Hong Kong Cantonese

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Hong Kong Cantonese
香港粵語; 港式廣東話; 香港話
Native to Hong Kong, Macau and some Overseas Communities
Region Pearl River Delta
Ethnicity Hong Kong people
Macanese people
Written Cantonese
Cantonese Braille
Official status
Official language in
 Hong Kong
Regulated by Official Language Division[1]
Civil Service Bureau
Government of Hong Kong
Language codes
ISO 639-3
ISO 639-6 xgng
Glottolog None
Linguasphere 79-AAA-mac
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 香港粵語
Simplified Chinese 香港粤语
Hong Kong-style Cantonese
Traditional Chinese 港式粵語
Hong Kong-Guangdong dialect
Traditional Chinese 香港廣東話
Hong Kong-Guangzhou dialect
Traditional Chinese 香港廣州話

Hong Kong Cantonese (Chinese: 香港粵語) is a dialect of the Cantonese language commonly spoken in Hong Kong, as well as Macau. Although the Hong Kong people largely identify this variant of Chinese with the term "Cantonese" (廣東話), a variety of publications in Mainland China describe the variant as Hong Kong speech (香港話).

There are slight differences between the pronunciation used in Hong Kong Cantonese and that of the Cantonese spoken in the neighbouring Chinese province of Guangdong, where Cantonese (based on the Guangzhou dialect) is a main lingua franca.

Over the years, Hong Kong Cantonese has also absorbed foreign terminology and developed a large set of Hong Kong-specific terms. These differences from the Guangzhou dialect are the result of British rule between 1841 and 1997, as well as the closure of the Hong Kong–China border immediately after the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949.


Before the arrival of British settlers in 1842, the inhabitants of Hong Kong mainly spoke the Dongguan-Bao'an (Tungkun–Po'on) and Tanka dialects of Yue,[citation needed] as well as Hakka and Teochew. These languages and dialects are all remarkably different from Guangzhou Cantonese.

After the British acquired Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories from the Qing between 1841 (officially 1842) and 1898, large numbers[quantify] of merchants and workers came to Hong Kong from the city of Canton, the main center of Cantonese. Cantonese became the dominant spoken language in Hong Kong. The frequent migration between Hong Kong and mainland Cantonese-speaking areas did not cease up until 1949, when the Communists took over Mainland China. During this period, the Cantonese spoken in Hong Kong was very similar to that in Canton.

In 1949, the year that the People's Republic of China was established, Hong Kong saw a large influx of refugees from different areas of mainland China. The Hong Kong Government closed the border[citation needed] to halt the massive influx, but illegal immigration from Mainland China into Hong Kong continued. Because of this, the correspondence between language and ethnicity may generally be true though not absolute, as many Chinese who speak Hong Kong Cantonese may come from other areas of China, especially Shanghai or non-Cantonese regions of Guangdong where Hakka and Teochew prevail.

Movement, communication and relations between Hong Kong and mainland China became very limited, and consequently the evolution of Cantonese in Hong Kong diverged from that of Guangzhou. In Mainland China, the use of Mandarin as the language of official use and education was enforced. In Hong Kong, Cantonese is the medium of instruction in schools, along with written English and written Chinese.

And because of the long exposure to English during the colonial period, large number of English words were loaned into Hong Kong Cantonese, e.g. "巴士" (/páːsǐː/), literally, "bus". Hong Kong people even started to calque English constructions, for example, "噉 (咁) 都唔 make sense" (literally, "it still does not make sense."). Therefore, the vocabularies of Cantonese in Mainland China and Hong Kong substantially differed.

Moreover, the pronunciation of Cantonese changed while the change either did not occur in mainland China or took place much slower. For example, merging of initial /n/ into /l/ and the deletion of /ŋ/ were observed. Due to the limited communication between Hong Kong and mainland China, these changes only had a limited effect in mainland China at that time. As a result, the pronunciation of Cantonese between Hong Kong and mainland China varied, and so native speakers may note the difference when listening to Hong Kong Cantonese and mainland China Cantonese.

Hong Kong-based Cantonese can be found in Hong Kong popular culture such as Hong Kong films and Hong Kong pop music (Cantopop). Hong Kong people who have emigrated to other countries have brought Hong Kong Cantonese to other parts of the world.


In modern-day Hong Kong, many native speakers are unable to distinguish between certain phoneme pairs, causing them to merge one sound into another. Although this is often considered substandard and is frequently denounced as "lazy sound" (懶音), the phenomenon is becoming more widespread and is influencing other Cantonese-speaking regions. Contrary to popular opinion, some of these changes are not recent. The loss of the velar nasal (/ŋ/) was documented by Williams (1856), and the substitution of the liquid nasal (/l/) for the nasal initial (/n/) was documented by Cowles (1914).

