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The Coxford Singlish Dictionary

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(63 entries out of 817)

To court a girl, perhaps aggressively. Uncertain derivation, possibly from football or even fishing.
"Lisa got expensive taste, you sure you still want to tackle her?"
See also: POK  

TACTICAL  (Contributed by Kok Leong)
Another term from the Army, Singapore’s most prolific Singlish donor. It means to think quickly and strategically, usually in the context of avoiding notice or being stuck with an unpleasant task. Oddly enough, it’s also used as a verb.
“Eh, if you do’wan to kena arrow, then you better tactical and take cover a bit, skarly the ossifer catch you then you kena.” (“If you wish to avoid getting an unpleasant assignment, you’d best make yourself scarce, before the officer catches you.”)

TAHAN  (Contributed by J Tai)
Malay term meaning to endure, withstand or tolerate. 
1. "Waiter, where is my duck rice? Cannot tahan already, faster leh!"
2. "I think we tahan his nonsense too long oreddy."

See also: Beh Tah Han  

TAI KO  (Contributed by Selena and Conrad)
To win by chance. Usually used in a game of pool or snooker to describe a lucky shot.
" Wah lau, that was damn tai ko! "

Can mean either to be wary, to hide from someone, to dodge responsibility, or sometimes, to skive. From military usage.
1. "Ah Beng found out you were trying to potong Jenny, so you better take cover."
2. "Mr.Tan is going to arrow someone to write his speech -- better take cover and go for lunch."

The classic Singapore threat to children. Works like a charm every time.
"If you don'ch stop making noise, ah, I tomorrow take you go market and sell!"

Used to describe someone who is attractive or sexy, or has assets to admire.
1. "Eh, let's go Arts Canteen and look at the talent."
2. "Wah lau, Ah Lien dress like that, got talent."

See also: Jude  Chio  

From the Hokkien "Kong Sar Kong Si", to chitchat or indulge in idle talk.
Ah Lian: "An chua, call me for what?"
Ah Soh: "Nothing lah, just talk 3 talk 4 only lor."

To speak rubbish or nonsense. Probably originates from the English phrase “cock and bull”. “Sing Song” is added for emphasis. “Talk Cock” by itself also has the more benign meaning of “casual banter” or “chatting”.
1. “Ah Beng managed to pass the exam? Don’t talk cock!”
2. “I met Johnny at the kopi tiam just now, and we were talking cock for a while.”

See also: Kong Chiao Weh  

TALK ROTS  (Contributed by Edwin)
A variant of 'talk cock'.
See also: Talk Cock  

Hokkien for literally "earn no food" and "earn no money". Used to describe something that is useless or not worth your while.
"Why you want to go study Arts? Tan boh chiak one lah!"

(tun chia'h peng)
A derogatory term used to describe regular soldiers in the Army. It is always used somewhat smugly by NSFs, who will ORD one day.

TAN CHIAK/TAN LUI  (Contributed by Kevin)
(tun chia'h/tun looi)
Hokkien term literally translated as "earn to eat". It means a hardworking act in order to survive or excel in whatever a person is doing (usually in work).
1. "Wah lau, you si peh tan chiak leh, boots kiwi until so shiny!"
2. "Why I sell kleenex? Have to tan chiak, what!"

See also: Pian Chiak  

Hokkien phrase meaning "Forget it, it won't happen."
"She agree to pak tor with you? Tan ku ku, lah!"
See also: Wait Long-Long  

Mandarin for "tedious or despicable", used to describe something that is frustrating or annoying.
"Alamak, so much homework, really tao yen man!"

Hokkien contraction of the Malay word "tetapi", meaning "but" or "however".
"Frankie wants a new Marseelis, tapi he boh lui."

Hokkien term meaning “takeaway” (UK) or “takeout” (US) food.
“Can you go and tar-pow some char kway teow on your way home?” 

Hokkien for “man” or “male”.
See also: Char Bor  

(tah-ray’ har-gah)
Malay for ‘play hard to get’. ‘Tarik’ means to arouse one’s interest or attract, while ‘harga’ means ‘sumptuous’ or sometimes, ‘costly-looking’.
“Alamak, I give up on dating, lah. All the char bor in Singapore all tarik harga only.”

TAU HONG  (Contributed by Mike Soo)
Hokkien for "air in the head", meaning "go mad".
"Don't think of the girl so much. Wait you tau hong then you know."

(tao tee-ah)
Hokkien for "headache". Can also mean troublesome.
1. "Ask me to do this sort of thing, wah lau eh, gimme tau tiah only."
2. "Doing this sort of thing, damn tau tiah man." (This task is very troublesome.)

A Hokkien term used to describe gooey, childlike and coquettish behaviour by women designed to elicit sympathy or pampering by men.
"Whenever Ah Lian wants Ah Beng to do something for her, she becomes si beh t'eh."
See also: Manja  Teh Pao  

One of the most graphic expressions in this dictionary, it is also one of the most inspired. Literally, it translates from Hokkien as “to commit suicide by squeezing your testicles”. The Hokkien equivalent of hara-kiri, it expresses profound regret and frustration, and is often said after a confession of having done something monumentally stupid.
“Ah Beng accidentally threw his winning 4D ticket into the incinerator? Wah lau, like that he might as well t’eh lum pah chi saht.” 

