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
Check out the flash cards below to learn some of the more commonly used
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
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.
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.