List of observed shifts:[2]

  • Merging of /n/ initial into /l/ initial.
  • Merging of /ŋ/ initial into null initial.
  • Merging of /kʷ/ and /kʷʰ/ initials into /k/ and /kʰ/ when followed by /ɔː/. Note that /ʷ/ is the only glide (介音) in Cantonese.
  • Merging of /ŋ/ and /k/ codas into /n/ and /t/ codas respectively, eliminating contrast between these pairs of finals (except after /e/ and /o/): /aːn/-/aːŋ/, /aːt/-/aːk/, /ɐn/-/ɐŋ/, /ɐt/-/ɐk/, /ɔːn/-/ɔːŋ/ and /ɔːt/-/ɔːk/.
  • Merging of the two syllabic nasals, /ŋ̩/ into /m̩/, eliminating the contrast of sounds between (surname Ng) and (not).
  • Merging of the rising tones (陰上 2nd and 陽上 5th).[3]

Today in Hong Kong, people still make an effort to avoid these sound merges in serious broadcasts and in education. Older people often do not exhibit these shifts in their speech, but some do. With the sound changes, the name of Hong Kong's Hang Seng Bank (香港恆生銀行), /hœ́ːŋ kɔ̌ːŋ hɐ̏ŋ sɐ́ŋ ŋɐ̏n hɔ̏ːŋ/, becomes /hœ́ːn kɔ̌ːn hɐ̏n sɐ́n ɐ̏n hɔ̏ːn/, sounding like Hon' Kon' itchy body (痕身 /hɐ̏n sɐ́n/) 'un cold (UN寒 /ɐ̏n hɔ̏ːn/) . The name of Cantonese itself (廣東話, "Guangdong speech") would be /kʷɔ̌ːŋ tʊ́ŋ wǎː/ without the merger, whereas /kɔ̌ːŋ tʊ́ŋ wǎː/ (sounding like "講東話": "speak eastern speech") and /kɔ̌ːn tʊ́ŋ wǎː/ (sounding like "趕東話" : "chase away eastern speech") are overwhelmingly popular.[4]

The shift affects the way some Hong Kong people speak other languages as well. This is especially evident in the pronunciation of certain English names: "Nicole" pronounce [lekˈkou̯], "Nancy" pronounce [ˈlɛnsi] etc. A very common example of the mixing of (/n/) and (/l/) is that of the word , meaning "you". Even though the standard pronunciation should be (/nei/), the word is often pronounced (/lei/), which is the surname , or the word , meaning theory. The merger of (/n/) and (/l/) also affects the choice of characters when the Cantonese media transliterates foreign names.[citation needed]

Prescriptivists who try to correct these "lazy sounds" often end up introducing hypercorrections. For instance, while attempting to ensure that people pronounce the initial /ŋ/, they may introduce it into words which have historically had a null-initial. One common example is that of the word , meaning "love". Even though the standard pronunciation would be /ɔ̄ːi/, but the word is often pronounced /ŋɔ̄ːi/.

Unique phrases and expressions

Due to Hong Kong's unique historical background, Hong Kong Cantonese has evolved differently from the Mandarin spoken in China, Taiwan and Singapore over the years. Hong Kong Cantonese has developed a number of phrases and expressions that are unique to the context of Hong Kong. These phrases and expressions usually make references to specific things that can only be found in Hong Kong or specific incidents that happened in Hong Kong. Here are a few examples:

Chinese characters Jyutping Cantonese IPA literal meaning actual meaning
食皇家飯 sik6 wong4 gaa1 faan6 /siːk˨wɔːŋ˩kaː˥faːn˨/ eat Royal meal being incarcerated
話知你九七 waa6 zi1 nei5 gau2 cat1 /waː˨t͡siː˥nei˩˧kɐu˧˥t͡sɐt˥/ Who cares about your 1997? Who cares?

Here, the former refers to Hong Kong's status as a British colony, where prisoners are detained on behalf of the Sovereign, and is similar to the English colloquial expression "guest of Her Majesty" / "live at Her Majesty's pleasure". The latter refers to the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong to China in 1997. The situations alluded to are both unique to Hong Kong.


Life in Hong Kong is characterised by the blending of Asian (southern Chinese in particular) and Western cultures, as well as the city's position as a major international business centre. In turn, Hong Kong influences have also spread widely into other cultures. As a result, a large number of loanwords are created in Hong Kong and then exported to Mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore, and Japan. Some of the loanwords have become even more popular than their Chinese counterparts, in Hong Kong as well as in their destination cultures.

Imported loanwords

Selected loanwords[5] are shown below.