(dt'air pow)
Someone, invariably a young lady, who behaves very "teh", i.e. coquettish.
"Have you met Ah Beng's new girlfriend? When she got a paper cut only, she will go over and ask him to kiss-kiss. Damn teh pao, man!"
See also: Teh  

Of Malay derivation, it means to beat or hit, but is most commonly used to describe being abused or scolded.
1. “Uh-oh, the sergeant is off to tekan the recruits again.”
2. “Why you so cham, always kena tekan by your boss one?” 

(ter-pee see-kit)
Malay term meaning "move aside a little" or "shift to one side". An ego-bursting term usually preceded by invoking the name of someone more impressive than the person you're addressing.
(Said to someone who's playing golf very badly): "Oi, Tiger Woods, tepi sikit."

Generic name for a pork butcher.

A Malay word meaning “upside down” or “inside out”. Sometimes used to mean a reversal. Common Beng mispronunciations include “tombalik” and “tombaling”.
1. “Eh, you wore your shirt terbalik today. The label's on the outside.”
2. “You always sabo people, one day terbalik then you tzai si.” (You're always getting people into trouble. One day, the situation will be reversed, then you'll know what it feels like.)

TERH  (Contributed by Jason Chan)
Used to describe someone as geeky, uncool or lacking in common sense. Unlike 'toot', 'terh' is limited to people.
"Why you tuck your shirt in your underwear? You damn terh, man!"
See also: Toot  

Singlish for "terrifying", "powerful" or "outrageous". Not necessarily derogatory.
1. "Tonight you sure got date with Ah Lian, one. See you dress so terror."
2. "Did you see Paramjeet run the 2.4? Wah lao, damn terror, man."

See also: Heong  Fierce  Powderful  

Malay for "severe", or "tough".
"The exam was damn teruk, man."
See also: Siong  

Yet another racist manner of addressing a Tamil person. "Thambi" itself is innocuous, but when used as a generic appellation for Southern Indians, it is clearly racist.

From the Malay word "diam", meaning "quiet" or "silent", and co-opted into Singlish Hokkien.
"Tiam lah, I dowan to hear any more kau peh kau bu".
See also: Shaddup  

TIKAM  (Contributed by Bertha)
To tikam means to choose randomly. From the Malay phrase "tikam-tikam". Commonly used among secondary school kids who need to answer multiple choice questions, or impatient people in the 4D queue.
"Aiyah, the MCQ is si beh difficult, man. All donno how to do, so I just tikam all the way, lor."

Hokkien exclamation whose closest English approximation is "got it!" or "correct!" Suggests hitting the target or achieving something, usually but not necessarily pleasant.
1. "Eh! I heard Ah Beng tio 4D, man!" ("Hey, I heard Ah Beng struck the lottery!")
2.  "You wan' your flat to get upgraded, then you must vote gahmen, lah. Tio bo?" ("To get your flat upgraded, you must vote in the government.  Is that correct?")
    "Tio!" ("Correct!")
3.  "Wah, Ah Beng yesterday tio from his OC, man!" ("Yesterday, Ah Beng got it from his officer in charge.")
4.  "Why you listen to him? He's a damn boh tio sort of person!" ("Don't listen to him - he's the type who just doesn't get it.")
5.  "I voted him because he's the most ooh tio of the lot." ("I voted him because of all the candidates, he's the one who gets it the most.")

See also: Kio Tio Goo Lan  

"Tiu" is the Cantonese equivalent of the Hokkien "kan", meaning "fuck". And "tiu lei lo mo" is "fuck your old mother", and the ultimate is "tiu lei lo mo chao hai", which has the same as that thermonuclear weapon of Hokkien swearing "kan ni na bu chao chee bye". If you want to be discreet, with the right intonation "tiu lei lo mo chao lo hai" can also mean "throw your mother's smelly old shoes away".
See also: Kan Ni Na Bu Chao Chee Bye  

A Hokkien word meaning “to collapse” or “fall”. Used to describe failure.
“He set up a bak kut teh stall in the Malay Village? Business sure toh, lah.”

TOK CHAI TAU  (Contributed by Sian Tao Ong)
Hokkien phrase literally translated as "Cut Cabbage Head". It means to take advantage of a person in order to pay off one's debts."
Ah Lian: "Eh, let's go and find Ah Beng and tok chai tau him, okay?"

Hokkien term meaning “superb” or “top of the line”.
1. “Check out his DVD player. Tok kong, man!”
2. “Wah lau eh, Ah Lian’s body is si beh tok kong.”

TOK SAD  (Contributed by UMC-Nazzster)
(tok sahd)
Of unknown derivation, this means "castrate".
"Wah lau, if you can pok Mei Yee, ah, I immediately tok sad one!"

