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ISO 639-3None (mis)
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Manglish (Malaysian English) is an English-based creole principally used in informally in Malaysia that is heavily influenced by the dominant language of the country, Malay.

The vocabulary of Manglish consists of words originating from English, Malay, Hokkien, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tamil, Malayalam and, to a lesser extent, various other European languages, while Manglish syntax resembles southern varieties of Chinese. Also, elements of American and Australian slang have come through from imported television series.[1]

The Malaysian Manglish is sometimes known as Rojak or Bahasa Rojak, but it differs from the Rojak language by the usage of English as the base language. The East Coast versions (Kelantan and Terengganu) of Manglish may differ greatly from that of West Coast Malaysian speakers.

Manglish spoken in West Malaysia is very similar and highly mutually intelligible with Singlish, a creole of similar roots.


The term Manglish is first recorded in 1989. Other colloquial portmanteau words for Manglish include (chronologically): Malish (1992), Malaylish (1992), Malenglish (1994), Malglish (1997), Malayglish (2005), and Malanglish (2013).[2]

Manglish shares substantial linguistic similarities with Singlish in Singapore, although distinctions can be made, particularly in vocabulary.

Initially, "Singlish" and "Manglish" were essentially the same language, when both Singapore and the states now comprising Peninsular Malaysia were under various forms of direct and indirect British colonial rule, though not forming a single administrative unit except between 1963 and 1965. (See Malaya). In old British Malaya, English was the language of the British administration whilst Malay was the lingua franca of the street. Even ethnic Chinese would speak Malay when addressing other Chinese people who did not speak the same Chinese dialect.

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 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 Malay, 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).

Malaysian English and Manglish[edit]

In Malaysia, Manglish is considered to be a less formal form of Malaysian English which has features of a pidgin or a creole, rather than a fully-fledged creole language.[3][4] While all varieties of English used by Malaysians may be considered Malaysian English,[5] some make a distinction between Malaysian English and Manglish; Malaysian English being a form of English that largely follows the standard rules of English grammar but with some local characteristics, while Manglish is a pidgin that does not follow the grammatical rules or structure of English.[4] Many Malaysians however tend to refer to the colloquialisms used by those taught in English-medium school as Malaysian English,[6] while some argued for the basilect form or pidgin as the "real" Malaysian English.[7] At the lexical level, limited lexis is used and consequently, a number of words serve a variety of functions, giving extended meanings not normally accepted in standard British English.

There are some differences of contemporary words used between Malaysia and the United Kingdom. The use of Manglish is discouraged at schools, where only Malaysian Standard English is taught.[8]

The term Malaysian English is not used in any official context except for the ever-changing school curriculum modules in attempts to improve the command of English but without going into advanced lessons. Call it English 112, English for Primary Students, Malaysian English, Conversational English etc. but "Malaysian English" is not an official dialect of English.[according to whom?]

It is however, possible to speak Manglish without substituting English words with that from another language.

Derive influences[edit]

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 one of the Indian languages – which, in some cases, qualifies as a form of code-switching.[citation needed]

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". Or sometimes, "open the light", translated directly from Chinese.[citation needed]

Words and grammar[edit]


  • "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!").
  • "chop" – stamp (also used as verb). From Malay 'cop' meaning stamp e.g. "Put your company chop on the receipt".
  • "dollar" – a loaned currency used especially in vis-à-vis business transactions in lieu of "ringgit" (as in Ringgit Malaysia).


