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  1. To describe someone who is timid and afraid of competing with others.
  2. To be afraid of losing to others, always rushing to be the first.
  3. Crave small gains.
  4. The act of queue jumping or hogging a spot.
  5. To overprepare or have unrealistic expectations.


  • One belief is that when Singapore first implemented National Service, people who were adverse to the hardship or dangerous training were mocked with the term “kiasi” (fear of death). In the Hokkien (Minnan) dialect, “kiasi” was used to mock timid people. Perhaps as the word “si” sounds phonetically similar to “su”, the term “kiasi” evolved to become “kiasu”. “Kiasu” also encompasses the meaning of being timid.


A new survey indicated that up to 71% of local parents send their children to at least one extracurricular class. Compared to the 15 other countries from the Asia Pacific, Singaporean parents came to the eighth place on the “Kiasu Ranking”. (My Paper, 4/12/2013)


  • The term “kiasu” is widely used, both in print and colloquially. The Oxford Dictionary also included “kiasu” as one of its official entries. From “kiasu”, the term “kiasuism” was born, which is used to describe the mentality of being kiasu.