From English

Jyutping English
& Other Definitions
English IPA
Mainland Chinese
亨里 亨里 hang1 lei5 honey /ˈhənē/ 亨里 亨里
打令 打令 daa2 ling6 darling /ˈdärliNG/ 打令 打令
爹地/花打 爹地/花打 de1 di4 daddy (father) /ˈfäT͟Hər/ 爹地 爹地
妈咪/妈打 媽咪/媽打 maa1 mi4 mammy (mother) /ˈməT͟Hər/ 妈咪 媽咪
巴打 巴打 baa1 daa2 brother /ˈbrəT͟Hər/ 兄弟 兄弟
丝打 絲打 si1 daa2 sister /ˈsistər/ 姐妹 姐妹
Baby/BB Baby/BB baby /ˈbābē/ 宝宝 寶寶




Queue (line-up)
(show her a little) tender(ness)








zing6 zi2
zing6 neoi5
handsome boy
beautiful girl




士Mart 士Mart si1 Mart smart /smärt/ 聪明 聰明
Fan Fan fan (fanatic)
fan (machine)
/fəˈnadik/ 粉丝 粉絲
打卡 打卡 daa2 kaat1 punch card /pən(t)SH//kärd/ 打卡 打卡
Pro Pro (very) professional
He's a professional
/prəˈfeSH(ə)n(ə)l/ 好专业




Pro Pro Provide (services) /prəˈvīd/ 提供 提供
OK OK OK /ˌōˈkā/ OK OK
OT OT overtime /ˈōvərˌtīm/ 加班 加班
柲撈 柲撈 bei3 laau1 (earn extra) payroll /ˈpāˌrōl/ 賺外快 賺外快
Count Count account /əˈkount/ 户口 戶口
R撬 R撬 aau3 giu6 argue
arguments (fights)
/ˈärɡyo͞o/ 吵架 吵架
挥/争取 揮/爭取 fai1 fight
fight for
/fīt/ 打架/争取 打架/爭取
bo1 ball /bôl/
Dump(垃圾) Dump(垃圾) dump
database dump
dumped by boy-/girl-friend
/dəmp/ 倒掉(垃圾) 倒掉(垃圾)
bam1 pump /pəmp/
落狗屎 落狗屎 lok6 gau2 si2 Raining cats and dogs /rāniNG//kats//and,(ə)n//dôɡs/ 下大雨 下大雨
(今日)倒水 (今日)倒水 dou2 seoi2 pouring (water)
pour a cup of water
/pôriNG/ 倾盆大雨




威士忌 威士忌 wai1 si2 gei6 whisky /ˈ(h)wiskē/ 威士忌 威士忌
雪利酒 雪利酒 syut3 lei6 sherry /ˈSHerē/ 雪利酒 雪利酒
西打酒 西打酒 sai1 daa2 cider /ˈsīdər/ 果酒 果酒
啤酒 啤酒 be1 zau2 beer /bir/ 啤酒 啤酒
(酒)吧 (酒)吧 baa1 bar /bär/ (酒)吧 (酒)吧
(吧士)boy (吧士)boy busser (busboy) /ˈbəsər/ (/ˈbəsˌboi/) 跑堂 跑堂
芭蕾舞 芭蕾舞 baa1 leoi4 ballet /baˈlā,ˈbalā/ 芭蕾舞 芭蕾舞
犀厉 犀厲 sai1 lei6 impressive /imˈpresiv/ 厉害 厲害
巴闭 巴閉 baa1 bai3 bapre (ya whatever, stop showing-off!) /bad//pri/ 了不起 了不起
士巴拿 士巴拿 si6 baa1 naa4 spanner /ˈspanər/ 扳手 扳手
巴士 巴士 baa1 si2 bus /bʌs/ 公交/公交车 公車/公共汽車
的士 的士 dik1 si2 taxi /ˈtæksi/ 出租车

("租车" = rental car)

士的 士的 si2 dik1 stick /ˈsitæk/ 拐杖 拐杖
哥士的(苏打) 哥士的(蘇打) go1 si2 dik1 caustic soda /ˈkôstik//ˈsōdə/ 氢氧化钠 氫氧化鈉
苏打水 蘇打水 sou1 daa2 soda /ˈsōdə/ 苏打水 蘇打水
多士 多士 do1 si2 toast /tōst/ 多士 多士
士多(店铺) 士多(店鋪) si6 do1 store /stɔː/ 店铺 店鋪
士多啤梨 士多啤梨 si6 do1 be1 lei2 strawberry /ˈstrɔːbəri/ 草莓 草莓
啤梨 啤梨 be1 lei2 pear /pɛə/ 梨子 梨子
布冧 布冧 bou3 lam1 plum /pləm/ 李子 李子
车厘子 車厘子 ce1 lei4 zi2 cherry /ˈCHerē/ 樱桃 櫻桃
芒果 芒果 mong1 gwo2 mango /ˈmaNGɡō/ 芒果 芒果
布丁 布丁 bou3 ding1 pudding /ˈpo͝odiNG/ 布丁 布丁
新地 新地 san1 dei6 sundae /ˈsənˌdā/ 圣代 聖代
吉士 吉士 gat1 si2 guts (courage)
/ɡət/ 胆子/勇气




