Our Dictionary

Graphic by Shirley Yun
June 13, 2024

Asia is a home to thousands of ethnic groups and a diverse variety of Asian languages. Over time, our ancestors have shared bits and pieces of languages with each other, and with migration and globalization, variations of dialects and bilingual languages now take root in our multifaceted Asian identities. Language exists as a connector from individuals to their identity, then those individuals to a community. 

To celebrate AANHPI month, I have compiled a list of favorite words and phrases in some of your Asian languages:

  1. Ai’Long - Cham

Definition: An honorific of what younger siblings would call the eldest sibling

Example: “Ai’long can you buy me robux?”

From Humaira

  1. Anna - Telugu

Definition: A brother

Example: “My anna is a loser.”

From Anonymous

  1. Bangad - Ilocano

Definition: Bad, hard-headed, bold

Example: “Nag bangad!”

From Joeph

  1. Bong - Khmer

Definition: Term to use when properly addressing an older sibling

Example: “Thank you bong Emily for the birthday present!”

From Anonymous

  1. Chellam - Tamil

Definition: Darling

Example: “How are you chellam?”

From Shalini

  1. Cookard - Punjabi

Definition: Chicken

Example: “I am eating cookard.”

From Kavneet

  1. Jaan - Punjabi

Definition: Life

Example: “Meri jaan.”

From Sachmitt Kaur

  1. Khoobsurat - Hindi

Definition: Beautiful

Example: “You are khoobsurat.”

From Anonymous

  1. Lalaingem - Ilocano

Definition: Do your best

Example: “Lalaingem!”

From Jaykub

  1. Lifafa - Punjabi

Definition: Bag

Example: “Go get me the Lifafa.”

From Aishwarya Chawla

  1. Mohabbat - Urdu/Hindi

Definition: Love

Example: “Mujhse tumse mohabbat hai.”

From Anushreya Karir

  1. Paati - Tamil

Definition: Grandma

Example: “I love my Paati.”

From Keerthi

  1. Sooraj - Hindi

Definition: Sun

Example: “Sooraj is out today.”

From Simran

  1. Thatha - Tamil

Definition: Grandpa

Example: “I love my Thatha.”

From Disha

  1. Zindagi  - Hindi

Definition: Life

Example: “Zindagi na milegi dobara.”

From Anonymous

  1. น้อง (nong) - Thai

Definition: Term to use when you’re properly addressing a younger person or sibling

Example: “Nong, are you hungry?”

From Jasmine

  1. 人外有人 天外有天 (rén wài yǒurén tiānwàiyǒutiān) - Chinese

Definition: In a wider world, there are people more talented than oneself

Example: “若你自認高人一籌,切記:人外有人 天外有天”  (“If you think yourself superior, remember, in a wider world, there are always people more gifted than oneself.”)

From Kevin

  1. 啊我就想。。。(a wǒ jiù xiǎng) - Mandarin Chinese

Definition: Aw, i just want…

Example: “你不来?啊我就想。。。”  (“You’re not coming? Aw, i just want…”)

From Athena Bao

  1. 花園 (huāyuán) - Mandarin Chinese

Definition: Garden

Example: “有小鳥在花園裡”

From Eileen Chang

  1. 아이고 (aigo) - Korean

Definition: Oh my

Example: “아이고, 뭐하노~”

From Sarah Kim

  1. 아이고 (aigo) - Korean

Definition: Uh oh

Example: “아이고, it’s OK, you got it next time.”

From Anonymous

  1. 호랑이가 장가 가는날 (holang-iga jang-ga ganeunnal)- Korean

Definition: The tiger is getting married (literal meaning). It's an idiomatic expression to describe a sunshower.

Example: “호랑이가 장가가는 날 이다!” (“Would you look at that? It's raining while the sun is out.”

From Joshua Yoon

  1. やばい (yabai) - Japanese

Definition: Same connotation as “bruh” or “that’s crazy”, but it’s very versatile (around 20 different meanings)

Example: “このたこ焼きまじやばい“ (“This takoyaki is crazy for real.”)

From Chris

  1. 姉ちゃん (nēchan) - Japanese

Definition: Older sister

Example: “姉ちゃんの頭がいいから手伝って貰う”

From Lynn Owejan

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