Learn Cantonese slang: Is your heart in the right place?

  • Did you know the word 'heart' lies inside the Chinese character for 'love'?
  • This week, we bring you words related to the heart
Kelly Fung |

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How many of these slang terms related to hearts do you know?

The word “heart” nestles in the middle of the traditional Chinese character for “love”. This conveys the idea that love lies in the heart.

This festive season, our Cantonese slang series “Sup Sup Sui” brings you lingo related to that word.

Let’s take a look and hopefully you won’t get sum dai sum sai when you use these phrases!

All the lingo you need for cha chaan tengs

【心心眼】 [sum 1 sum 1 ngaan 5] (sum-sum-ng-an) – “heart-heart-eyes”
this is how you would say the heart-eyes emoji instead of typing it on your phone. It conveys your enthusiasm for the things you desire, or for something that is appealing. You can use this phrase whenever you feel like using the emoji.
In English: fabulous, extraordinary, fantastic, hearting it
Example: The aesthetics of this cafe can definitely make everyone who comes here sum sum ngan.

【上心】 [seong 1 sum 1] (sur-ng-sum) – “up-heart”
The upper part of the heart? Nope, it means that you are on top of things and you won’t let matters slip. So this is a good word if you hear people use it to describe you; it is a compliment!
In English: focused, heedful and attentive
Example: Sally is very seung sum about the upcoming New Year’s party. She started planning it two months ago!

【細心 [sai 3 sum 1] (sai-sum) – “small heart”
A small heart in Cantonese is actually a good thing! It means you are a considerate person, not selfish or uncaring.
In English: thoughtful and considerate
Example: Lilian is such a sweet and sai sum girl! Each year she writes Christmas cards to everyone on the football team.

A guide to Canto internet slang

【粗心 [cou1 sum1] (cho-sum) – “thick heart”
A thick heart, however, is not so good. It means that you are careless and tend to make mistakes.
In English: careless, forgetful and inattentive, an airhead
Example: Billy is very cho sum. He forgot to bring some of the ingredients needed for the mince pies, so now we have to buy the pastry from Marks and Spencer.

【心大心細】 [sum 1 daai 6 sum 1 sai 3] (sum-dai-sum-sai) “heart big heart small”
Imagine if your heart went from big to small and back constantly, and you didn’t know what it should be any more. This term is used to describe people who are indecisive, as they keep on alternating between different options.
In English: runs hot and cold, can’t make up their mind
Expressions in English: “Don’t be like Chidi” – Chidi is one of the protagonists from the drama series The Good Place, who is incapable of making decisions.
Example: Girl, don’t be sum dai sum sai. You look great in every outfit so just pick one for the New Year’s party.

Let’s talk about love

【玻璃心】 [bo 1 lei 4 sum 1] (bo-lei-sum) – “glass heart”
A heart made of glass? Well, metaphorically it refers to people whose hearts are as fragile as glass, so they break easily, and unnecessarily.
In English: overly-sensitive, easily or unjustifiably upset or offended, easily becomes angry
Slang in English: thin-skinned, emo
Example: The netizens in this thread are so bo lei sum! They just attack whoever leaves a comment.

【灰心 [fui 1 sum 1 ] (fui sum) – “grey heart”
In Cantonese, the colour “grey” suggests a loss of hope and vision. A grey heart, therefore, means a discouraged spirit. It refers to someone who has lost enthusiasm and confidence to do something.
In English: disheartened, dispirited, discouraged
Example: Jack, don’t blame yourself for not being cheerful enough. It is okay to feel fui sum at some points in our lives. We are always here for you no matter what.

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