(俾)Face士 (俾)Face士 fei1 si2 face (dignity)
respect (him)
/fās/ (给)面子/尊严 (給)面子/尊嚴
樽颈 樽頸 zeon1 geng2 bottleneck /ˈbädlˌnek/ 瓶颈 瓶頸
Gas士 Gas士 gei1 si2 gas /ɡas/ 汽油 汽油
沙士 沙士 saa1 si2 Sarsi




root beer: 根啤酒

SARS: 萨斯

root beer: 沙士

SARS: (非典型肺炎)沙士

芝士 芝士 zi1 si2 cheese /CHēz/ 起司 起司
乳酪 乳酪 jyu5 lok6 yogurt /ˈyōɡərt/ 酸奶 優格
慕丝 慕絲 mou1 si2 mousse /mo͞os/ 慕丝 慕絲
忌廉 忌廉 gei6 lim4 cream /krēm/ 克林姆 克林姆
班戟 班戟 baan1 gik1 pancake /ˈpanˌkāk/ 饼子 餅子
朱古力 朱古力 zyu1 gu1 lik1 chocolate /ˈt͡ʃɒklɪt/ 巧克力 巧克力
三文治 三文治 saam1 man4 zi6 sandwich /ˈsænwɪt͡ʃ/ 三文治

("三明治" is incorrect)


("三明治" is incorrect)

三文鱼 三文魚 saam1 man4 jyu2 salmon /ˈsæmən/ 沙门鱼 沙門魚
沙丁鱼 沙丁魚 saa1 ding1 jyu2 sardine /särˈdēn/ 沙丁鱼 沙丁魚
吞拿鱼 吞拿魚 tan1 naa4 jyu2 tuna /ˈt(y)o͞onə/ 金枪鱼 金槍魚
桑拿 桑拿 song1 naa4 sauna /ˈsônə,ˈsounə/ 桑拿 桑拿
哈啰 哈囉 haai1 lo3 Hello /həˈlō,heˈlō/ 哈啰 哈囉
拜拜 拜拜 baai1 baai3 bye /ˈbaɪbaɪ/ 再见 再見
沙拉 沙拉 saa1 laai1 salad /ˈsæləd/ 沙拉 沙拉
拔飞(普飞) 拔飛(普飛) bat6 fei1 buffet /ˈbʊfeɪ/ 布斐 布斐
拷贝 拷貝 haau1 bui3 copy /ˈkäpē/ 拷贝 拷貝
(残)酷 (殘)酷 caan4 huk6 cruel




cruel: 残酷


cruel: 殘酷


曲奇 曲奇 kuk1 kei4 cookie /ˈko͝okē/ 曲奇 曲奇
瑜迦 瑜迦 jyu4 gaa1 yoga /ˈyōɡə/ 瑜迦 瑜迦
咖喱 咖喱 gaa3 lei1 curry /ˈkərē/ 咖喱 咖喱
咖啡 咖啡 gaa3 fe1 coffee /ˈkôfē,ˈkäfē/ 咖啡 咖啡
咖啡因 咖啡因 gaa3 fe1 jan1 caffeine /kaˈfēn,ˈkafˌēn/ 咖啡因 咖啡因
可卡 可卡 ho2 kaa1 coca /ˈkōkə/ 古柯 古柯
可卡因 可卡因 ho2 kaa1 jan1 cocaine /kōˈkān,ˈkōˌkān/ 可卡因 可卡因
可可 可可 ho2 ho2 cocoa /ˈkōkō/ 可可 可可
可口可乐 可口可樂 ho2 hau2 ho2 lok6 Coca-Cola /ˈkōkə//ˈkōlə/ 可口可乐 可口可樂
kaa1 card /kärd/
卡通 卡通 kaa1 tung1 cartoon /kärˈto͞on/ 卡通 卡通
卡路里 卡路里 kaa1 lou6 lei5 calorie /ˈkal(ə)rē/ 卡路里 卡路里
维他命 維他命 wai4 taa1 ming6 vitamin /ˈvīdəmən/ 维他命 維他命
吉他 吉他 gat1 taa1 guitar /ɡəˈtär/ 吉他 吉他
pai1 pie /pī/ 馅饼 餡餅
比萨 比薩 bei2 saat3 pizza /ˈpētsə/ 比萨 比薩
比根 比根 bei2 gan1 bacon /ˈbākən/ 背根/培根


比坚尼 比堅尼 bei2 gin1 nei4 bikini /biˈkēnē/ 比基尼 比基尼
现梳 現梳 jin3 so1 insure (insurance) /inˈSHo͝or/ 保险 保險
梳化 梳化 sou1 faa4 sofa /səʊfə/ 沙发 沙發
威化(饼) 威化(餅) wai1 faa4 wafer biscuit

wafer (electronics)