Malay for "help". Can sometimes be used in the sense of "give me a break".
1. "Eh, this thing is damn heavy. Tolong, can or not?"
2. "You want me to go with you to watch the NDP? Tolong, lah."

TONG KENG  (Contributed by Keefe)
Local billiard/snooker/pool term which means to park, place or position a ball such that the next player can score easily. It is usually used to indicate that someone has been fortuitously granted an advantage.
"Piang eh! That girl bend down like that, tong keng for you, you waiting for what?"

Rather rude Hokkien term meaning “disgruntled" or "pissed off".
“I lend him so much money, now he treat me like that, I damn too lan one."

TOOT  (Contributed by Bernard Quek)
Used to describe inept or uncool behaviour. Can be both noun and adjective.
1. “Why is he such a toot? Whole day study and can still fail PSLE!”
2. “Eh, your bag, ah, is damn toot! You NUS oreddy and still use Powerpuff Girls bag!”

See also: Terh  

TOR HWEE  (Contributed by Edward Tew)
Literally meaning "vomit blood", this is a Hokkien phrase which is used as an expression for extreme difficulty, intense suffering, or great irritation.
Ah Beng: "Yesterday, hor, I teach my son Maths, teach until tor hwee."
See also: Vomit Blood  

Hokkien for "to run". Can also mean to dodge or skive. Curiously, nowadays, it's also used very much like "goodbye" a la the Italian "ciao", which sounds very similar.
1. "When a mad dog chases you - tsao like siao, man!"
2. "Want to tsao class today?"

See also: Pontang  Siam, Tuang  

Hokkien term meaning to expose one's underwear unintentionally.
"Don't look! Jane tsao k'ng again."

TUA  (Contributed by Yong Kuan)
A Hokkien term which is the equivalent of the African-American term "diss". A word which describes showing or being shown a lack of respect.
1. "Eh, I waited one hour for you but you ne'er turn up! Tua me, is it?"
2. "I ne'er do anything to you, why you go and tua me like that?" 

TUA KANG  (Contributed by Minglun)
Hokkien phrase literally meaning "big hole". Used to describe someone telling an exaggerated story, usually involving the teller doing something extraordinary.

Hokkien for "big shot". Literally, "big stick".
"You lan copler only, what! Why you act so tua kee?" (You're only a lance corporal. How dare you act like such a big shot?"

TUA KEE (2)  (Contributed by Jonathan Ng)
Hokkien phrase meaning "to wind up in deep trouble".
"Seow liao, my new boss is that bastard occifer from my BMT company! Like that I tua kee oreddy, lah!"

Hokkien for "big round ones", and can be used to describe breasts, testicles, eyes, or, generally, anything that is of a certain size.
See also: TUA KEE (1)  

TUA PIAN SIAN  (Contributed by Sian Tao Ong)
Hokkien phrase literally meaning "Big Bluff God". Describes someone who's extremely proficient in bullshitting or conning people.
1. "Tua Pian Sian come oreddy, be careful your money"
2. "Here comes the Tua Pian Sian. Let's hear what cock he wants to talk today."

See also: Sian Tao Ong  

(twah tau)
Literally, Hokkien for "big head". A term for a gang leader. Is also the local name for the pacific green-lipped mussel.
"Eh, just now at the hawker centre, hor, I saw the Tua Tao eating tua tao."

TUA TEOW  (Contributed by Crow)
To encounter great trouble.
"Wah lao, Ah Beng just knock somebody down with his motor bike! Damn tua teow, man..."

To skive.
"I'm supposed to be in class, but I've decided to tuang."
See also: Chiak Tsua  Keng  Pontang  Siam  Tsao  

An accomplished skiver.
"When it comes to work, he always disappears. Super tuang king, that one."
See also: Tuang  

Hokkien for “greedy”.
“He got so many marbles, still do’wan to share. Why so tum sim one?” 

A Malay word meaning “to hitch a ride” or “piggyback”. Can also mean asking someone to do a favour for you while they are doing something else. Note: If you’re a serious Ah Beng, you’ll pronounce this “lompang”.
1. “Eh, my wife took my car today. Can I tumpang your car to work?”
2. “Eh, since you’re going to the post office, can I tumpang you to buy some stamps?”

TUP PAI  (Contributed by UMC-Nazzster)
A Hokkien term meaning "everytime" or "always". 
1. "Aiyah... he tup pai one lah." (Sigh... He's always like that.)
2. "He tup pai go Sim Lim to buy pirated VCDs."

A compliment about one’s coolness.
“Ah Lian agreed to go out with him? Since when he so tzai one?”
See also: Can  Steady  

TZAI CHIU  (Contributed by Ah-Li)
Hokkien for "steady hand". Means to be good at or capable of executing tasks well.
"Eh, this sort of thing better go and ask Ah Beng to handle. He NS that time in the Bomb Disposal Unit, sure damn tzai chiu one."

Hokkien admonishment meaning “to know death”. From the Hokkien phrase “Mm Tzai Si”.
See also: Mm Tzai Si  

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