Canto internet slang
Photograph: Time Out Hong Kong

Cantonese internet and texting slang to use right now

Get to know these terms and their roots


Trends on the internet are constantly changing and every year we have new buzzwords and slang to get to grips with. The same goes for Cantonese in Hong Kong. So, if you don’t want to be the only one in your work WhatsApp group that doesn’t get it, it’s time to learn new words and put this slang in your dictionary. 

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Worse than Hoi-ting


🔊: "Waai gwo hoi ting" (壞過凱婷)

Translation: Being a villain
Example: “Aster is sent to the police station again. When did he become worse than Hoi-ting?”

A random Form One student posted on her Facebook that no one is as bad as Hoi-ting, who can smoke two cigarettes at once. Years later, the YouTube influencer Loui5Ng revisited the Facebook post and adapted it into a sarcastic critique. The phrase ‘Worse than Hoi-ting’ thus gained traction. In 2021, the Hong Kong Police Force launched an anti-drug campaign and referred to those who take illegal drugs as ‘worse than Hoi-ting.’ Now, it has become a slang phrase to describe a delinquent person. Sometimes, it’s also used to mock those who try way too hard to be bad or cool.

Lie flat


🔊: "Tong ping" (躺平)

Translation: Lie down and do as little as possible 
Example: “I don’t wanna work. I want to lie flat.’

The term ‘lie flat’ is coined by the mainland Chinese netizen, Luohuazhong, who jettisoned his regular job as a factory worker and adopted a shiftless lifestyle. The term began circulating on the Internet, along with his post 'Lying Flat Is Justice', which disclosed the limited upward mobility faced by the desperate young generation. Speaking to the reality of Hong Kong, this term has become popular among local teenagers and adults.




🔊: "So di ah sum" (掃地阿嬸)

Translation: Cleaning lady
Example: Everyone keeps our office clean. Our sodiasm is taking a day-off.

Sodiasm is the Cantonese summation of ‘so (sweep)’, ‘di (floor)’, and ‘ah sum (auntie).’ So a sodiasm is someone who keeps the venue clean for everyday use. This term is allegedly created by a quick-witted student who had to explain his mother’s occupation in an English oral exam. Not knowing the exact English word, the Cantonese-sounding’ sodiasm’ fell from his lips. The netizens applauded his creative ingenuity, and the term became popular after it was exclusively featured on YouTube

See this drink water


🔊: "Kin ji yam sui" (見字飲水)

Translation: Stay hydrated
Example: “Our hard-working intern got Covid. Tell him to rest up and see this drink water.”

Drink some water whenever you see this message! As weird as it sounds, ‘see this drink water’ is the name of a Cantonese meme page, See this and Drink water Association. The page founder, Terence, was diagnosed with kidney stones when he was young and thus discovered his noble calling of posting hydration-related memes. The term became popular when the city was bettered by Covid outbreaks, where people reminded one another to stay hydrated and take extra care of their health.




🔊: "Lau Meng"  (留名)

Translation: Bookmark
Example: “Did you hear about so and so? I'm going to LM that post to hear how the story ends!”

The literal translation for ‘lau meng’ is to ‘leave a name’ and is used to bookmark something that you want to follow up on. It’s often used in internet forums whereby you might comment ‘LM’ for short to say that you want to come back to it later.



🔊: "Yat gau gau" (一舊舊)

Translation: Incoherent 
Example: “Sorry, but what exactly are you saying? That was so 1999, I didn’t really understand.”

The year 1999, when spoken in Cantonese, sounds like the words used to express when something is in ‘lumps’ and is often used to say someone is not expressing themselves coherently. So if you find someone’s speech is broken or unclear and it’s difficult to understand them, you can use 1999 as an adjective instead.




🔊: "Siu sei" (笑死)

Translation: LOL
Example: “Oh you have to watch this cat video, it’s so funny. Siu4!”

If you dissect this one, ‘siu’ is the romanised expression for the word ‘laugh’ in Cantonese, while the number four is ‘sei’ in Cantonese which also sounds like the word for ‘die’ or ‘dead’. Put them together and the phrase siu sei, which is often spoken, becomes siu4 when typing or texting.



🔊: "Mo sor wai" (無所謂)

Translation: I don’t mind
Example: “What do you want to eat for dinner tonight?” “You know me, MSW!”

MSW, is the acronym for 'mo sor wai', which is a common phrase used to express when you don’t mind or have no preference about the choices. It’s the equivalent of IDM (I don’t mind) in English.




Translation: Final Fantasy
Example: “You FF too much, it’s time to be realistic about it.”

The acronym FF, which refers to the science fantasy video game series Final Fantasy, is used to describe someone who fantasises too much. So if you know someone who is dreaming or imagining something which is not likely to happen, then you can incorporate FF into your sentence.



🔊: "Sei lo" (死佬)

Translation: Husband
Example: “Ugh. I cooked dinner already but the C6 has a work thing tonight.”

Much like C9, which sounds like the words see lai – Cantonese slang used to describe a married woman, C6 sounds similar to the Cantonese phrase for ‘dead man’, which is what some wives may call their husbands, affectionately or not so much. These nicknames originated from the world of parent-child forums and thus are most commonly used to describe parenting or family affairs.




Translation: Famous JJ
Example: “Have you followed this FamJ yet?”

FamJ is the abbreviation of ‘Famous JJ’ which refers to someone with a large number of followers, popular on social media, and similar to an online celebrity, KOL, or influencer.



Translation: Awesome
Example: “The new spiderman film is MM7, you’ve got to watch it!”

If you’re used to typing in Chinese, you may recognise MM7 as it’s the quick code for the word ‘jeng’ which is a positive word used to describe something that is awesome or tasty or even someone that is attractive.

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