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Cantonese slang you need to know right now

A not-so definitive guide to local phrases you should add to your vocabulary

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Time Out Hong Kong
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Looking to impress your Cantonese-speaking friends? Or do you just want to get down with the cool kids and show off your knowledge of popular Canto sayings? Whether it's commonly used words or the latest new slang, we've got them all. Get started with this handy guide featuring our picks of Cantonese phrases you need to know!

RECOMMENDED: Apart from popular phrases, there are many old-school phrases that should definitely make a comeback. Or, check out our list of Cantonese phrases that we think should be added to the Oxford English Dictionary!

Cantonese slang you need to know right now

Catching worms
Time Out Hong Kong

Catching worms

πŸ”Š: "juk chung"

This term means to get yourself into trouble, causing unnecessary difficulties. It may seem like an odd phrase, but this slang is often used as an abbreviation of the full saying – ζ‰θŸ²ε…₯屎忽 (juk chung yup si fat) – that involves putting said worms up your rear end. Which, to anyone's imagination, definitely spells trouble indeed.

A chicken talking to a duck
Time Out Hong Kong

A chicken talking to a duck

πŸ”Š: "gai tung aap gong"

How do a chicken and a duck communicate, you ask? Unsuccessfully. This phrase describes people who are unable to properly communicate with each other, whether due to language barriers or different values. No matter what is said, the chicken and duck just can’t seem to understand each other.

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Buddhist style
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Buddhist style

πŸ”Š: "fut hai"

A term to describe someone who takes a nonchalant attitude towards life. If you are having a Buddhist-style love life, it means you do nothing to rush and just wait to be approached as you believe whatever will be, will be!

Kicking the ball
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Kicking the ball

πŸ”Š: "seh boh"

A metaphor for sloughing off all your responsibilities to someone else. The phrase is most commonly used to describe someone who fakes an illness and skips a day at the office in order to avoid work and responsibilities.

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Trap
Time Out Hong Kong

Trap

πŸ”Š: "fuk"

Literally meaning trap, this word is an adjective used to describe something that's of questionable or misleading quality, and thus likely to cause someone to fall into a 'trap'. A close English translation would be the word 'dodgy'.

Wearing a green hat
Time Out Hong Kong

Wearing a green hat

πŸ”Š: "daai luk mo"

This phrase can be used to describe a person, specifically a man, being cheated on. To put in simpler terms, if you’re currently two-timing your boyfriend, you're giving him a green hat to wear. 

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To ride an ox while looking for a horse
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To ride an ox while looking for a horse

πŸ”Š: "keh ngau wun ma"

This phrase describes the situation when a person is working one job but is actually on the lookout for something better at the same time. This saying can also be applied to relationships.

Driving a bus
Time Out Hong Kong

Driving a bus

:πŸ”Š: "jah ba si"

This term is used to describe someone who has had one too many drinks and is about to be sick in the toilet. The way they’re gripping the toilet seat resembles the way bus drivers hold a steering wheel. 

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Collecting soldiers
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Collecting soldiers

πŸ”Š: "sau bing"

Used to describe the process by which a girl accumulates many male 'friends' with the sole purpose of friend-zoning them and utilising them to help her run tedious errands or even getting them to buy her expensive gifts.

Release sparkles
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Release sparkles

πŸ”Š: "fong seem"

Frequently seen on social media – though you can use it in person too – this phrase describes the blinding radiance emitted by a pair of lovebirds openly displaying their affection for one another.

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Drop dog poo
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Drop dog poo

πŸ”Š: "lok gau si"

No, not something you say when you want your mutt to do his or her business. Rather, this expression is the English equivalent of ‘raining cats and dogs’ – just not as cute.

Pretend to be a pig to eat a tiger
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Pretend to be a pig to eat a tiger

πŸ”Š: "baan ju sik lo fu"

A fairly common phrase, the phrase means to manipulate someone into a false sense of security. It is usually used to describe a backstabber who appears to be innocent or even dim but turns out to be utterly devious.

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Licked something
Time Out Hong Kong

Licked something

πŸ”Š: "lai yeh"

A multipurpose phrase used to describe a person who has gotten themselves into some sort of spectacular disaster. Similar to exclaiming ‘you’re screwed!’. 

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