  • "action/askyen/eksyen" – show-offy (due to confusion of the usage of the Malay word "berlagak", which can either mean "show off" or "to act")
  • "aiksy/lan si" – arrogant, overconfident. 'Aiksy' possibly derived from 'acting up'; 'lan si' is of Cantonese origin and is considered rude by some.
  • "blur" – confused, out-of-it. Roughly equivalent to "spacey" in American slang.
  • "chop" – stamp (of approval). (Due to confusion of the usage of the Malay word "cap". [E.g. I got the chop for my letter from the office lah.])
  • "cincai" – casually, simply, doing things as one pleases. e.g. "I just cincai order a dish from the menu."
  • "geram" – angry, greatly annoyed, irritated, pissed off. Origins from Malay language. e.g. "Eh look at his attitude lah, geram only!"
  • "la-la" – flashy, gaudy appearance. "La-la" replaces the older derogatory term "Ah Lien" that is used to describe girls who wear heavy make-up and outstanding clothes and accessories, which usually end up being rather bad taste instead of looking sophisticated or in fashion. They also usually sport brightly coloured hair. "La-la" can also be used to describe the things these girls are known to wear. E.g. "That salegirl was very la-la"/"The clothes are so la-la." These days, the term is also used to describe guys who sports outstanding/bizarre hairstyle and wear outstanding clothes and accessories resulting in bad taste as well. "la-la zai" and "la-la mui" is commonly used to make distinctions between the genders, with the former referring to guys and the latter referring to girls. The "la-la's" also feature rather punkish attitudes.
  • "pai-seh" – ashamed, embarrassed/embarrassing. 'pai-seh' is of Hokkien origin [E.g.: I kena punish lah... very pai-seh eh!].
  • "slumber" – relaxed, laid-back; possibly a conflation of the Malay "selamba", meaning nonchalant, and the English "slumber".
  • "sup-sup sui" – very easy. 'Sup-sup sui' is of Cantonese origin.


  • "sibeh" – very, extremely. Hokkienised for "super". Used when wanting to put an emphasis on something saying it is great or big -- whether it is in a good or bad way does not matter as long as it is "huge" e.g. : "That guy is sibeh annoying lo."


  • "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 Terengganu, Kelantan, Kedah and Penang) or "go stunt". 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)
  • "kacau" – to disturb (Malay) e.g.: Please don't kacau me.
  • "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"). 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), often refer to lunch or dinner (Malay) (e.g. "You makan dy?" means "Have you taken your dinner/lunch?")
  • "makan" – Take a bet (e.g. "I makan 1/2 biji on Manchester United" means "I bet 1/2 handicap on Manchester United")
  • "mempersiasuikan" - to embarrass ("mem...per...kan" derived from Malay grammar and "siasui" means shame in Hokkien)
  • "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/apon (from Malay "ponteng", meaning the same)
  • "saman" – to issue a fine, usually in relation to a traffic offence, from "summons".
  • "siam" – to avoid (e.g. "Boss is coming. I siam first.")
  • "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"
  • "wo hen baite" – to be white
  • "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"
  • "mamak" / "mamak stall" – from the term mamak (a slang for Indian or Indian Muslims), it is used to refer to Indian Muslim restaurants in Malaysia. Example: let's go eat at a mamak lah.
  • "yam-cha" – socializing with friends usually in "mamak stalls", but other places also apply. Generally identifies with "go have a drink". Derived from the "Yum Cha" used in Cantonese.
  • "lempang" – literally "bash", it usually refers to a slap. Example: He can lempang your face.
  • (any Malay word) + "ing" – doing a certain action ("Tengah makan" or "I'm eating right now" is shortened to "Makan-ing' and "He's the one cheating me!" equates to 'He's d one dat tipu-ing me leh..' ")
  • "Kow-kow" / "Kow kow" / "Kowkow" / "kaukau" – (pron: Kao-kao) used to stress a personal satisfaction on a specific action specified before. The stress can be due to shock, anger, pain, or pleasure. Example: He got it kow kow ("He got it badly")


  • "Alamak" – exclamation of surprise or shock. (E.g. "Alamak!" (Oh no!)). From the Malay exclamation 'alamak'
  • "Wei" – exclamation when conversing to a close friend, or used as "hello" when answering phone (from Chinese character 喂, "wei")[9]
  • "Best/syok/shiok" – indicates the object as superlatively good. "Syok" or "shiok" is from the Hokkien word for pleasure. (syok 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).
  • "Bo jio" – indicates the lack of invitation in Hokkien. The usage is to annoy friends or families when they have a fun time than the speaker.
  • "Die/Finish/Gone/Habis/Mampus/Mampui/Sei/See/GG/Pok kai/" – generic exclamations to indicate "trouble", used like the English "dead" or "dead end" – "sei" is usually pronounced as its Cantonese equivalent, "die". (E.g. Today he die because of that loan shark (Today, he is in trouble because of the loan sharks. The word "die" does not mean to die literally)).
  • "Cehwah/Huiyooh/Fuyoh/Fulamak/Aiseh" – exclamation of amazement/wonder/marvel. (E.g. Fuyoooh, his hair so jinjang!)
  • "Kanasai" – "Like Shit" in Hokkien
  • "Walao eh" – also an exclamation of amazement similar to Korean Hul~(usually Chinese)
  • "Giler Ah!" – exclamation of shock or amazement. From the Malay word 'gila' which means mad or crazy.
  • "Izzit?" – expression of mild unbelief. ("Really? ", basically, "Is it?").
  • "Watodo" – rhetorical question (Example, "It has already happened. What can we do?").
  • "Podaa!" – from Tamil equivalent to the American phrase, "Get out!" when expressing disbelief
  • "Abuden?" – Combination of Hokkien "A-bo", meaning "if not" in English, and the word "then". It is also equivalent to simply saying "Obviously". Usually used a sarcastic response to an obvious observation or question.
  • "Deyh!" – meaning bro. Borrowed from Tamil.
  • "Geli"- meaning disgusting. Example:"Eh,this thing very geli eh!"(Hey,this thing is very disgusting!)


