Learn Cantonese slang: Phrases all about love for White Valentine’s Day

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  • Love isn’t just about romance; it’s just as special in friendships and with family
  • These phrases will remind you that love is in the air, even in the toughest of times
Yanni Chow |
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Love isn’t just about romance - it’s also about friendship and family. Photo: Shutterstock

It’s White Valentine’s Day today! While it is traditionally the time when people reciprocate the gifts they received a month ago on Valentine’s Day, we can also treat it as a time to celebrate all kinds of love.

Although the media often frames love in romance as the most important, it is just as special in friendships. Boyfriends and girlfriends may come and go, but good friends will stick by you through everything from exciting first dates to crushing break-ups.

You can also find love in life’s little moments – a charitable act for those in need or a kind smile from a stranger. Here is some Cantonese slang to remember love is in the air, even when times are tough.

Cantonese phrases to help you encourage others during the pandemic

口甜舌滑 hau2 tim4 sit6 waat6 (how-teem-sit-what): “Mouth sweet tongue slippery”

Meaning: describes those who give compliments to persuade someone to do something. Usually, this phrase is used for guys who tell girls what they want to hear, but it may be insincere – saying they are beautiful, sweet and smart to convince them to do something.

In English: sweet-talker; charmer

Example: You need to watch out for Tommy’s compliments. He is very how-teem-sit-what, so you shouldn’t take him seriously.

Chill out there, Tommy! Photo: Shutterstock

天生一對 tin1 saang1 jat1 deoi3 (teen-sahng-yaht-dui): “Sky born one pair”

Meaning: refers to two people who are perfectly suited to date each other. The phrase directly translates as a pair meant to be together since birth.

In English: a match made in heaven

Example: Timothy and his girlfriend are such teen-sahng-yaht-dui – I always thought they were actually married.

More Canto phrases about relationships and memories

一拍即合 jat1 paak3 zik1 hap6 (yaat-pak-jik-hup): “One clap immediately together”

Meaning: to get along with someone else right away. This is used to describe when two people meet for the first time and already seem to click and have a lot in common to talk about.

In English: to hit it off; to click; to get along

Example: Tina and Bonnie really yaat-pak-jik-hup. I just introduced them to each other yesterday, and they have been talking non-stop.

Some people just click right away. Photo: Shutterstock

係愛呀哈利 hai6 ngoi3 aa1 haa1 lei6 (hai-oi-ah-ha-lay): “It’s love, Harry”

Meaning: describes an act filled with love and warmth. The phrase comes from the end of the film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, when Dumbledore explains how Harry was protected from Voldemort because of his mother’s love, saying: “It’s love, Harry.” After the movie’s release in 2001, Hongkongers started to use this phrase to discuss kind-hearted and selfless deeds.

In English: an act of kindness

Example: These students have been using their own pocket money to buy masks and food for people in need, hai-oi-ah-ha-lay.

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