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Brush up on your Sabahan slangs before visiting the Land Below the Wind

Every place has its own unique and distinct take on its local languages, Sabah is no exception.

Though most known for its already distinctive Malay language, which differs from the more mainstream Malay spoken in Peninsular Malaysia, (and sometimes mistaken as Indonesian Malay though those familiar with Sabahan Malay will be able to immediately differentiate the two as both obviously have different sentence structures and nuance), the Malaysian state located in northern Borneo has plenty of interesting slangs that would prove very useful when interacting with the locals. 

Check out the flash cards below to learn some of the more commonly used Sabahan slangs!


A must-know word in Sabah if you’re looking to have a fun time, which usually involves lots and lots of drinking if you happen to be surrounded by Kadazan and, especially, Dusun people. Though sometimes it is used in a non-alcoholic context, as a way of just calling everybody to have a great time at a social gathering.


If you know “aramaiti”, for sure you will learn of “kogutan” next. Because you will be physically experiencing it, you have to know the exact term to describe it so you can explain to your Sabahan acquaintances why you are covering half of your face with a pair of exceptionally large and dark sunglasses. The best thing is with this just this one word, explanation done. Now you can bask in silence again as you nurse your hangover.


Once you can talk loudly again, here’s the perfect word for you to express your feelings more articulately in Sabah. When “wow” just doesn’t do justice to the feeling of awe or surprise, or both, that you’re trying to deliver, use “uinnaaa!”. Everyone and their (impressed) grandmother will immediately know what you’re expressing.

“Palis Palis”

Did you just say something that you do not wish to turn into reality? Hurry and say “palis palis”! And yes, this comes in a pair, it doesn’t work if you say just “palis”. (You’ll never hear anyone saying it like this.) It carries the same meaning as the English idiom ‘Touch wood’, said in order to avoid or prevent bad luck.


Last but not least, we get to the most popular and most used slang: “Bah”. This is a word used by every Sabahan, regardless of age, ethnicity, religion – literally everyone uses it. Simply because it can mean everything from “hi” to “yes” to, even, “bye”. You use it to express agreement, emphasis, confirmation, exclamation, salutation. Just make sure to learn of its proper placement in a sentence, nothing irks a Sabahan more than to hear a misplaced “bah”. Tip: it doesn’t ALWAYS go at the end of the sentence.

If you want to know more about Sabah, please visit Sabahnites.

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