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From Hokkien 驚輸惊输 (kiaⁿ-su, “afraid to lose”)


  • IPA(key): /ˈkɪɑ̃ˈsuː/
  • Hyphenation: kia‧su


kiasu (comparative more kiasu, superlative most kiasu)

  1. (Singapore, colloquial, mildly derogatory) Afraid to lose out, particularly because one is overly competitive.
    • 1985 December 22, Irene Hoe, “A parent's helping hand or a nudge into the rat race?”, in The Straits Times, Singapore, page 20:
      No wonder the parents acted that way, she said. They were just being kia-su (afraid to lose out).
    • 1988 December 11, "Pro Bono Puntero" [pseudonym], “That $5 win minimum [letter]”, in The Straits Times, page 35:
      The kia-si/kia-su ("afraid to die/afraid to lose") attitude of the Totalisator Boards in Malaysia and Singapore is deplorable.
    • 1989 April 26, “Crowding at bus doors”, in The Straits Times, page 2:
      We often see a bus with commuters practically spilling out of the front door and crowding at the exit door. But beyond that, a vacuum prevails, says a reader. The kia-su attitude is the reason for this, says the reader, and most of the culprits are students from secondary schools and junior colleges.
    • 1999 October 13, “Kiasu Motors”, in The Business Times, Singapore, page 2:
      The story now going around is that the distributors of Suzuki cars will take over the failed distributorship of Korea's Kia cars. According to one wag, the new distributorship could call itself "Kia-Su Motors". For the uninitiated, kiasu means "afraid to lose" in the Hokkien dialect.
    • 2000, Leong Liew Geok, “Forever Singlish”, in Women without Men, Singapore: Times Books International, →ISBN, page 130:
      No lubang, so teruk. Kiasu cannot lose, / Kiasi cannot die; machiam machiam words / We also try. Proper English? So lecheh, / So correct, so actsy for what? []
    • 2001 February 20, Carolyn Chew, “A different take on the Singaporean syndrome”, in Today, Singapore, page 6:
      Too often you hear about Singaporeans with the "K syndrome", meaning kiasu (afraid of losing out), kiasi (afraid of dying), kiabor (afraid of wife). [] So, Singaporeans, don't conform to what society labels you to be. Be kiasu in making a difference!
    • 2009 October 27, Lionel de Souza, “You save money, but it's the environment that pays [letter]”, in Today, page 28:
      Shell's FuelSave saw Singaporeans' kiasu spirit come to the fore. I noted that most vehicles in the queue had their engines in idle and air-conditioners on, hence releasing air pollutants.


For more examples of usage of this term, see Citations:kiasu.



kiasu (plural kiasu or kiasus)

  1. (Singapore, colloquial, mildly derogatory) A kiasu person.
    • 2003 May 28, Frederick Lim, “Sars and the Singaporean: Crisis has brought out the best and the worst”, in Today, Singapore, page 22:
      Apart from the kiasis and kiasus, there are also Singaporeans at the other end of the scale – the healthcare workers who put their lives at risk.

See also[edit]