Malaysia Uncut

A Repository of Malaysian Stuff and More


There were a lot of queries on Manglish following the news item below:

Malaysia to Levy Fines for Poor Speech


So, I called up Wiki


Manglish (or sometimes Malglish or Mangled English) is the colloquial version of the English language as spoken in Malaysia and it is a portmanteau of the word Malay and English. The Malaysian Manglish is sometimes known as Rojak or Rojak Language (Bahasa Rojak).


Manglish shares substantial linguistic similarities with Singaporean English (Singlish) in Singapore, although distinctions can be made, particularly in vocabulary. One noticeable difference is that “don’t know” in Singlish is “donno”, whereas in Manglish, “don’t know” (pronounced “dontch know” ) is used, although neither is confined entirely to one country or the other.

Initially, “Singlish” and “Manglish” were essentially the same language, when Singapore and Malaysia were a single geographic entity: Malaya. In old Malaya, English was the language of the British administration whilst Malay was spoken as the lingua franca of the street. Thus, even the Chinese would revert to Malay when speaking to Chinese people who did not speak the same Chinese dialect.

Theoretically, English as spoken in Malaysia is based on British English and called Malaysian English. British spelling is generally followed. However, the influence of American English modes of expression and slang is strong, particularly among Malaysian youth.

Since 1968, Malay, or Bahasa Melayu, has been the country’s sole official language. While English is widely used, many Malay words have become part of common usage in informal English or Manglish. An example is suffixing sentences with lah, as in, “Don’t be so worried-lah”, which is usually used to present a sentence as rather light-going and not so serious, the suffix has no specific meaning. However, Chinese dialects also make abundant use of the suffix lah and there is some disagreement as to which language it was originally borrowed from. There is also a strong influence from Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, and Tamil, which are other major dialects and languages spoken in Malaysia. Manglish also uses some archaic British terms from the era of British colonisation (see “gostan” and “outstation” below).

Manglish Particles

Word Meaning Example
lah Used to affirm a statement (similar to “of course”). Frequently used at the end of sentences and usually ends with an exclamation mark (!). Don’t be an idiot lah!
nia/mia Used to affirm a sentence (similar to “only”). It is similar to “mah” and “lah” but used in a casual context. i got RM5 ‘nia’ , he is very stupid ‘mia’
mah Used to affirm a sentence but not as strongly as “lah”. Used at the end of sentences. She’s like that mah..
nah Derived from the Malay expression of “Nah!”. Used when giving something to another person. Nah, take this!
meh Used when asking questions, especially when a person is skeptical of something. Really meh?Cannot meh?
liao Means “already” No more stock liao.
ah Derived from the Chinese expression “a”. Used at the end of sentences, unlike meh the question is rhetorical. Also used when asking a genuine question. Besides that, some people use it when referring to a subject before making a (usually negative) comment. Why is he like that ah?Is that true ah?My brother ah, always disturb me!
lor Used when explaining something. Like that lor!
dy Derived from the word “already”. Often used in online chatroom by the youth in Malaysia. I eat ‘dy’ ‘loh’
leh Used to soften an order, thus making it less harsh Give me that leh.
one Used as an emphasis at the end of a sentence. Why is he so naughty one (ah)?
what Unlike British/American English, the word ‘what’ is often used as an exclamation mark, not just to ask a question. What! How could you do that?I didn’t take it, what.
got Used as a literal translation from the Malay word ‘ada’. The arrangement of words is often also literally translated. This particular particle is widely abused in Manglish, mainly because of the difficulty for the Manglish speaker of comprehending the various correct uses of the English verb ‘to have’. Therefore, ‘got’ is substituted for every tense of the verb. You got anything to do? (Kamu ada apa-apa untuk buat?)I got already/got/will got my car from the garage. Got or not? (Really?) Where got? (To deny something, as in Malay “Mana ada?” )


Speakers of Manglish from the country’s different ethnic groups tend to intersperse varying amounts of expressions or interjections from their mother tongue – be it Malay, Chinese or Indian – which, in some cases, qualifies as a form of code-switching.

Verbs or adjectives from other languages often have English affixes, and conversely sentences may be constructed using English words in another language’s syntax. People tend to translate phrases directly from their first languages into English, for instance, “on the light” instead of “turn on the light”.

Due to exposure to other languages and dialects, particularly within the national school system, members of a particular ethnic group may be familiar with phrases or expressions originating from languages other than their mother tongue and may, in fact, apply them in their daily speech, regardless of the ethnicity of their audience. This is especially true in the case of interjections and vulgar slang.

Of late, Malaysians have been more creative and more Malay and Chinese words have been converging with English words. It’s very simple, just find a Malay or Chinese verb, and add the word “-ing”, “-fied”, “-able” etc.

