top of page

7 Often-used "Baby Talk" Words in Singapore

I’m sure that no matter which country you’re from, you’ve heard your fair share of “baby talk” - whether it be during your own childhood, while parenting your child, or simply hearing relatives or even strangers use it.

“Baby talk” generally refers to sounds used to communicate with babies that are outside of normal language, and do not conform to usual grammar or vocabulary rules. These parenting phrases are considered vernacular and are usually localised. Some people, however, dislike the use of “baby talk”, considering it improper as children might think these words are standard usage of English or any other language, when in reality it is not.

Today, I’ll be giving a little more insight on a list of 7 parenting phrases Singaporean parents use often - inspiration credits to my 3 year old brother! As they usually do not have a standard spelling, I’ll try to write it as clearly as possible (though it cannot be transmitted through text).

1. Pom-pom

No, this doesn’t refer to the shiny, colourful things cheerleaders use in their cheer routines. However inaccurate this voice to text translation might be, pom-pom (or bom-bom) refers to taking a bath.

2. Shee-shee

Much like the more globalised wee-wee, this refers to passing urine, which means it’s often heard when the children are being potty trained or simply wish to go to the bathroom.

3. Ng-ng

Don’t read this while you’re eating, that’s for sure. Following the earlier bathroom theme, ng-ng means to defecate. Likewise, you might hear parents asking children this when their faces are red from exertion - doing what, I won’t elaborate.

4. Bok-bok

Taking a step away from the bathroom, we’ll now step into the bedroom. Bok-bok refers to patting a baby to sleep - sound familiar? I think patting babies to sleep is something that really helps babies fall asleep as fast as possible as it gives them comfort.

5. Orh-orh

Next, what do the babies do after you finish patting them? They sleep, of course (ideally). Orh-orh refers to taking a nap, especially because babies being so young require a lot more sleep than teenagers or adults. Afternoon naps are a must if you don’t want them to be (more) cranky (than usual)!

6. Orh-hor

Though this looks similar to the above, they actually mean two very different things. This warning, usually accompanied by a shaking and wagging index finger, is meant to guilt-trip the baby into stopping what they are doing (something they’re not supposed to be doing).

7. Gai-gai

And lastly, now that baby is awake and active at home, gai-gai refers to bringing the baby out for a walk! Also referred to as jalan-jalan, this doesn’t necessarily mean going out for a walk - it could be going to the mall, too.

Well, there you have it! A (non-exhaustive but hopefully comprehensive) list of 7 often-used Singaporean baby talk words. Now you won’t be puzzled when you hear it around on the streets of Singapore ever again!


bottom of page