10+ Authentic Cantonese Slang Words

Original blog post(with audio): https://ling-app.com/yue/cantonese-slang-words/

Do you want to sound like a local and talk to your Cantonese-speaking friends? Then, why not learn these essential Cantonese slang words 俚語 (lei5 jyu5) today? Today, we will learn about basic Cantonese slang words used in Hong Kong in everyday life. Do not worry because each word has romanization and its meaning using the English word so, if you’re a beginner in learning Chinese languages like Cantonese, this will help you. Are you ready? Let’s get started!

Slang words are vocabulary (words, phrases, expressions, etc.) spoken in a particular local culture. It’s a kind of language that is very different from the formal one as it is born out of context and particular trends in society. These are words that are generally exclusive within a social group. With this, you can see who belongs to the group and those who don’t. It is used in a special way in a certain social context.

Basic Cantonese Slang Words And Their Meaning

For a country as developed and as busy as Hong Kong, slang words and phrases are widely used in different social contexts. Even by just walking along the streets of a city, you can hear HK slang words. Usually, the old-fashioned slang words came from their rich culture and history. On the other hand, the slang words used by the younger generation have developed and used these slang words as a result of pop culture and online forums.

The Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority included local slanguage in the questions in Chinese paper five of the 2008 Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination. Knowing slang words is one of the bases on how well you know your language and its culture.

So, now, here are some Cantonese slang words that you may want to learn to sound like a local.

雞同鴨講 (Gai1 Tung4 Aap3 Gong2)

Literal Meaning: A Chicken Talking To A Duck

Is it possible for a chicken to talk to a duck? Well, yes, but in fairytales. In reality, no way! This Cantonese slang is best used to describe people having problems communicating with each other because of different factors like language barriers or different beliefs and opinions. No matter how much they talk, nothing makes sense because of the barriers, just like how a chicken can’t talk to a duck.

佛系 (Fat6 Hai6)

Literal Meaning: Buddhist Style

Have you ever met someone that has a nonchalant attitude towards their life? Someone who’s not in a rush in everything because they believe that if it is meant to happen, it will happen? Then this is an adjective that best describes them. If you have an idea about Buddhism, you might get the reference of the Cantonese slang. If you have a Buddhist-style approach in life, you do things lovingly and peacefully.

捉蟲 (Zuk1 Cung4)

Literal Meaning: Catching Worms

Have you gotten yourself in a pretty bad situation? Well, this is the Cantonese slang that suits you. This phrase means to “cause oneself unnecessary trouble.” The Cantonese slang phrase Catching Worms (捉蟲 Zuk1 Cung4) is an abbreviation for the longer version of the Cantonese slang 捉蟲入屎忽 (zuk1 cung4 jap6 si2 fat1), which means “putting worms up your rear end.”

收兵 (Sau1 Bing1)

Literal Meaning: Collecting Soldiers

The phrase Collecting Soldiers (收兵 Sau1 Bing1) is a Cantonese slang word that has recently emerged in Hong Kong. This slang word does not have a positive meaning because it is used when a girl seeks male friendships to get her work and tasks done. This commonly happens in the workplace.

伏 (Fuk6)

Literal Meaning: Trap

Today, online shopping is a world trend, especially when the COVID-19 pandemic came. But, have you ever experienced having the “Expectation VS Reality” moment when something that looks far from the picture posted on the website? Well, that’s a trap, and the Cantonese slang word for that is 伏 (Fuk6). The closest English word for this Hong Kong slang is dodgy’. This Cantonese word is used in Hong Kong to describe something that’s of misleading quality.

揸巴士 (Zaa1 Baa1 Si6)

Literal Meaning: Driving A bus

Hong Kong has amazing nightlife, which will make it hard for you to resist drinking and saying cheers. But, you may want to hold your liquor if you don’t want to be referred to as a person driving a bus (揸巴士 zaa1 baa1 si6). This slang refers to someone who had way too many drinks and became sick in the toilet while gripping the toilet seat as if they were holding the bus drivers’ steering wheel.

射波 (Se6 Bo1)

Literal Meaning: Kicking The Ball

Have you ever experienced doing the work of someone in your workplace because you are told that they are sick, then you found out that it isn’t true? How annoying, right? This Cantonese slang is a metaphor that literally means kicking the ball. It is used as an act of passing off responsibilities to someone else.

騎牛搵馬 (Ke4 Ngau4 Wan2 Maa5)

Literal Meaning: To Ride An Ox While Looking For A Horse

There are times that you’re tired or sick of doing something that you have been doing for years, like your job. You want to find something better and new that ignites the fire in you again, so you look for that job somewhere else while you’re still in your current job. The Cantonese slang used in Hong Kong for this is To Ride An Ox While Looking For A Horse (騎牛搵馬 Ke4 Ngau4 Wan2 Maa5).

People usually do this because they are scared that they have nothing to go back to if they fail. This may also apply in a relationship when a guy or girl is looking for another while they are still in a relationship.

扮豬食老虎 (Baan6 Zyu1 Sik6 Lou5 Fu2)

Literal Meaning: Pretend To Be A Pig To Eat A Tiger

Backstabbers! These are one of the types of people we hate the most, and in Hong Kong, the Cantonese slang for that is Pretend To Be A Pig To Eat A Tiger (扮豬食老虎 Baan6 Zyu1 Sik6 Lou5 Fu2). Beware of people who manipulate someone and appear innocent but later become so evil.

戴綠帽 (Daai3 Luk6 Mou2)

Literal Meaning: Wearing A Green Hat

We mostly hear stories about a woman who has been cheated on. But, a man who is being cheated on is described as a man wearing a green hat. This is what they call those men who had this experience in Hong Kong.

Other Hong Kong Slang Words

Wait, it’s not over yet because we have more Cantonese slang words that you can add to your vocabulary.

Cantonese Internet Slangs

Wanna Get By With Your Cantonese Speaking Friends?

Now that you have learned the Cantonese slang words, you have already taken a step in learning Cantonese, so why not continue your journey with Ling App. Enough scrolling on the internet for nothing and start making every single day worth it by learning Cantonese. Ling App is a language learning platform that will help you achieve your language goals in record time. It is developed by real language experts and has features that can help you master the language you are learning. Lessons, dialogues, grammar tips, games, and blogs, name it! You can have an amazing language learning journey with Ling App!

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