Words and grammar

Main article: Malaysian English vocabulary


  • “barsket” – derived from ‘bastard’, general derogatory term. May also be derived from ‘basket case’.
  • “bladibarsket” – derived from ‘bloody bastard’, profane derogatory term.
  • “kapster” – a nosy or talkative person; can be also used as an adjective, e.g., “I hate them because they are so kapster.” Contraction of the Malay verb “cakap”, to speak, plus -ster (probably from analogy with English words such as “trickster”).
  • “maluation” – embarrassment, from Malaymalu” + English “-ation“.
  • “outstation” – out of town (e.g., going outstation).
  • “terrer” – (pronounced as the English “terror” ) Refers to someone or something being awesomely amazing or good (e.g., “Bloody hell, that guy is terrer!” ).


  • “action/askyen/eksyen” – show-offy.
  • “aiksy/lan si” – arrogant, overconfident. ‘Aiksy’ possibly derived from ‘acting up’; ‘lan si’ is of Cantonese origin.
  • “blur” – confused, out-of-it. Roughly equivalent to “spacey” in American slang.
  • “slumber” – relaxed, laid-back; possibly a conflation of the Malay “selamba”, meaning nonchalant, and the English “slumber”.


  • “business” – a euphemism for bodily functions conducted in the toilet. One can do big business or small business.
  • “cabut/cantas” – to run off, flee or to escape (‘Cabut’ is a Malay word meaning to pull or pulling out as a transitive verb, or to become detached as an intransitive verb.)
  • “gostan” – reverse a vehicle, apparently from the nautical term “go astern” (mostly used in Kelantan, Kedah and Penang). Sometimes also expressed as “gostan balik” (lit., reverse back).
  • “jadi” – happened, succeeded (derived from the Malay word ‘jadi’, and may sometimes mean ‘so’ as in, “Jadi?” = “So what?” )
  • “jalan” – to walk (Malay)
  • “kantoi” – to get caught (“I kena kantoi…” means, “I got shafted/reprimanded/caught” )
  • “kena” – to get caught/punished; often used like a noun (“I sure kena if I cheat” ) or (I need to ‘kena’ a joint o_0″). From the Malay passive verb “kena”.
  • “kill” – to punish/scold/cause trouble to someone (“If you’re not careful ah, this guy will kill you” )
  • “makan” – to eat (Malay)
  • “minum” – to drink (Malay)
  • “on/off” – to turn something on or off, respectively (e.g. “Don’t forget to off the fan.” )
  • “pengsan” – to faint (Malay)
  • “pon” – to skip school/play truant (from Malay “ponteng”, meaning the same)
  • “saman” – to issue a fine, usually in relation to a traffic offence, from “summons“.
  • “sit” – since this is the word used for riding in a vehicle in Malay and in Chinese dialects, it is used in the same way in English, e.g. “sit bus”
  • “tahan” – to stand, to bear (“Cannot tahan her perfume! So strong!” ). From Malay “tahan”, to endure, to withstand.
  • “tumpang-ing” – riding in someone else’s vehicle or lodging at someone else’s house, from the Malay verb “tumpang” + “-ing”
  • “yam-cha” – socializing with friends in “mamak_stall
  • (any Malay word) + “ing” – doing a certain action (“Tengah makan” or “I’m eating right now” is shortened to “Makan-ing” )


  • “alamak” – exclamation of surprise or shock as in ,”Alamak!”
  • “best/syok” – indicates the object as superlatively good. “Syok/shiok” is from the Hokkien word for sexual arousal or pleasure. (Shiok is also a chain of novelty shops, although it could also be possible that the word stems from the English word “shock” in the context of seeing something shocking).
  • “die/finish/gone/habis/mampus/mampui/sei/tiu-lor(死)” – generic exclamations to indicate “trouble”, used like the English “damn it” or “to face the music” (e.g. Today he die because of that loan shark). “sei” is usually pronounced as its Cantonese equivalent, “die”.


  • “(Subject + predicate), is it?” – this is often used as a question. “It” doesn’t refer to the subject, but rather to the entire preceding clause (“Is it so?” ) This is comparable to the French phrase “n’est-ce pas?” (literally “isn’t it?” )

Other usage

The word is also used to describe the colloquial South Indian–accented English that is often interlarded with Malayalam.

Manglish (manga in English) is also the name of an interactive cartoon feature in the Mainichi Daily News, Japan’s major English-language online newspaper. Manga, or Japanese comics, are displayed on the Web site in their original format, but English translations of the Japanese characters can be seen by mousing over the speech balloons.

See also



Monday, October 9, 2006 - Posted by | General Info, Trivia

1 Comment »

  1. […] There’s also long discourse on Malaysian English – aka Manglish to afficionados – at Malaysia Uncut. […]

    Pingback by Fusion View » Blog Archive » Lah-Lah Land | Tuesday, November 28, 2006 | Reply

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