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Region Malaysia
Native speakers
(this article does not contain any information regarding the number of speakers)
English Creole
  • Manglish
Language codes
ISO 639-3 None (mis)
Glottolog None

Manglish (or sometimes Malglish or Mangled English) is an English-based creole spoken in Malaysia.

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, as their accent of Malay and the jargon are particularly alien to regular Malaysian (West Coast) speakers. Such is shown evidently in the film 'Baik Punya Cilok' where a character spoke in an authentic Terengganu/Kelantan Manglish.

Manglish in the West coast of West Malaysia is very similar (and often identical) to Singlish.


  • History 1
  • Definition: Officially and On-the-streets 2
  • 3 Manglish Particles
  • Derive Influences 4
  • Words and grammar 5
    • Nouns 5.1
    • Adjectives 5.2
    • Verbs 5.3
    • Exclamations 5.4
    • Grammar 5.5
    • Phrases 5.6
  • The "Lah" word 6
  • What 7
  • Miscellaneous 8
  • Manglish vs Singlish 9
  • Other usage 10
  • See also 11
  • External links 12
  • References 13


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 Singapore and Malaysia were a single political 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 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 Bahasa Malaysia, 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).

Definition: Officially and On-the-streets

On the streets, Manglish is short for Malaysian English, a unique dialect of English spoken in Malaysia.

Due to the multi-language environment, the English language in Malaysia has evolved into a creole with its own phonology, lexicon and grammar.

There is no reference to the English being used in Malaysia, as Malaysian English, even from the English daily newspapers. Naturally, there are some differences of contemporary words used between Malaysia and the United Kingdom as they are continents apart and each has their own media. However, they are not so distinctly apart and established that English in Malaysia needs to be recognised as Malaysian English.[2] The use of Manglish is discouraged at schools, where only Malaysian Standard English is taught.[3]

Malaysia continually strives to refer to authorities of British English but also accepts that American English influence is becoming increasingly apparent. Hence, Malaysia has no intention of formulating its own English or coming up with its own dictionary, unlike some English-speaking Commonwealth states like Australia.

There is no such term as Malaysian English 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. On the streets, Manglish is just "Malaysian English" just as Singlish is Singaporean English.

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

Manglish Particles

Manglish can be divided into two:

  • Manglish 1: refers to the English of the English-medium educated where English is still a true second language; being used by its speakers in everyday conversation.
  • Manglish 2: refers to the English of the Malay-medium educated where English has a definite foreign/second language appearances. For some its speakers, it appears to be a foreign language, rarely used in oral communication and even less in writing and reading.

Manglish 1 can be standard ME – with the exception of a minority of Malaysian speakers who have been educated abroad and have achieved near-native speaker proficiency generally speaking.

Manglish 2 can be sub-standard ME/local dialect – it has all the features of the first variety of Manglish. Besides, 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.

Derive Influences

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". Or sometimes, "open the light", translated directly from Chinese.

Words and grammar


  • "kapster" - a nosy or talkative person; can also be 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"). Probably originated from the hokkien term "Kap siau" meaning - being annoying.
  • "maluation" - embarrassment, from Malay "malu" + 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!").
  • "mempersiasuikan" - disgraceful, derived from hokkien "siasui" + Malay.(e.g. "Sungguh mempersiasuikan" or "Very mempersiasuikan" which means very disgraceful/humiliating/embarrassing)
  • "chop" - stamp (also used as verb). From Malay 'cop' meaning stamp e.g. "Put your company chop on the receipt".


  • "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.
  • "blur" - confused, out-of-it. Roughly equivalent to "spacey" in American slang.
  • "cincai" - casually, simply, doing things as one pleases. e.g. "I just cincai order a dish from the menu."
  • "slumber" - relaxed, laid-back; possibly a conflation of the Malay "selamba", meaning nonchalant, and the English "slumber".
  • "pai-seh" - ashamed, embarrassed/embarrassing. 'pai she' is of Hokkien origin [E.g.: I kena punish lah... very pai-seh eh!].
  • "sup-sup sui" - very easy. 'Sup-sup sui' is of Cantonese origin.
  • "chop" - stamp (of approval). (Due to confusion of the usage of the Malay word "cop". [E.g. I got the chop for my letter from the office lah.])
  • "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 later referring to girls. the "la-las" also feature rather punkish attitudes.
  • "Noob" - useless, lousy or incompetent. It is usable in every situation or noun, even for non-living object. [E.g. Your car is so noob, so slow wan or markkoh.] It contrast with its original slang term noob, which means novice or newcomer, or somebody inexperienced in any profession or activity.
  • "Sibeh" - very, extremely. Hokkienised for "super". Used when wanting to put an emphasis on something saying its great or big. Whether it is in a good way or bad way, it doesn't 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")
  • "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"
  • "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 male friend.
  • "Best/Syok" - indicates the object as superlatively good. "Syok" 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).
  • "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/Fuyoh/Fulamak/Aiseh" - exclamation of amazement/wonder/marvel. (E.g. Fuyoooh, his hair so jinjang!)
  • "Jinjang" - a term to explain one's appearance, being out of fashion or old-fashioned. Sometimes it is used to refer to people who act rudely or uncivilized in public. (Jinjang is also a sub-urban town in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia). (E.g. The guys over there are 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. Also from the Malay word 'gila' which means mad or crazy.
  • "Izzit?" - expression of mild unbelief. (from the word, "Is that so?").
  • "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
  • "Phew wit" - a praise towards a beautiful lady
  • "Apa then?/Abuden?" - Combination of Malay "Apa", meaning "what" 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.


  • "(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

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 comma for clarity, but there is never a pause before it. This is because in the original 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!).[4] '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.

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.)[4]

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.

It might have Tamil origin. 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 [1].

"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 mei?" (meaning "I like her. What's wrong with that?").

Many of these terms are spoken by a very wide range of Singaporeans, Malaysians and Chinese locals


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.)

Manglish vs Singlish

The difference between Manglish and Singlish is very subtle and can oftentimes be hard to 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

  • 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

External links

  • Kamon-lah, Tok Manglish OK?
  • Manglish: For and Against, Should Malaysians speak Manglish or proper English?
  • "What is wrong with the Malayalee English?"
  • "Malayali's English"
  • " Malayali (or rather Indian) pronunciation errors"
  • Zimmer, Benjamin (2006-10-05), "Malaysia Cracks Down on 'Salad Language'". Language Log.


  1. ^ Lingua et Linguistica 1.1
  2. ^ The Routledge concise history of Southeast Asian writing in English, By Rajeev Shridhar Patke, Philip Holden
  3. ^ The Handbook of Business Discourse, By Francesca Bargiela-Chiappini
  4. ^ a b
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