How To Say Cheers In Malay: 5 Accurate Tips From A Local

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Drinking can never be complete without the part where everyone raises their glasses and cheer out loud. Well, it’s the same in Malaysia. So in this blog, we’ll look at some of the words and terms that Malaysians use whenever they’re drinking — an accurate guide on how to say cheers in Malay.

Drinking Culture In Malaysia

Saying “cheers” upon drinking has always been a symbolic culture in drinking. Typically, people would make a toast before clinking their glasses together as a cause of celebration. However, the drinking culture here in Malaysia may be a bit different. Warning: you may not see this coming.

For your information, Islam is the official religion in Malaysia. According to the laws of this religion, consuming alcoholic, intoxicating substances is prohibited. Due to that, the drinking culture here mostly applies to non-Muslims. And this culture is still very much alive among the non-Muslim locals.

How To Say Cheers In Malay Like A Native

If this title has been your search query, I bet you’ve seen several pages that state the equivalent of cheers in Malay is ban tai, hirup, yam seng, and oh-ha.

Well, linguistically speaking, all those are false. Why? Because there is no Malay word that is equivalent to the English ‘cheers’. The term is non-existent, even in the pages of the Malay dictionary. This happens to be the case due to the influence of the religious setting here in Malaysia. Since most of the Malay community are Muslims and drinking alcohol is unlawful, there is no need for such a word to exist in the Malay language.

So, if you come to Malaysia, hit a pub, and ask, “how do you say cheers in Bahasa Malaysia?” you’re not going to get an answer. Not an accurate one, at least.

Cheers In Malay: Google Translates As Sorakan

If you go to Google Translate and want to see the Malay translation for cheers, Google will give you the word sorakan as an answer. However, you should know that this is a wrong, inaccurate translation, particularly if you’re referring to the exclamation cheers! In this instance, sorakan isn’t equivalent to the cheers you say before chugging down your drink.

To illuminate, sorakan is a noun — it translates to the noun of cheer in English, which is defined as a shout of encouragement, praise, or joy. So, from this definition, it is comprehensible that this Malay term isn’t interchangeable with the English exclamation, cheers!

Sorakan = a shout of encouragement, praise, or joy

Also, based on the 4 words mentioned before: ban tai, hirup, yam seng, and oh-ha, two of them belong to the Malay vocabulary, which hirup and bantai. However, it is highly doubted that these words equate to the English ‘cheers’.

Let me explain what the two Malay words mean.

  • To breathe or inhale (air)
  • To slurp, suck, or consume a broth or soup

In Malaysia, this word is either used to say someone is inhaling the fresh air or point that a soup tastes so good that one can suck or sip it clean. Though hirup means to consume a liquid substance, no one ever says “hirup alkohol.” The words do not collocate with each other. On top of that, the word hirup is not an alternative for cheers. I’ve never seen or heard anyone clinking their glasses while saying hirup! out loud. That would be terribly funny and awkward.

  • To hit or beat up someone or something.

This Malay word has a negative connotation. It’s the term the native speakers use to indicate that they’re going to hit someone or teach someone a lesson. So, in the Malay context, when a person says “kau bantai dia sikit,” it translates to “teach him a little lesson,” which is by physically beating someone. So, when some sources on the Internet stated that bantai is interchangeable with the English “cheers,” I have to disagree. We don’t use the word to say cheers in Malay; we use it to beat up someone.

Yam seng, in the same case, is a Cantonese word, not Bahasa Malaysia. And oh-ha is claimed to originate from the Sarawak dialect. This word, however, does not exist in the Malay dictionary.

How Malaysians Actually Say Cheers!

Again, since the majority of the Malaysian population is the Malay community (who are born Muslims), there is no need for such a word to exist in the Malay vocabulary as it is not used.

The Malay locals do not say it because drinking is not within our culture. However, the drinking culture lives within the non-Muslim locals.

To be specific, a big part of the non-Muslims in Malaysia are from the ethnic groups in Sabah and Sarawak. As indigenous communities, drinking has always been a part of their lives and culture. So let’s see what the words and phrases these people use to cheer when drinking is.

This is the way Sabahan people say cheers in their dialect.

Claimed to be the term that Sarawak people use to say cheers when they drink.

This term originated from Cantonese — it’s equivalent to the English cheers. Mainly said by the Malaysian Chinese community.

This is a Malay word that exists in the Malay dictionary. It’s not equivalent to the English cheers. Semantically, it’s an adjective that means safe. However, if you’re finding the Malay alternative to the English phrase “make a toast” or “express good wishes,” you can add the word ucap (wish) in front of selamat; ucap selamat. This phrase is commonly used on formal occasions which require someone to make a toast. Still, it needs to be remembered that ucap selamat means to express good wishes/make a toast. It’s not the equivalent of cheers.

How To Say Cheers In Malay — Related Vocabulary

What are other Malay words or phrases related to the drinking culture in Malaysia? Let’s find out.

Learn The Malaysian Culture Today

From today’s lesson, it is interesting to observe and understand how its own culture shapes the language of a particular community. In this context, since most of the Malay community do not drink alcohol, there is no Malay translation equivalent to the English cheers. This is why you’ll hear that a lot of Malaysians will use the English term, cheers, upon making a toast.

Learn more about Malaysian culture today. Find out some most popular Malay slangs, tips on how to introduce yourself in Malay as well as common Malay greetings. Discover more about the Malay culture by learning the Malay language in Ling App. Get the mobile app today for free. From this app, you will get to know, understand, and learn Bahasa Melayu and many other languages, including Japanese, French, Thai, and Korean.

Ling is a game-like language learning app with a pack of 60+ languages. You will learn languages in fun ways!