‘lah’ – Manglish at it’s Best

“Don’t be like that la!”

“Why you like that la!”

“I’m a good guy la, don’t get angry…”

“What I want for lunch? Whatever la…anything la…”

“Terrible la you, go fly kite!”



Have you heard people speaking English in this way? If you have, welcome to Malaysia!

Manglish = ‘Mangled English’?

To the typical foreigner who is unfamiliar with Malaysian customs and traditions, may I have the honour of introducing to you one of the world’s most peculiar quirks in the field of language development.

Manglish = Malaysian English/ English (Malaysia)/ Malicious English (I made this one up)

According to Wikipedia, ‘Manglish’ is the slang term used to describe the version of English that is colloquially spoken in most parts of Malaysia. (You can check it out here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manglish). Thanks to the ethnic and cultural diversity of Malaysia’s population, Manglish has been further enriched with a wealth of languages and dialects such as English, Hokkien (a Southern Chinese dialect), Mandarin, Cantonese and Tamil. If there’s one thing that we Malaysians can truly be proud of, the culmination of blood and sweat (I’m beginning to think that’s an exaggeration…), it’s the creation of Manglish, one language (unofficially), one nation, one dream. If by now you’re wondering why Manglish was never adopted (and NEVER will be) as an official language, just read on!

Let’s Learn Manglish!

The truth is, with a bit of practice and commitment, Manglish is not difficult to learn, or at least, identify. Please see below for a list of well known particles and components of Manglish.  Let the lessons begin!

Word Meaning Example
lah Used to affirm a statement (similar to “of course”). Frequently used at the end of sentences and usually ends with an exclamation mark (!). It is derived from and has the same meaning as the Chinese expression “?”. Don’t be an idiot lah!
nah Used when giving something to another person, often in a rude or impolite way. Nah, take this!
meh Used when asking questions, especially when a person is skeptical of something. Derived from the Chinese expression “?”. Really meh?

Cannot meh?

liao Means “already” Derived from the Chinese expression “?”. No stock liao.
ah Derived from the Chinese expression “?”. Used at the end of sentences, unlike meh the question is rhetorical. Also used when asking a genuine question. Besides that, some people use it when referring to a subject before making a (usually negative) comment. Why is he like that ah?

Is that true ah?

My brother ah, always disturbs me!

lor Used when explaining something. Derived from the Chinese expression “?”. Like that lor!
d/dy/ady/edy/ridy Derived from the word “already”. Often used in online chatroom by the youth in Malaysia, although in speech, speakers will often pronounce as ‘ridy’ I eat ‘d’ ‘loh’, I eat ‘ridy’
le Used to soften an order, thus making it less harsh. Derived from the Chinese expression “?”. Give me that le.
one/wan Used as an emphasis at the end of a sentence. It is believed to derive from the Chinese way of suffixing “?” at sentences. Why is he so naughty one ah?
what Unlike British/American English, the word ‘what’ is often used as an exclamation mark, not just to ask a question. What! How could you do that?

I didn’t take it what.

got/have Used as a literal translation from the Malay word ‘ada’. The arrangement of words is often also literally translated. The use of this particular particle is widespread in Manglish, where ‘got’ is substituted for every tense of the verb ‘to have’. You got/have anything to do? (Kamu ada apa-apa untuk buat?)

I got already/got/will get my car from the garage. Got or not? (Really?) Where got? (To deny something, as in Malay “Mana ada?”, and also in Chinese “Nali you?” as spoken in Malaysia)

Source: http://www.wikipedia.org

See? Isn’t Manglish easy to learn? Now that you have some idea of what Manglish is all about, let us move on the next section.

Okay Kids, the Word for Today is ‘Lah’…’L-A-H’, ‘Lah’…

Nobody knows where Manglish came from. It was just there, and everywhere. It became obvious that a ‘language’ such as Manglish, so lovingly embraced as the ‘mother tongue’ of Malaysians, must surely be included as a subject in schools. After all, language development takes place best in the early years of childhood right? Logical? Rational? Unlikely.

You may have noticed from the article in Wikipedia, that Manglish is also famous for it’s richness in cross-cultural profanity. Not only did Malaysians have the benefit of learning the words and phrases of other languages (Manglish is a blend of several languages, right?), but they also had the privilege, handed out in a golden platter, if you wish to put it that way, of learning each other’s forbidden grammar. I won’t risk putting those word and phrases here, for risk of my blog eventually mobilizing the teacher’s union and education ministry, or even becoming a lawsuit magnet. For the curious handful of you, you can start looking here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manglish#Nouns

And the King is….LAH….

Yes, in terms of dominance and popularity, no other word in the Manglish vocabulary can stand up to the word ‘lah’. As the old adage goes, if you’re Malaysian, say ‘lah’. As Wikipedia puts it, “The ubiquitous word lah (/l??/ or /l??/), used at the end of a sentence, can also be described as a particle that simultaneously asserts a position and entices solidarity.”. Don’t get it? Don’t worry la…neither do I. I only know how to use the word. Simple, straightforward, plain Manglish.

Love Thy Neighbour

A little love does indeed go a long way. Long was it goes, from a time perspective. Ever wondered where Singlish (Singapore English, oh no, not again…)came from? Singlish is supposed to be similar in many respects to Manglish, but there are some syntactical differences, so a Singaporean friend of mine claims. I could cover a bit about Singlish, but that would be out of the scope of this article. Want to know more about Singlish? Do your homework la! Go Google…



  1. aiya. dun like that la. you can tell us about singlish also ma. no problem wan.

  2. Nah…i leave a comment here
    So detail one…you sure you do it yourself ah? sure meh?

    manglish not that bad lah…but ah mo sure cannot understand wan…

    lol…try to use all mention but cannot…how about lo, ma, bo,
    sure bo? haha

  3. haiya, brudder, I got do my homework la.. 🙂

    Singlish is a whole different chapter in this epic, haha!

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