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Most useful words and phrases in the Malay language

Here are the 100 most important words and phrases in the Malay language, which locally is referred to as Bahasa Melayu. While the vast majority (some say 70%) of Malaysians speak functional English, it doesn’t hurt to learn a few words, which will help you get by. Even if the Malaysian your speaking to has a grasp of English their pronunciation is not always good, so it can be difficult to understand them. Typically they can understand what you say more proficiently than speaking English back to you.

How to say hi and bye in Malay

Let’s start simple with greetings:

To say hi, you say hi
To say hello, you say Halo
To say goodbye you say selamat tinggal, which in a literal translation means happy stay.
To say good morning, use: selamat pagi (sounds like “pag-ee”)
To say good afternoon, use selamat tengah hari (sounds like “teen-gah har-ee”)
To say good evening, then say selamat petang (sounds like “puh-tong”)
And to finally say good night, you would say: selamat malam (sounds like “mah-lahm”)

Malay words that show good manners

How to say Hello! and Goodbye in Malaysian!
To say please, you would say sila

To say thank you, you’d say termia kasih (pron: teri-mah ka-see)
To say you are welcome, you’d say sama-sama

Meeting people

Here is how to say “My name is …” in Malaysian:

Nama saya ialah

Counting in Malaysian 

Here is translation of basic numbers

gosong (“go-song”) = zero
sato (“sat-too”) = one
dua (“doo-uhh”) = two
tiga (“tee-guh”) = three
empat (“um-paht”)= four
lima (“lee-muh”) = five
enam (“uhh-nom”) = six
tujuh (“too jew”)= = seven
lapan (“lah-pahn”) = eight
sembilan (pronounced “sem-bee-lan”) = nine
sepuluh (“seh-poo-loo”) = ten

Food words in Malay

Water = Air
Beer = Bir
Chicken = Ayam
Pork = Babi
BeefDaging lembu
Steak = Stik
Fish = Ikan
Shrimp = Udang
Squid = Sotong
Crab = Ketam
Rice = Nasi (also Beras)
Fried = Goreng
Nasi Kandar = Mixed Rice
Nasi Lemak = Coconut milk-infused rice (“creamy rice”) dish served for breakfast
Lemak  = Fat, oily, but in the context of Nasi Lemak, it means “creamy”
Rendang = Spicy meat dish
Nasi Redang = Red rice