/ˈwāfər/ wafer biscuit: 感化饼干

wafer (electronics): 晶圆

wafer biscuit: 感化餅乾

wafer (electronics): 晶圓

发腾 發騰 faat3 tang4 frightened /ˈfrītn/ (被)吓到 (被)嚇到
蛇gweh 蛇gweh se4 gweh1 scared (of) /skerd/ 害怕 害怕
薯乜 薯乜 syu4 mak1 schmuck /SHmək/ 笨蛋 笨蛋
肥佬 肥佬 fei4 lou2 fail (failure) /ˈfālyər/ 失败 失敗
苦力/咕喱 苦力/咕喱 gu1 lei1 coolie /ˈko͞olē/ 苦力 苦力
杯葛 杯葛 bui1 got3 boycott /ˈboiˌkät/ 抵制 抵制
塔罗牌 塔羅牌 taap3 lo4 tarot /ˈterō/ 塔罗牌 塔羅牌
扑克牌 撲克牌 pok3 hak1 poker /ˈpōkər/ 扑克牌 撲克牌
马赛克 馬賽克 maa5 coi3 hak1 mosaic /mōˈzāik/ 马赛克 馬賽克
坦克 坦克 taan2 hak1 tank /taNGk/ 坦克 坦克
雷达 雷達 leoi4 daat6 radar /ˈrāˌdär/ 雷达 雷達
摩打 摩打 mo1 daa2 motor /ˈmōdər/ 摩打 摩打
摩托车 摩托車 mo1 tok3 ce1 motorcycle /ˈmōdərˌsīk(ə)l/ 摩托车 摩托車
𨋢 lip1 lift /lift/ 升降机 升降機
泊车 泊車 paak3 ce1 to park /pɑːk/ 泊车 泊車
(车)軚 (車)軚 taai1 tire (tyre) /taɪə/ 轮胎 輪胎
褒呔 褒呔 bou1 taai1 bow tie /ˈbō ˌtī/ 领结 領結
taai1 tie /taɪə/ 领带 領帶
绷带 繃帶 bang1 daai2 bandage /ˈbandij/ 绷带 繃帶
蹦极跳 蹦極跳 bang1 gik6 bungee jumping /ˈbənjē/ /jəmpiNG/ 蹦极跳 蹦極跳
保龄球 保齡球 bou2 ling4 bowling /ˈbōliNG/ 保龄球 保齡球
乒乓球 乒乓球 bing1 bam1 ping-pong /ˈpiNGˌpôNG/ 乒乓球 乒乓球
悠悠球 悠悠球 jau4 jau4 yo-yo /ˈyōˌyō/ 悠悠球 悠悠球
高尔夫球 高爾夫球 gou1 ji5 fu1 golf /ɡälf,ɡôlf/ 高尔夫球 高爾夫球
高历 高歷 gou1 lik6 qualification (qualify)




呼啦圈 呼啦圈 fu1 laa1 hyun1 hula hoop /ˈho͞olə//ho͞op/ 呼啦圈 呼啦圈
百家利 百家利 baak3 gaa1 lei6 broccoli /ˈbräk(ə)lē/ 西兰花 西蘭花
百家乐 百家樂 baak3 gaa1 ngok6 Baccarat (card game) /ˈbäkərä,ˌbakəˈrä/ 百家乐 百家樂
家年华 家年華 gaa1 nin4 waa4 carnival /ˈkärnəvəl/ 家年华 家年華
俱乐部 俱樂部 keoi1 lok6 bou6 club /kləb/ 俱乐部 俱樂部
派对 派對 paai3 deoi3 party /ˈpärdē/ 派对 派對
霸凌 霸凌 baa3 ling4 bullying /ˈbo͝olēiNG/ 霸凌 霸凌
模特 模特 mou4 dak6 model /ˈmädl/ 模特 模特
摩登 摩登 mo1 dang1 modern /ˈmädərn/ 摩登 摩登
(表演)秀 (表演)秀 sau3 performance show /SHō/ (表演)秀
尼龙 尼龍 nei4 lung4 nylon /ˈnīˌlän/ 尼龙 尼龍
尼古丁 尼古丁 nei4 gu2 ding1 nicotine /ˈnikəˌtēn/ 尼古丁 尼古丁
雪茄 雪茄 syut3 gaa1 cigar /səˈɡär/ 雪茄 雪茄
山埃 山埃 saan1 aai1 cyanide /ˈsīəˌnīd/ 山埃 山埃
鸦片 鴉片 aa1 pin3 opium /ˈōpēəm/ 鸦片 鴉片
菲林 菲林 fei1 lam2 photographic film /fɪlm/ 㬵卷 膠卷
沙林 沙林 saa3 lam1 salute /səˈlo͞ot/ 敬礼 敬禮
Sir Sir aa3 soe4 sir

(Male policeman)
(Male teacher)

