How to Say the Basic Greetings in Malay

These greeting phrases should not be that hard to grasp. One thing that might be a challenge is the natural way to pronounce it – which is also explained in this guide.

In this post, we will learn about the basic greetings in Malay. The collection below should be enough for you to be able to start a conversation. These greeting phrases should not be that hard to grasp. One thing that might be a challenge is the natural way to pronounce it – which is also explained in this guide.

1. Saying Hello

English PhraseMalay EquivalentSyllable break down
Hello / HiHelo / Haihe-lo / hai
Good morningSelamat pagise-la-mat pa-gi
Good afternoonSelamat tengah harise-la-mat te-ngah ha-ri
Good eveningSelamat petangse-la-mat pe-tang

Surely you can see from the table that “hello” or “hi” is used as greetings as well. It is common for Malaysians to use English words in everyday conversation. Especially if it has a shorter syllables than the intended Malay word.

The word selamat literally means “safe”. The way you would pronounce it is “suh-lah-maht”. If you want to sound more natural, cut this three syllables word into two, “slah-maht”. This is like cutting the pronounciation of the letter e placed in the second letter of the word very short, making it essentially inaudible.

For the rest of the words, it is quite straight forward. The letter e makes the schwa sound as in the word “the“. The letter combination “ng” makes one sound as in “song“. If you are still confused, you can refer to the pronunciation guide in this post.

2. Parting

English PhraseMalay EquivalentSyllable break down
GoodbyeSelamat tinggalse-la-mat ting-gal
See you againJumpa lagijum-pa la-gi
Good nightSelamat malamse-la-mat ma-lam
Have a safe journeySelamat jalanse-la-mat ja-lan

The phrase “bye” is common worldwide, so there is no surprise that Malay-speaking community use them as well.

“Selamat tinggal” is used to tell people you will be away for a some time, or maybe in break ups where they don’t want to see each other anymore. However, you don’t really hear people say “selamat tinggal” being spoken. It could also be used as a joke, or a line in a song.

The word “jumpa” in “jumpa lagi” might sound differently than it is spelled. This has been discussed previously, where the letter a at the end of a word could or would be pronounced as if it was replaced by the letter e.

3. Getting to know others

For this part, we will use dialogue as example:

A: My name is Farhan. / Nama saya Farhan.
B: I’m Hafiz. / Saya Hafiz.
A: Nice to meet you. / Selamat berkenalan.

If you followed the previous link attached, you might be able to pronounce “nama saya” more casually just like the native speakers. The word “nama” means “name”, and “saya” means “I” or “me”.

“Selamat berkenalan” can also be used by a third person to encourage others getting to know each other. For example, we can add another person C in the dialogue above and person C would wish A and B “selamat berkenalan”.

4. Asking about wellbeing of others

A: How are you? / Apa khabar?
B: I’m good. How about you? / Khabar baik. Awak macam mana?
A: Nothing much. / Macam ini sahaja.

You might notice the word “khabar” and the combination of “kh”. This combination is not a native pronunciation. It is a loaned pronunciation from the arabic word. The locals would just ignore the h from the “kh”. So looking at the word, it is pronounced as “ka-ba” with invisible h and r.

“Khabar” literally means “news”, while “baik” means good. But it’s not like they have any good news to talk about. It just means that they are doing fine. “Awak” means “you”. “Macam” and “mana” means “like” and “where/which” respectively, but if you use them together as a phrase, it means “how”.

The word “sahaja” means “only” or “just”. The pronunciation is quite long in spoken Malay and also sounds quite formal. In daily conversation, it is usually cut short into “saja” or even shorter “ja” or usually spelled “je”. This follows the guide in the previously attached link from before.

5. Expressing gratitude

A: Thank you. / Terima kasih.
B: You’re welcome. / Sama-sama.

So here we go again, cutting short some other words. Now it’s on the word “terima” which gets pronounced as “tri-ma”.

The word “sama” alone means “same” in English. By having a repitition, “sama-sama” is a standalone word that means “you are welcome”. In a different context, it could also mean “together”. There’s a song for that.

6. Yes or No

English PhraseMalay EquivalentSyllable break down
NoTidak / Takti-dak / tak
Whichever is fineMana-mana pun bolehma-na-ma-na pun bo-leh
I don’t knowSaya tak tahusa-ya tak ta-hu

If you follow the last link attached previously, you might be able to see the pattern here for the word “ya”. Same goes to “mana” and “saya”. All of the a‘s placed at the end of the words will be pronounced as if there was e in its place instead.

That will be it for now. Hopefully these phrases will be helpful for you to start a conversation with your friends.

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