Hokkien Phrases A-E

~lunchbox meal~ image copyright Kris lee 2012

~lunchbox meal~
image copyright Kris lee 2012

ABU NEH NEH- Churlish term to describe Indians.

AGAK-AGAK- To estimate/To guess.

AH GNAU- Country Bumpkin. To describe a person still living under a coconut shell.

AH LONG- Loan shark. An illegal moneylender.

AI CHAI- To keep steady/calm.

AI PH’NI KO AI CH’NI- Want it cheap, want it fresh. To describe people with unrealistic expectations.

AI SAY- An enthusiastic endorsement for someone who made a mark on something.

AI SI- Want to die. Courting death.

AI SI BEH SI- Want to die but cannot.

AI SWEE- Vain.

AI YO- Uttered when in shock or disbelief over an unexpected happening.

ALABAI/BAI- Way of addressing a Sikh. The term bhai means brother.

ALABAI JOPE- A game played by churlish Chinese that pokes fun at Sikhs. It involves shouting that phrase out each time and at the same time make a five finger beak on both hands each time we encounter a Sikh because they are rare.

ALAMAK- An expression of dismay/surprise/alarm.

APONG BIN- Vagina face. Swear language.

APONG SIN- Vagina spirit. A man who chose woman over his friends.

ANG KI KI- As red as ever. A teaser used to describe the blush of colour on a persons face after having a drink too many or one who dresses up in red.

ANG KU IN- A type of sweetcake mold. Used to describe siblings/families/couples with similar facial/physical features.

ANG KONG LOR- Red grandfather’s road/God’s road. A miracle. Uttered when something good but usually out of the ordinary happens.

ANG MOR/ANG MOR KOW- Red haired monkey. A reference to Caucasians.

ANG MOR LANG- Red hair people.  A term used to describe Caucasians.

ANG TAO PENG- Refers to the Civil Defence Unit that wears red helmets.

AR CHI LOAT- A game of catching.

AR KHAR AR CHEW- Duck legs, duck hands. To describe people with poor limb coordination.

ARN CHNUA- Now how?

ARN TUA- a triad leader.

ART KHAR ART CHIEW- Bend legs, bend hands. To be a buddy with someone else.

ART KAH LIAU- Bend all. To be a real good friend with someone else.

AY LAU BAY TUA- Can grow old but not big. To describe a childish person.


BAH KHAR- Meaty leg. A bad driver.

BAK CHEW ANG- Red eye. To be jealous.

BAK CHEW TAK STAMP- Eyes pasted with stamp. Sometimes one fail to see the true colors of another person even with our naked eye. Normally used in relationships.

BALU- Just.

BAN GA LI- Colloquail for Bengali or Sikhs, an Indian  tribe.

BANG GA LAI- Colloquail for Bangladeshi.

BARN BARN TARN- To slowly wait.

BAU CHUT KAR LIOW- Smell surfaces. A person’s negative self is revealed.

BAY CHARM SIONG- Reluctant to co operate/work together.

BAY CHI TONG- Dumb/Not diligent or alert enough.

BAY HIAU KIN- Nevermind.

BAY HIAU KONG- Don’t know how to say it. Having difficulty in expressing oneself.

BAY HOW KOR- Totally unacceptable/disgusting/horrible/grotesque/horrid.

BAY KAN- Unable to fuck. Extremely self centered individual with unnegotiable character.

BAY PAKAI- Unusable. Also refers to inconsiderate self centered people.

BAY PHAI SAY/BEH HIAU PHAI SAY- Do not know embarrassment/Thick skinned.

BAY SAI- Cannot. No choice.

BAY TA HAN- Cannot stand/tolerate.

BAY TIOK KA LU- Cannot get it from you. Used as a gesture of respect/ridicule when others beat us in something we are good in or does things beyond our imagination.

BEN TEN- Colloquail for Burmese.

BIN CHOW CHOW- Smelly face. To describe someone with a grumpy look.

BIN SAIK PEN- Face color changes. To describe the dismayful look of a person.

BIT PHANG SIEW- Beehive. Used to describe one who wears an afro hairstyle.

BO BEH CHOW- No horse running. To describe something or someone accomplish.

BO BEH LAND- Unevenly balanced.

BO BIN/BO BIN CHUI- No face. To lose face because of a mistake or embarrassment.

BO CHAI (1)- Not steady. A nervous person.

BO CHAI (2)- No luck.

BO CH’AI- A waste.

BO CHAY’NG- No sentiment. Used on people who does things without considering sentimental relations or past favors.

BO CHEE- No balls. Swear language.

BO CHENG HU- No government/ lawless or chaotic.

BO CHENG KOW- No gratitude dog. An ungrateful person.

BO CHIAK PNUI- Didn’t eat rice. To poke fun at someone physically weak.

BO CHUP- Angered and not wanting to get involved.

BO ENG- Not free/occupied/busy.