/sɜː/ policeman: 公安

teacher: 老师/教师

policeman: 警察

teacher: 老師/教師

Sure Sure sure (confirm) /SHo͝or/ (/kənˈfərm/) 确定/肯定 確定/肯定
老笠 老笠 lou5 lap1 rob /räb/ 抢劫 搶劫
T-恤(衫) T-恤(衫) T- seot1 T-shirt /ˈtē ˌSHərt/ T-恤(衫) T-恤(衫)
(俾)Cash殊 (俾)Cash殊 ke1 syu4 (pay by) cash /kaSH/ (付)现金 (付)現金
搞掂 搞掂 gaau2 dim1 done /dən/ 做完 做完
Right Right alright /ˈˌôl ˈrīt/ 一切妥当 一切妥當
Happy Happy happy /ˈhapē/ 快乐 快樂
(好)High (好)High high (excited) /hī/ 高兴 高興
Keep-fit Keep-fit keep-fit /kēp//fit/ 身体素质 身體素質
Rich Rich rich /riCH/ 有钱 有錢
Cheap Cheap cheap /CHēp/ 低贱 低賤
Upper/Middle/Lower卡士 Upper/Middle/Lower卡士 high-class, high-grade
/ˈhī ˈˌklas/, /ˈhī ˈˌɡrād/

/ˈˌmidl ˈklas/
/ˈlō ˈˌklas/

高/中/低(阶)级 高/中/低(階)級
Other common phrases/vocabulary:
So Far So Good
Not Too Bad
So Far So Good
Not Too Bad
So Far So Good
Not Too Bad




I Bus Here I Bus Here I bus here 我坐巴士来 我坐巴士來
Do Die People 做死人

Pain In The Butt 疼在屁股

Do Die People 做死人

Pain In The Butt 痛在屁股

What a pain
Pain in the butt




Eat Die Cat Eat Die Cat Take the blame (冤枉地)承担过错




Not An Error On My Part
Not My Fault
Not An Error On My Part
Not My Fault
Not an error on my part
Not my fault




Come Across Come Across If you ever come cross it
How did you come across this job?




Think About It
Have A Think
Think About It
Have A Think
Think About It
Have A Think
考虑 考慮
Go The Extra Mile
Take It To The Next Level
Go The Extra Mile
Take It To The Next Level
Go The Extra Mile
Take It To The Next Level




Keep You Busy Keep You Busy (kids) keeping you busy _ _
Group Them Into A Group Group Them Into A Group Group them into a group
Together/Along with
/ɡro͞op/ 组成一组 組成一組
(好似)拆楼(咁) (好似)拆樓(咁) (like) tearing down the place /ˈterdoun/ 拆除 拆除


Did you pass?

I will pass
(can you) pass (me the ketchup)?

/pas/ 考试通过吗




Water (Plants) Water (Plants) To water (irrigate)
Have you watered the flowers?




Start (士达) Start (士達) si6 daat6 start /stärt/ 开始 開始
士达图 士達圖 si6 daat6 tou4 (sorry I didn't mean to) startle (you) /ˈstärdl/ (抱歉我不是故意)吓到(你) (抱歉我不是故意)嚇到(你)
哎霍 哎霍 (throw in) effort (energy) /ˈefərt/ 投放精力/气力 投放精力/氣力
Cost A Fortune
Cost A Fortune
It costs a fortune (to replace it) _ _
覓食坡 覓食坡 mik6 sik6 bo1 exploit /ikˈsploit/ 剝削 剝削
(被搵)笨柒/老襯 (被搵)笨柒/老襯 ban6 cat1, lou5 can3 rip-off
ripped-off (by)
/ˈrip ˌôf/ _ _
你出世前(我已经识/食盐多过你食米) 你出世前(我已經識/食鹽多過你食米) (I've been crushing it) since before you were born /sins//bəˈfôr/ 你出世前(我已经会) 你出世前(我已經會)
以为 以為 ji5 wai4 (I was) under the impression that /imˈpreSHən/ 以为 以為
孤寒 孤寒 gu1 hon4 miser/miserly (person)
pinchpenny (uncle)
pinch pennies
/ˈmīzər/ 吝嗇 吝嗇
老鼠 老鼠 lou5 syu2 mice (mouse) /mīs/ 老鼠 老鼠

From French

Jyutping French English English IPA
Mainland Chinese
梳乎厘 梳乎厘 so1 fu4 lei4 soufflé soufflé /so͞oˈflā/ 梳芙厘 舒芙蕾
古龙水 古龍水 gu2 lung4 cologne perfume /kəˈlōn/,/ˈpərˌfyo͞om,ˌpərˈfyo͞om/ 香水 香水
冷(衫) 冷(衫) laang1 laine yarn /yärn/ 纱线 紗線

From Japanese

Jyutping Japanese Japanese Rōmaji English English IPA
Mainland Chinese
卡拉OK 卡拉OK kaa1 laa1 ou1 kei1 カラオケ karaoke karaoke /ˌkerēˈōkē/ 卡拉OK 卡拉OK
老世 老世 lou5 sai3 世帯主 setainushi chief (CEO)
the Head (of a company)
老板 老闆
干爸爹 干爸爹 gaan1 baa1 de1 頑張って ganbatte Keep up! (studying)
Come On (cheering)
/ˈCHēriNG/ 加油 加油
放题 放題 fong3 tai4 食べ放題 tabe hōdai buffet /bəˈfā/ 布斐 布斐

