7 Singlish Terms Every Startup Founder Must Know

NUS Enterprise
3 min readJun 28, 2018


Singaporean English, or Singlish as it is more commonly known, is an amalgamation of local languages ranging from English to Malay to Chinese dialects such as Teochew and Cantonese.

It may be hard to understand at first, but once you get the hang of them, you’ll be using it regularly! Here are some of the Singlish terms that every start-up founder must know in Singapore to speak like a local.

Here’s 7 Singlish terms by BLOCK71 Singapore

BLOCK71 Singapore an ecosystem builder and global connector which catalyses and aggregates the start-up community, as well as spearheads new initiatives and provides mentorship and growth opportunities in local and global market.

Bao-Ga-Liao (adjective)

Meaning: Doing everything, covering all roles

Origin: Hokkien Dialect

How to use: “You actually work in a team, you don’t have to bao ga liao from top to bottom. Let your teammates do some work!”

Lepak (verb)

Meaning: To loiter about, to do nothing

Origin: Malay Language

How to use: ‘Sometimes I just want to lepak at home and doing nothing’

Own Time, Own Target (adjective)

Meaning: To set your own pace

Origin: Originally an army term used during live firing sessions

Also commonly abbreviated as OTOT

How to use: “John, don’t worry. That project you can work on own time, own target.”

Chope (verb)

Meaning: Reserve

Origin: Malay Language

How to use: “I’ve choped a table for us, let’s go buy our food.”

Fun fact: In Singapore, locals use a packet of tissue paper to signify a table in a food centre has been reserved.

Chiong (verb)

Meaning: To rush, give one’s all

Origin: Hokkien Dialect

How to use: “There’s still a lot of time before the project deadline, no need to chiong la.”

Another meaning of chiong — to party

Kopi Kau (noun)

Meaning: Really strong brewed coffee

Origin: Malay Language and Hokkien Dialect

How to use: “Get a kopi kau for me when you go to the coffee shop, thanks!”

七七八八 qī qī bā bā (noun)

Meaning: Almost there

Origin: Mandarin Language

How to use: “This presentation done until 七七八八 already.”

Sure Can One (adjective)

Meaning: Definitely possible, can be done

How to use: “Can you finish your project on time?” “Sure can one, there’s a lot of time.”

Hope you’ve learnt some Singlish that you can use in your daily life! For entrepreneur inspiration straight to your inbox, subscribe to our weekly entrepreneur feature here.



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