  • "(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?") and the German usage of "..., oder?" (literally "..., or?")


  • "Open collar, pocket no dollar" – expression reflecting linkage between extravagant appearance and persona, and illusion of wealth

The "Lah" word[edit]

The ubiquitous word lah ([lɑ́] or [lɑ̂]), used at the end of a sentence, can also be described as a particle that simultaneously asserts a position and entices solidarity.

Note that 'lah' is often written after a space for clarity, but there is never a pause before it. This is because originally in Malay, 'lah' is appended to the end of the word and is not a separate word by itself.

In Malay, 'lah' is used to change a verb into a command or to soften its tone, particularly when usage of the verb may seem impolite. For example, "to drink" is "minum", but "Here, drink!" is "minumlah". Similarly, 'lah' is frequently used with imperatives in Singlish, such as the command, "Drink lah!" (Come on, drink!).[10] 'Lah' also occurs frequently with "Yah" and "No" (hence "Yah lah" and "No lah"), resulting in a less brusque sound, thus facilitating the flow of conversation. This form is more used by Chinese in Malaysia.

It is also possible that Lah comes from Cantonese. In Cantonese, Lah is placed at the end of a sentence in imperatives making it sound more like a request than an order.

It might have Tamil origin as well. Lah is still used widely in Southern Tamil Nadu (Thirunelveli, Kanyakumari district) in the same manner. Tamil is said to be more pure in this region than northern Tamil Nadu and had ancient trade link with south east Asia.[11]

Lah is often used with brusque, short, negative responses:

  • Don't have lah! (Brusque response to, "Lend me some money, can?")
  • Don't know already lah! (Brusque response to someone fumbling with an explanation. Mostly by Chinese.)

Lah is also used for reassurance:

  • Don't worry, he can do it one lah – Don't worry, he can get it done.
  • It's okay lah – It's all right.

Lah can also be used to emphasize items in a spoken list, appearing after each item in the list but is not commonly used in this context.

  • They got sell Nasi Lemak lah, Roti Canai lah, Chapatti lah; Everything got lah!

Although lah can appear nearly anywhere, it cannot appear with a yes-no question. Another particle should be used instead. For example:

  • Where are you ar? (This is especially of Chinese origin.)[10]

The Chinese influence in Manglish, however, can be seen among other races in Malaysia, especially when conversing with Chinese-speaking people. This principle can be generally applied to all forms of non-standard English spoken in Malaysia.


'Loh' or 'lo' is used in the same context as "lah". It serves as a final particle to intensify a decision that is definitive and irrevocable.

In most cases, loh is used in direct response to a question or query with the connotation that the respondent is somewhat impatient or annoying because the person thinks that the answer is so obvious that the question should not have been raised from the start. In fact, the questioner might have no idea beforehand about the rude reply that would be shot back to him/her, though it can be argued that the word 'lah' might deliver stronger emotions from the speaker.

For example, to show argumentative mood or making emphasis, one would say, "You lo (it's your fault), if it's not for you we wouldn't be in trouble now!" and possibly in response, the other would say, "Eh, I never forced you to follow me here loh!" Another example is "traffic jam loh!" when asked by a friend why he or she is late to an occasion.

Sometimes, loh is used to express insincerity while speaking, for instance when one says "sorry loh" or "thank you loh".

However, in some cases, the use of loh is only intended to give an advice without any notion of impatience. Examples: "I think he’s being unreasonable loh" or "if you ask you will know loh".