BO GAU KOON- Dangerous.

BO GNAM- Something inconsistent as in an imperfect match.

BO HEW- Don’t give a damn. invariably used in the negative sense.

BO HOO HEH MA HO- If there are no fish, prawns are just as good. To accept second choices cheerfully and pragmatically.

BO HOOD/ BO LAN HOOD/ BO LUM PAR CHEE- No testicles/balls. To describe people who are cowardice and with no guts.

BO HO SAY BIN- Something/situation/circumstance which is not right.

BO KAM BUAN- Unwilling or reluctant.

BO KAN TAN- Not easy.

BO KAR SI- Never taught/Badly brought up. Swear Language.

BO KHANG THAU- Nothing promising. No opportunity.

BO KNIA- Not afraid.

BO KNIA LANG TU LAN- To do things unabashedly or unashamed of doing things others might disapprove of.

BO KUAY NAU- Never cross the brain. A loose cannon who never think before he utters.

BO LARNG AI- No one wants. To describe those who remain single.

BO LARNG CHAI- No one knows. Uttered in embarrassment over one’s own blooping.

BO LIAU- No talent.

BO LIONG SIM- No tolerance heart. A hard hearted person.

BO LIOW- No more.

BO LOR EONG- No road to use. To describe one without guts or a hesitant.

BO LOOI- No money.

BO LOOI BOH UAR KONG- No money no talk.

BO PIAN- No choice. Can’t do anything about it.

BO SAY/BO KH’UAN- No personality.

BO SAIK BAK- Eye not alert enough. One who is not alert enough.

BO SIM- No heart. To describe someone who doesn’t know how or when to requite love be it in thoughts or actions.

BO SONG- Uncomfortable.

BO SU CHO- Nothing to do. Used on people who interfere then messes up situations when they should mind their own business.

BO SWEE- Not pretty/ A biased person.

BO SWEE AY KHAR- Not a good partner.  Refering to a partner on a gambling table. One who did not honor his words or did not make a cooperative partner.

BO TAR BO LUM PHAR- If it’s not dry, you’ve got no balls. A dare to someone to bottoms up an unpleasant drink.

BO TAI CHI- Nothing’s the matter/Nothing’s wrong.

BO THAK CHEK- Uneducated.

BO THOW BO BUAY- No head, no tail. Incomprehensible.

BO TUA BO SAY- No big, no small. To admonish someone for not being respectful or knowing his position.

BOTAK HEAD- Hairless head. A bald person/skinhead.

BOTAK THUI- Hairless Object. A Penis.


BO TNIA BO TIOK- Fidgety. Used to describe an excessively fussy person.

BUNG CHA CHA- A Blur/Confuse person.

BYE BYE MA CHAI LEH PAI- Bye Bye tomorrow is a Sunday. A kiddy way of saying goodbye.


CHABAI BULUNG- A small chilli. A petite woman.

CHAR LUAN LANG/ CHAR SI LANG- Irritate till death. To admonish problematic people.

CHARM/CHIN CHNIA CHARM- Pitifully disastrous.

CHAR SIOW- Frying sperm. To disturb.

CHAP CHENG- Mixed parentage.

CHAP CHENG KNIA- Child of mixed parentage.

CHAP SNAR TIAM- Thirteen o’clock. Someone half-baked/A cuckoo.

CHAR THAU- Wooden Head. An idiot

CHEK AK- What a pity!

CHENG HU KANG- Government job.

CHENG SWEE SWEE PANG NUI NUI- Nicely dressed, Subtly relaxed. To describe a person who looks as though they have made it in life.

CHIAK KAY UAR KAY, CHIAK ARK UAR ARK- Eat chicken go near chicken, eat duck go near duck. Trait of an opportunist who took sides base on self benefits and advantage.

CHIAK LAT- Eat energy. A tiring task. In deep pain or trouble.

CHIAK BAY LIOW- Cannot finish eating. It means to have come into great, unending fortune.

CHIAK CHO BI- Ate the wrong rice. Used on someone who unexpectedly say or did a blooper!

CHIAK CHOW- Eat grass. To describe impoverishment.

CHIAK CHUAR- Eat snake. Means to goof off or skive.

CHIAK MM TIOK EOK- Took the wrong medication (See CHIAK CHO BI)

CHIAK HONG- Eat wind. To go on holiday.

CHIAK HOR CHIAK CHNIAU- Eat tiger eat elephant.  A very big cheat.

CHIAK LANG- Eat people. To describe someone exploitative.

CHIAK LUI- Eat money. To describe a con man or cheat.

CHIAK KA KI- Eat self. To absorb one’s own losses especially in business risk.

CHIAK KIOW- Eat gambling. To cheat on the gambling table.

CHIAK NUI PNUI- Eat soft rice. A gigolo.

CHIAK PAR BAY POW- After meal, sell buns. To describe someone who don’t need to work.

