Shiok! 19 Singlish items added to the Oxford English Dictionary

Float bearing Singlish phrases and hawker food icons during the National Day Parade 2015 at the Padang. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Who needs the Queen's English when you can use Singlish?

In its March quarterly update, the hallowed Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has added 19 new "Singapore English" items in its lexicon.

There are new senses of common English words, loanwords from Chinese and Malay, and formations in English that are only used in Singapore, OED said on its website.

The examples it cited: "blur", meaning slow in understanding, "ang moh" (a light-skinned person, esp. of Western origin or descent; a Caucasian), "shiok" (cool, great; delicious, superb), "sabo" (to harm, inconvenience, or make trouble for; to trick, play a prank on) and "HDB" (a public housing estate).

OED also noted that terms like "lepak" (to loiter aimlessly or idly; to loaf, relax, hang out) and "teh tarik" (sweet tea with milk) are characteristics of both Singapore and Malaysian English.

"Wet market" (a market for the sale of fresh meat, fish, and produce), on the other hand, is used all over South-east Asia.

It is also now considered acceptable to use "wah", which OED says is used - especially at the beginning of a sentence - to express admiration, encouragement, delight and surprise, among others.

Other notable words highlighting Singapore's rich food heritage also made it to the list, which include "hawker centre" and iconic local dishes "char siu" and "chilli crab".

Interestingly, OED also included "Chinese helicopter", which it defines as a derogatory term for a Singaporean whose schooling was conducted in Mandarin Chinese and who has limited knowledge of English.

Several Singlish words had previously made it into the OED's online version, which launched in March 2000. "Lah" and "sinseh" were already included in OED's debut, while "kiasu" made it to the big time in March 2007.

On Feb 11 last year, "kiasu" was also selected as the OED's Word of the Day.

Here's the full 19-item list. For their individual definitions, click here.

Ang moh


Char siu

Chilli crab

Chinese helicopter

Hawker centre


Killer litter

Lepak (noun)

Lepak (verb)



Sabo (noun)

Sabo (verb)

Sabo king


Teh tarik


Wet market

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