Exported loanwords

Into English

English English IPA
bok choy /ˌbäk ˈCHoi/ 白菜 白菜 baak6 coi3
brainwashing /ˈbrānwôSHiNG/ 洗脑 洗腦 sai2 nou5
char siu /ˌCHär ˈSHo͞o/ 叉烧 叉燒 caa1 siu1
chop chop (hurry up) /ˌCHäpˈCHäp/ 速速 速速 chuk1 chuk1
chop suey /ˌCHäpˈso͞oē/ (炒)杂碎 (炒)雜碎 zaap6 seoi3
chow mein /ˌCHou ˈmān/ 炒面 炒麵 caau2 min6
choy sum /CHoi ˈsəm/ 菜心 菜心 coi3 sam1
dim sum /ˌdim ˈsəm/ 点心 點心 dim2 sam1
feng shui /ˌfeNG ˈSHo͞oē/ 风水 風水 fung1 seoi2
gai lan /ɡī//lan/ 芥兰 芥蘭 gaai3 laan2
ginseng /ˈjinseNG/ 人参 人參 jan4 sam1
har gow /ˈhär//ɡou/ 虾饺 蝦餃 haa1 gaau2
hoisin sauce /ˈhoisin,hoiˈsin/ 海鲜酱 海鮮醬 hoi2 sin1 zoeng3
hotpot /ˈhät ˌpät/ (食)火锅 (食)火鍋 fo2 wo1
jook /jo͞ok,jo͝ok/ zuk1
ketchup /ˈkeCHəp/ 茄汁 茄汁 ke2 zap1
kung fu /ˌkəNG ˈfo͞o/ 功夫 功夫 gung1 fu1
Kung Pao chicken /ˌkəNG//pou/ 宫保鸡丁 宮保雞丁 gung1 bou2 gai1 ding1
lo mein /lō//ˈmān/ 捞面 撈麵 lou1 min6
longan /ˈlôNGɡən,ˈläNG-/ 龙眼 龍眼 lung4 ngaan5
lychee /ˈlēCHē/ 荔枝 荔枝 lai6 zi1
keemun /ˈkēˈmo͝on,ˈkā-/ 祁门(红茶) 祁門(紅茶) kei4 mun4
kowtow /ˌkouˈtou/ 叩头 叩頭 kau3 tau4
kumquat /ˈkəmˌkwät/ 金桔/柑桔 金橘/柑橘 gam1 gwat1
long time no see 好耐冇見 好耐冇見 hou2 noi6 mou5 gin3
loquat /ˈlōˌkwät/ 芦桔(枇杷) 蘆橘(枇杷) lou4 gwat1
mahjong /mäˈ(d)ZHôNG,mäˈ(d)ZHäNG/ 麻将 麻將 maa4 zoeng3
Maotai /mou//tī/ 茅台酒 茅台酒 maau4 toi1 zau2
Moo shu pork /mo͞o//SHo͞o/ 木须肉 木須肉 muk6 seoi1 juk6
nunchaku /ˌnənˈCHäko͞o/ 两节棍 兩節棍 loeng5 zit3 gwan3
oolong /ˈo͞olôNG/ 乌龙 烏龍 wu1 lung2
Pai gow /pī//gou/ 排九 排九 paai4 gau2
pekoe /ˈpēkō/ 白毫(银针) 白毫(銀針) baak6 hou4
shu mai /SHo͞o//mī/ 烧卖 燒賣 siu1 maai6
tai chi /tī//kī/ 太极拳 太極拳 taai3 gik6
tofu /ˈtōfo͞o/ 豆腐 豆腐 dau6 fu6
Tsingtao beer /siNG//tou/ 青岛啤酒 青島啤酒 cing1 dou2 be1 zau2
typhoon /tīˈfo͞on/ 颱風 台风 toi4 fung1
wok /wäk/ wok6
wonton /wən//tən/ 云吞 雲吞 wan4 tan1
yin and yang /yin//yaNG,yäNG/ 阴阳 陰陽 jam1 joeng4
yum cha /ˈyəm ˌCHä/ 饮茶 飲茶 jam2 caa4

