Hong Kong English

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For much of the colonial era, knowledge of English in the territory was largely restricted to the British colonialists and an educated Chinese elite class, but since the 1960s, knowledge of English has spread throughout the community. In the 2011 Census, some 46% of the population claimed to speak English to varying degrees of proficiency, although, of these, the vast majority are Hong Kong Chinese who speak English as a second language. The history of Hong Kong English can be traced back to the use of Chinese pidgin English, or ‘Canton English’ as it was called. This was a trading pidgin, that is, a simplified form of ‘business’ English mixed with Chinese, which was used as a lingua franca in the port of Guangzhou (Canton) in the late 18th and early 19th century.

Excerpt taken from ‘Introduction to Hong Kong English’ blog post by Prof Kingsley Bolton

Hong Kong English words recently recorded in the OED

Explore the full list of Hong Kong English words most recently added to the OED.

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Additional resources

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Use the submissions form below to suggest a Hong Kong English word for inclusion in the OED:

World Englishes

  • E.g. Philippine English, Hong Kong English, Ugandan English
  • e.g. bammy, skinship, bunny hug
  • e.g. an informal social gathering, a street vendor
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Hong Kong English editors and consultants

The OED works in partnership with external experts from or in Hong Kong to ensure that our entries for Hong Kong English words draw from local knowledge and expertise and reflect the everyday reality and distinctive identity of the Hong Kong English-speaking community.

Hong Kong English pronunciation

You can find more information on pronunciation in the OED here.

Hong Kong English resources: from the OED webinar series

OED resources to support teaching and academic research in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan

The OED is a powerful online linguistic resource, providing features, tools, and language data which are essential for academic research and teaching. However, the extent of the OED capabilities is not always explored to its full potential.

The Oxford University Press team – Dr Danica Salazar, World English Editor, and Ms Chen Zhou, Regional Customer Trainer, presented a session where they provided an overview of all the OED can offer.

Guest speaker Dr Lisa Lim, Associate Professor at Curtin University and ‘Language Matters’ columnist for the South China Morning Post, presented her perspective of how the OED can be used in academic and other professional research, within the realms of language contact and evolution within multicultural environments.

Watch the recording of this presentation here:


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