In lesser cases, using "loh" can make some emphasis or convey a jovial atmosphere. For example, "I came all the way for you loh" and "Nah, that one loh, that fat chubby one in a yellow shirt loh".

"Loh" is mostly used by the Chinese community in Malaysia, because of its Cantonese origin.


"Meh" is also a common ubiquitous word that used at the end of a question. It is usually used with a sense of confidence in his or her own statement but the hint of doubt towards the other person. For example," I like her, can not meh?" (meaning "I like her. What's wrong with that?").

"Meh" is of Cantonese origin. In Cantonese or Hakka, "meh" is a final particle that transforms statements into questions that indicate doubt or surprise.[12]


The particle what [wɑ̀t], also spelled wat/wot, is used to remind or contradict the listener, especially when strengthening another assertion that follows from the current one:


"There is"/"there are" and "has"/"have" are both expressed using got, so that sentences can be translated in either way back into British / American English. This is equivalent to the Chinese 有 yǒu (to have):

  • Got question? – Is there a question? / Do you have a question?
  • Yesterday ar, East Coast Park got so many people! – There were so many people at East Coast Park yesterday. / East Coast Park had so many people [there] yesterday.
  • This bus got air-con or not? – Is there air-conditioning on this bus? / Does this bus have air-conditioning?
  • Where got!? – lit. Where is there [this]?, also more loosely, What are you talking about? or Where did you get that idea?; generic response to any accusation. Derived from Malay sentence "Mana ada" – 'Mana' (Where) 'ada' (got) and also from Chinese sentence "哪里有" – '哪里' (Where) '有' (got).

Can is used extensively as both a question particle and an answer particle. The negative is cannot:

  • Gimme lah, ok or not? – (Give it to me, OK?)
  • Can! – (Sure!)
  • Can! – (Yes, that is possible)
  • Cannot. – (No way.)


Comparisons with Singlish[edit]

Manglish and Singlish share a common history and some common characteristics. The difference between Manglish and Singlish can be subtle and sometimes difficult to be distinguish even among the locals. However, Manglish is markedly more influenced by the Malay language, with the majority population in Malaysia being the Ethnic Malays; while Singlish is more influenced by Hokkien dialect or Mandarin Chinese, with the majority population being the Ethnic Chinese. For example, "kena" (a Malay word, somewhat of a prefix added for the sake of turning an action verb into passive form) might be more often used in Manglish; while Singlish more frequently uses words like "liao" (meaning "already" in Hokkien), "nia" (meaning "only" in Hokkien). However, referring the aforementioned example, "kena" is also used in Singlish and "liao" in Mangish, only to a less extent. This shows the huge influences on these two languages on each other as well. There is virtually no difference between the two when heard from foreigner's ears.

Other usage[edit]

  • The word 'Manglish' is also used to describe the English spoken by Malayalam speakers from the Kerala state in India having a Malayalam accent, mainly by those who have studied in Malayalam-medium schools. This is also propagated by Malayalam media.
  • 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[edit]


  1. ^ Lingua et Linguistica 1.1
  2. ^ Lambert, James. 2018. A multitude of ‘lishes’: The nomenclature of hybridity. English World-wide, 39(1): 28. DOI: 10.1075/eww.38.3.04lam
  3. ^ Toshiko Yamaguchi, David Deterding, ed. (7 April 2016). English in Malaysia: Current Use and Status. Brill. p. 13. ISBN 9789004314306.
  4. ^ a b Lim Chin Lam (14 October 2011). "Primer on Manglish". The Star.
  5. ^ Ee Ling Low, Azirah Hashim, eds. (24 January 2012). English in Southeast Asia: Features, Policy and Language in Use. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 56. ISBN 978-9027249029.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  6. ^ Rajeev Shridhar Patke, Philip Holden. The Routledge concise history of Southeast Asian writing in English. Routledge. p. 32.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  7. ^ Alistair King (8 October 2013). "Just don't call it Manglish!". The Star.
  8. ^ The Handbook of Business Discourse, By Francesca Bargiela-Chiappini
  9. ^ "喂". MDBG.
  10. ^ a b Lim, Chin Lam (14 October 2011). "Primer on Manglish". The Star. Retrieved 5 January 2015.
  11. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-02-11. Retrieved 2008-02-02. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ [1]

External links[edit]