10 Office Singaporean Slangs You Must Know

It got me thinking 🤔: It’s surprising how some Millennials and Gen Zs don’t quite understand certain jargons used in the office. Especially, if it’s coming from a Boomer *ahem* most probably your boss 😳

Guess what, you’re in luck! What’s the Speak Good English Movement when we’ve shortlisted our top 10 favourites? Be a true blue kiasu Singaporean and prepare yourself with these essential slangs to get brownie points at work!

Warning: Contains Singlish. Don’t say I never say 👋

1. Angkat Bola

Definition: To curry favour in a servile way to gain an advantage.

How to use it in a sentence: “Everything also don’t know, only know how to angkat bola.”

There are just those colleagues people you meet in life that tend to go out of their way (wayyyy out of the way) to bootlick their superiors. My advice? Stay away from such negativity. Honey, there’s only so much one can kiss up to in the long run 💁

2. Bojio

Definition: Why wasn’t I invited? / No invitation.

How to use it in a sentence: “BOJIO!” / “Bojio?” / “Why you bojio?”

Ah, this brings back so many memories 😌 I recall not too long ago a colleague of mine would continuously use this at every possible moment. Arguably one of the most overused words in Singapore, this simple phrase is applicable for every and any situation.

3. Catch no ball

Definition: To be clueless or unable to comprehend

How to use it in a sentence: “I catch no ball”

This phrase can be used to express your confusion or to mock someone else 😈 For example when you say, “I catch no ball”, means you do not understand the situation. On the other hand, if your boss says, “why you catch no ball?!”, you’re screwed.

4. Chao Keng

Definition: To describe someone who malingers (pretends to be ill to escape work)

How to use it in a sentence: “Wow, MC on a Friday? Confirm chao keng”

Does this favourite person on your team take sick leaves particularly on Mondays, Fridays, eve or the day after a Public Holiday? Congratulations, you have a chao keng kia on your side! 👏👏👏

5. Jiak Kantang

Definition: To describe someone who is deemed too westernised or one who speaks fluently in English and are weak in their Mother Tongue.

How to use it in a sentence: “You only jiak kantang?” / “He/she only jiak kantang.”

Deriving from the Malay word for ‘potato’ a.k.a kentang, this is a derogatory term used to describe someone who never learned to speak fluently in their Mother Tongue. I admit I’m one who eats a lot of potatoes 😳💕🥔

6. Jiak Zhua

Definition: Refers to a skiver or the act of skiving

How to use it in a sentence: “Where’s my intern? Smoke break again?! *sigh* He only knows how to jiak zhua.”

The literal English translation for this Hokkien phrase is ‘eat snake’ 🐍 It is almost similar to the aforementioned ‘chao keng’. The difference is when one ‘chao keng’, he/she strategically plans (with a doctor’s approval to be unfit for work 😒) when not to show up for work, on the other hand, when one ‘jiak zhua’, he/she continually finds pockets of time in between work to slack.

7. Lao Kui

Definition: Feeling embarrassed or ashamed by one’s action.

How to use it in a sentence: “You don’t know what is one plus one? Please don’t make me lao kui.”

If your manager or boss uses this on you, it’s high time you do some self-reflection. Is he/she genuinely exasperated by your stupidity actions, or are they trying to pull you down? 🤔


Definition: To set your own pace.

How to use it in a sentence: “Shall we OTOT and discuss our findings at the end of the week?”

Please do not get confused with the other term OT. OTOT stands for Own Time, Own Target while OT means Over Time. The phrase was probably coined at Singapore Armed Forces for soldiers, but we’ve managed to weasel it into the workforce 🙊

9. Pang Kang

Definition: Time to clock out of work (commonly used when you’re done for the day)

How to use it in a sentence: “PANG KANG LO!”

You must be living under a rock not to know this phrase 🙀 It is a celebratory term used when you’re packing up and heading out of the office for a good night’s rest 😴

10. Yaya Papaya

Definition: To describe someone as arrogant or a complete show-off

How to use it in a sentence: “She doesn’t eat at hawker centres? Such a yaya papaya.”

When the words obnoxious, conceited and proud just does not quite fit your favourite person, you can always call them yaya papaya 😉 Works like a charm for me! 🍀

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