Into Mainland Chinese Mandarin

Mandarin Cantonese Jyutping English English IPA
Mandarin synonyms
买单 埋單 maai4 daan1 (Can we please have the) bill? /bil/ 结账
搭档 拍檔 paak3 dong3 partner /ˈpärtnər/ 伙伴 (in ownership and business)
舞伴 (in dancing)
打的 搭的士 daap3 dik1 si2 to ride a taxi /ˈtaksē/ 乘出租车
无厘头 無釐頭, corruption of 無來頭 mou4 lei4 tau4 nonsensical humour (see mo lei tau)
newbie who knows nothing
/ˈ(h)yo͞omər/ 莫名其妙
亮仔/靓仔 靚仔 leng3 zai2 handsome boy /ˈhan(t)səm//boi/ 帅哥儿
哥们 (in China only)
拍拖 拍拖 paak3 to1 dating /dātiNG/ 追求
很正 好正 hou2 zeng3 (colloquial) awesome; perfect; just right /ˈôsəm/ 很棒
搞掂/搞定 搞掂 gaau2 dim6 done
Is it done yet?
It's done!
/dən/ 办妥

Into Taiwanese Mandarin

Taiwanese Mandarin Hanyu Pinyin Cantonese Jyutping English English IPA
(猴)塞雷 (hóu) sāiléi (好)犀利 hou2 sai1 lei6 (very) impressive /imˈpresiv/
Hold住[6] hòu zhù Hold住 hou1 jyu6 hold on
hang tight (hang in there)

Into Japanese

Japanese Kana (Kanji) Japanese Rōmaji Simplified
Jyutping English English IPA
ヤムチャ (飲茶) yamucha 饮茶 飲茶 jam2 caa4 yum cha /ˈyəm ˌCHä/
チャーシュー (叉焼) chāshū 叉烧 叉燒 caa1 siu1 char siu /ˌCHär ˈSHo͞o/
チャーハン (炒飯) chāhan 炒饭 炒飯 caau2 faan6 fried rice /frīd//rīs/

Code-switching and loanword adaptation

Hong Kong Cantonese has a high number of foreign loanwords. Sometimes, the part of speech of the incorporated words are also changed, like "佢地好friend", translated into English as "they are very 'friend'", means "they are good friends". The word "friend" is changed from a noun into an adjective. In some examples, some new meanings of English words are even created. For example, "至yeah", literally "the most yeah", means "the trendiest". Originally, "yeah" means "yes/okay" in English, but it means "trendy" when being incorporated into Hong Kong Cantonese (see also "yeah baby" and "aww yeah").

Semantic change is common in loanwords; when foreign words are borrowed into Cantonese, polysyllabic words and monosyllabic words tend to become disyllabic, and the second syllable is in the Upper Rising tone (the second tone). For example, "kon1 si2" (coins), "sek6 kiu1" (security) and "ka1 si2" (cast). A few polysyllabic words become monosyllabic though, like "mon1" (monitor), literally means computer monitor. And some new Cantonese lexical items are created according to the morphology of Cantonese. For example, "laai1 記" from the word "library". Most of the disyllabic words and some of the monosyllabic words are incorporated as their original pronunciation, with some minor changes according to the Cantonese phonotactics.

Incorporating words from foreign languages into Cantonese is also acceptable by most Cantonese speakers. Hong Kong Cantonese speakers frequently code-mix although they can distinguish foreign words from Cantonese ones. For instance, "噉都唔 make sense", literally means "that doesn't make sense". After a Cantonese speaker decides to code-mix a foreign word in a Cantonese sentence, syntactical rules of Cantonese will be followed. For instance, "sure" (肯定) can be used like "你 su1 唔 su1 aa3?" (are you sure?) as if it were its Cantonese counterpart "你肯唔肯定?", using the A-not-A question construction.

In some circumstances, code-mixing is preferable because it can simplify sentences. An excellent example (though dated) of the convenience and efficiency of such mixing is "打 collect call" replacing "打一個由對方付款的長途電話", i.e. 13 syllables reduced to four.[7]

See also


  1. ^ "Official Language Division, Civil Service Bureau, Government of Hong Kong". Government of Hong Kong. 19 September 2008. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
  2. ^ To, Carol K. S.; Mcleod, Sharynne; Cheung, Pamela S. P. (2015). "Phonetic variations and sound changes in Hong Kong Cantonese: diachronic review, synchronic study and implications for speech sound assessment". Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics. 29 (5): 333–353. doi:10.3109/02699206.2014.1003329. PMID 25651195.
  3. ^ Bauer, Robert S.; Cheung, Kwan-hin; Cheung, Pak-man (2003). "Variation and merger of the rising tones in Hong Kong Cantonese". Language Variation and Change. 15 (2): 211–225. doi:10.1017/S0954394503152039. hdl:10397/7632.
  4. ^ Together Learn Cantonese, see middle section.
  5. ^ "A list compiled by lbsun". Archived from the original on 20 August 2006. Retrieved 9 August 2006.
  6. ^ "你"Hold住"没"Hold住"?". 学生导报 中职周刊. Archived from the original on 23 October 2011. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
  7. ^ "Info" (PDF). www.patrickchu.net.

External links

  • Learn Cantonese (with Cantonese-English / English-Cantonese Dictionary)
  • Learn Chinese with Chinese Lyrics Now with Pinyin and sound files
  • Jyutping romanisation of Cantonese reading of Chinese characters using in Hong Kong
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