the better. The alphabet suffix is also important and the rank is as follows, in descending order: S, E, C, D (for the now virtually extinct diesel model). Young towkay wannabes (now also called "tecnoprenner") prefer to drive 'bee-em-dubdew", at least till they get married and their tai-tais need to be ferried around.

Malay equivalent of "ang-mor". A phrase used to describe Caucasians, with a slight pejorative overtone. Some have suggested that it is a deliberate mispronunciation of "mad sailor". This conjecture cannot be confirmed, despite its obvious appeal.
See also: Orang Putih  Ang Mor  

The Mat is the Malay equivalent of the Ah Beng. Usually long-haired and scruffy, he is often in a leather or denim jacket, and sitting astride his motorcycle. A "Mat Roker" is a Mat who unabashedly shows his devotion to heavy metal rock music. The 5Ms of the Mat Roker are: Minah, Marlboro, Motosikal, Metal and Maintain Balan'.
See also: Minah  

The police. Originally from the Malay word meaning "eye", denoting some level of surveillance.

A Singlish tag which accompanies questions. Adds a slight tone of incredulity.
"Ah Beng is like that, meh?"

Hokkien phrase literally meaning, "Don't be scared. If it hits, there'll be a sound." An exhortation to do things boldly. Sometimes accompanied by the phrase "kar-kar lai" (come forward bravely).

The feminine equivalent of the Mat, and hence the Malay equivalent of the Ah Lian. The female equivalent of a Mat Roker is the "Electro Minah."
See also: Mat/Mat Roker  

MINYAK  (Contributed by Maryanne Bell)
Malay for oil. Also used to describe a person as irritatingly ingratiating, slimy or sickeningly slick. Interesting historical note: in the 50s and 60s, Singapore and Malaysia were plagued by perverts known as "orang minyak" or "oily men". Their modus operandi was to wear nothing, except perhaps for underwear, and smear their bodies with oil, which made them difficult to catch during pursuit.
1. "Adoi, that bugger, ah, manyak minyak, man!" ("What an oily character!")
2. "You don't stop it, wait I make your minyak come out!" ("You'll be sorry if you don't stop!")

(mm sum mm say)
Cantonese phrase literally meaning "not 3, not 4" - the equivalent of the English phrases "neither here nor there" or "neither fish nor fowl". Often used to dismiss a really stupid idea.
"Ah Beng's dot-com company really mm sam mm say, also can become tecnoprenner."

Hokkien admonishment meaning "ignorant of death". Used when someone is audacious and cavalier about consequences.
"Why you go and make fun of Ah Beng's tattoo? Mm tzai si!"

Cantonese for "Boh Tau Boh Buay".
See also: BOH TAU BOH BUAY  

Cantonese for "end of discussion." Often confused with 'Moh Tuck Teng' (below).
"Moh tuck keng, the char kway teow at Lorong 9 is the best."
See also: Moh Tuck Teng  

Cantonese for "the best" or "cannot be topped". Often confused with 'Moh Tuck Keng' (above).
"The char kway teow at Lorong 9 is moh tuck teng one."
See also: Moh Tuck Keng  

Cantonese for "blur, confused".
See also: Blur  

Used as an adjective, to describe feeling carefree. Originates from the phrase "ROD mood", where ROD was one's "run-out date" for leaving national service. (In a stunningly sensible move which had significant impact on the nation, the acronym ROD was recently changed to "ORD".)
"Wah, his N.S. still got six months more, but he damn mood oreddy."

MORE TO  (Contributed by trashkore)
A phrase that reflects one's leanings. Used most often in the local music scene, to denote one's genre preferences.
"Although you more to indie rock and I more to techno, doesn't mean we cannot be friends what."

MUG/MUGGER/CHAO MUGGER/MUGGER TOAD  (Contributed by Sherise Tan)
To "mug" in Singapore is to study by rote. A mugger is thus a hardworking student who memorises notes and regurgitates them during exams: the very essence of a typical kiasu student. Often prefixed with the word "chao" (smelly) in front of it for emphasis.
1. "He everytime go library until it close. Damn mugger, siah!"
2. " If I don't chao mug now, then later exam sure can die, one!"

Corruption of "Bengali". Colloquial and often racist reference to Sikhs (see Bhai) or Indians in general.
See also: Bhai  

From the Malay word "bangsat", for "scoundrel", but co-opted to mean "cheat" or "sore loser". Can beused as either adjective or noun.
"I do'wan to play with you. You all mungsat one"
See also: Chao Kuan  Play cheat  

MUNJEN  (Contributed by superflysey)
Tamil for "yellow", and is a racist term used for Chinese people.
"I hate it when these apu neh neh call us munjens!"
See also: Apu Neh Neh  Mat  Geragok  

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