CHIAK PAR BO SAI PANG- After meal, no shit to excrete. Someone with too much time in his hands.

CHIAK PAR BUAY- Have you eaten yet?

CHIAK PAR EO LUM PHAR- After meal, shake your testis.  Someone with too much time on his hands.

CHIAK PAR PHAR KA CHNOOI- After meal, hit backside. Addressing someone who pretends not to share the bill.

CHIAK PAR SNIAU ENG-After meal, too free.  More exasperated version of Mana Ooh Eng.

CHIAK SUAR- Eat Sand. Getting nothing out from a deal.

CHI BAI/CHI PONG- Vagina. Swear language.

CHI BAI BIN- Vagina face. Swear language.

CHI BAI LANG- Vagina person. Swear Language.

CH’IEW CHENG/ CH’IEW CHENG KNIAR/ CH’IEW CHENG LAN- Hand gun. Describes one who misses the target as in a game or challenge or one who always catches the wrong end of the stick. Most of the time it is said in jest.

CHI HONG- A frustrated person.

CH’I LEOW BEE- Feed waste rice. To describe someone useless or a waste even after consuming so much rice.

CH’I KO PEK- A dirty old man.

CHIN CHNIA TU LAN- Really fed up.


CHIN CHAI- Anyhow.

CHIN NGIAU- A Fussypot.

CHIN CHNIA LUAN- Very annoying.

CHIN GOW TAN- An irritating wailer.


CHIN KOW GIAK- Very demanding.

CHIN CH’IO- Very dashing and well dressed.

CH’IO KAR BUEK LAU JIO- Laugh till one pee. An extremely hilarious incident that causes one to react that way hence the phrase.

CH’IO KAR CH’UI KHI LUT- To laugh till one’s dentures fell off. An extremely hilarious incident.

CH’IO LU KOO KOO/CH’IO EE KOO KOO- To laugh at you/them for a long time.

CHIT CHAR PEH CHAR KHOW PEH KHOW BO- Seven early eight early cry father cry mother. To describe people who causes disturbances in the morning.

CHIT HO BO NOR HO- One is good, two is not good. In one way it is nice. In the other, it is otherwise. There is two sides to a coin.

CHIT THO CHOW- Play cheat.

CHNEH MEH PO CHAP- The blind hoping for a  full house (as in gambling). A feat that warrants alot of luck.

CHNEH GOO MM BAT HOR- A green cow hardly recognizes the tiger. To describe people who underestimate the influence, capability or ability of others and ended up being humbled.

CH’OAY SI LOR- Looking for dead end. Courting disaster.

CHO BOH LAN- Does no penis. To describe a useless, idle person who can never do anything right.

CHO KHUAN- Make an attitude. In false pretence.

CHOON BO? Accurate or not? To express sceptism over a claim.

CH’OR LOR- Rough or crude, sometimes even hard and demanding.

CHOW CHI BAI- A smelly vagina. Swear Language.

CH’OW KAH- Smelly feet. A bad loser or cheat.

CH’OW KHUAN- Smelly character. A cheat or devious person.

CHOW KW’NI- Undeliberately exposed especially one’s private part.

CH’OW LING TIE- To describe someone who slurs when they talk.

CH’OW LOK- Smelly deer. A cock teaser.

CHUAR- Snake. To be labelled a “snake” means you are someone unscrupulous. This person is out to get what he wants by hook or by crook.

CH’UA WA KHI HOR LANG- Bring me to someone else. Leading someone astray.

CH’UI KONG LUM PHAR SONG- Mouth says, testicle feel good. A pledge that won’t be fulfilled. Making empty promises.

CH’UI PEK- White mouth. A quiet person.

CH’UI POW KIM- Mouth wrapped with gold- A person who dislike talking/A proud person.

CH’UI KANA KHAR, KHAR KANA LUM PHAR- Mouth like legs, legs like testicles. A clumsy person.

CHUM SIONG- To negotiate/Come to an agreement.


DUNGU- Feeble minded/Stupid.


EH SAI BAY/EH SAI BO- Can or not? Is it possible?

EH YA TOK- Short person.

ENG ENG CHENG CHENG- Free and easy.

E’OW LAN HIN- Goats testis faint. Describes a person in turmoil.

E’YAN TAO BAR- A handsome male.


About the Phrases:~

The author/owner has also compiled for record, a collection of everyday Hokkien Phrases to capture the essence and spirit of his hoi polloi, a community originating from the southern province of Fujian, China where individuals climbed aboard bum boats, crossing the South China Sea to settle in faraway lands to escape the brewing civil unrest and a way out from hardship carrying along with them in their journey, nothing except their trademark ponytails and their beliefs, very much rooted in Confucianism. These phrases are as much as possible being conserved in its purest state despite having some which had been mixed with other local dialects and languages but nevertheless the Hokkien lingo took prominence over the rest. This list is continuously updated.




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