Learn Cantonese slang: All about hobbies, trends and fashion

  • Everyone wants to be ‘ciu’, but be careful you don’t cross the line into ‘ciu man’.
  • The hustle and bustle of Hong Kong makes it hard to remember what ‘man wut’ means.
Kelly Fung |

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Do you prefer to baau lam when you're out in nature?

This week, we’re looking at lingo related to trends and lifestyles.

If you’re not a native Cantonese speaker, try using these phrases and surprise your friends while you “blow water” with them! Let’s start with the word for “trend” itself.

【潮】[ciu4] (ts-ew) – “trend”
Meaning: If someone describes you as “ciu”, it means you are a trendsetter and fashionable. The word has multiple meanings – “trend”, “tides” and “dynasty”. It is figurative language that captures the rise and fall of fashion and power.

One recent phrase in the city is “immigration ciu”.

In English: trendy, fashionable, trendsetter
Example: Larry just smiled like a Cheshire cat after someone said he is ciu.

Is your heart in the right place?

【潮流】[ciulau4] (ts-ew lau) – “tides-flows”
Meaning: This noun further shows us how trends can be likened to the tides and flows of water, and how they move in unexpected directions.
In English: trend, fad and fashion
Example: Let us see how long the cassette tapes ciu lau is going to stay.

【潮文】 [ciu4man4] (ts-ew man) – “trendy articles”
Meaning: Ciu means trendy and fashionable. But “ciu man” is used sarcastically.
Most ciu mans revolve around fake news and events that caught public attention. They are shared virally online and often made fun of.
In English: copypasta, spam, clickbait
Example: Have you read that ciu man written by a local male singer in Hong Kong? It’s hilariously bad.

We're all guilty of clicking on ciu man.

Trending activities

【爆林】[baau3lam4] (bow lum) – “explode the woods”
Meaning: Hiking may be many Hongkongers’ weekend go-to, but now baau lam is a popular trending activity and challenge. It could be pretty risky, though. Hikers who want to baau lam do not follow the trails; instead they make their way through unexplored woods.
In English: trekking
Example: It is not wise to baau lam without bringing supplies and gear with you.

【紮營】[zaat3ying2] (zaat ying) – “tie the tent”
Meaning: Hong Kong people will use this phrase to refer to camping and the action of setting up a tent.
In English: camping, set up a tent
Example: Are you down for zaat ying at the beach this weekend?

【打書釘】[daa2syu1deng1] (daa-su-dang) - “staple the book”
Meaning: This refers to people who browse and read in a bookstore without buying anything.
In English: browsing books in a bookstore
Example: Let’s not daa siu deng too often, we should support the writers who put so much time and love into their work.

All the lingo you need for the cha chaan teng


【慢活】[man4wut6] (maan woot) – “slow living”
Meaning: This represents the philosophy of a slow-paced lifestyle.
In English: downshifting, slow-paced living
Example: Having lived in Hong Kong for decades has made me forget what man wut means.

【夜貓】[je6mao1] (ye mao) – “night cat”
Meaning: Someone who often stays up late and tends to do things, or be more efficient, at night.
In English: a night owl, a night person
Example: Lily feels most energetic to do her work at night because she is a je mao.

【刨書】[paau4syu1] (paau su) – “peel the book”
Meaning: This describes someone who concentrates on revising for exams, or someone who reads a lot, as if they are about to peel every page of the book
In English: have your head or nose in a book
Example: Amy started paau syu because her midterm exam is two weeks away.

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