How to Use Vietnamese Curse Words and Phrases (Like a Native Pro)
The Vietnamese people and culture are truly fascinating. Foreigners who visit this wonderful country will marvel at how warm and friendly the people are and how delicious the food is. However, let's be honest. No language or cultural heritage is complete without its own repertoire of curses, insults, offensive slang and bad mouthing.
Thus without shame or reservation, we wish to present to you a comprehensive list of foul-mouthed insults and naughty banter familiar to the Vietnamese lexicon.
Warning: Be careful when using this language in Vietnam or in the presence of fluent speakers of the language. You could lose friends. Or worse.
Vulgar/Extremely Insulting Terms:
The most popular and generally used vulgar slang in Vietnam. It has the same meaning and intensity with the f-word “f@&k” in English. It is pronounced much as an English speaker would say the word "do", though more intense accents may make this word sound like "dough". It is often used alongside pronouns, animals, or the word “mother” to express a myriad of different connotations.
Example: đụ má - pronounced /ɗu˧ˀ˨ʔ ma˧˥/, which is roughly translated to “f@&k mother”. It is similar to “motherf@&ker” in English and it is often used to begin an utterance especially by older men and women or people in provincial areas in Vietnam. It is not as popular among younger people. It could mean anger, excitement, happiness, sadness, or it can simply imply humor.
Some areas also use “địt” - pronounce /ɗi˩˧t/ as a substitute. It has the same meaning as “đụ”. It also means “fart”, but this instance of meaning isn’t as vulgar as “f@&k”.
cặc- / kα˩˧k /
Another commonly used slang, especially at the beginning of an utterance. It means “c#%k” / ”penis”. It is possible that it was borrowed from English during the 70s and became integrated into Vietnamese. It is mostly used as an insult, a very serious and violent one at that.
In the Northern regions of Vietnam, people also use “buồi” - pronounced /buə˩i/, as a substitution.
lồn- / lo˨˩n /
With pronunciation similar to the "lon" in "pylon", this term means “female genitalia” or “pu$$y”. It is also an insult, used to insult someone’s status or intelligence. It is often paired with the word “mother” as well.
Another variation of this is “le” - pronounce like the word “le” in French.
đĩ- / ɗi˧˥ˀ /
This is a common curse word used that means “prostitute” or the b-word - “b*^ch”. It is used similar to the word “b*^ch” in English. However, it has very heavy implication on a woman’s lack of dignity as the word is used to imply that she is a cheater or is someone who steals another woman’s husband.
In Northern Vietnam, people also use “điếm” /ɗiə˥m/ (same meaning) or “điếm thúi” /ɗiə˥m t̪hu˥i/ (meaning “stinky b*^ch”).
Among younger people, it can be used to call their close friends especially among women and gay men.
quần què- / kwɜ˩n kwe˩ /
Pronounced very roughly in English as "kwan kwe", this is a very common term roughly translated to “broken pants”. Its actual meaning is “sanitation pad” (during menstruation) but it is used to insult both genders. The implication of this insult is that someone is extremely useless, and they are a thorn to the eyes.
Milder Curse Words / Terms:
đéo- / ɗɛu̯˥ /
This word means “No”. But it is used similar to “F@&k No” or “Hell No” in English. In Vietnamese, saying No this way is impolite and insulting.
vãi- / vaĭ˥ˀ /
The meaning of this word is “to ejaculate” or “to spurt”. It doesn’t have any meaning in context, but it is often used to express someone’s surprise.
It is often accompanied by objects, such as “nồi” (a pot) or “lều” (a tent) (showing the volume of this “ejaculation”), or by “lồn” - /lo˨˩n/ (in the Vulgar Terms section) in order to increase the intensity.
ngu - / ŋʊ /
This word means “idiotic” or “stupid”. But it is quite insulting, and it shows that the speaker does not care about the one they are talking about. It can be compared to being called “retarded”.
cứt- / kɨ˥t /
The word is literally translated to “sh*t”. It is an impolite way to address excrement. It is also used to call out someone who is undesirable.
chó chết- / ƫɔ˥ ƫe˥t /
It means “dead dog”. It is used similarly to “Damn it” in English, expressing frustration and anger at the beginning of an utterance.
It is also used as an adjective, similar to “God damn”, addressing someone who is undesirable.
Teasing / Naughty Banters:
A phrase that means “useless” or “half-ass”. It is both used as a slight insult or an endearing name-calling. It sees use mostly by people from the North of Vietnam. It is literally translated to: “bad breath”.
chết tiệt- / ƫe˥t tiə˧t /
This term has a similar meaning to “chó chết” - /ƫo˥ ƫe˥t/ (Damn it). However, it is much less dramatic, and it is often uttered with a low voice, often to slightly scold someone or to express discontent. Its literal meaning is “absolutely dead”.
ngựa- / ŋɯə˧ /
It literally means “horse”. It is used to address someone who is unbearable, acts strangely, or is generally an ill-mannered person.
bóng - / bo˥ŋ /
This term is used to [impolitely] address a homosexual man or a man who expresses feminist trait. It has similar connotation as “gay”. However, it is not as severe as the term “fa&&ot”.
Nowadays, it is also used for females such as how “gay” has evolved to be used for lesbians as well.
mắm- / mα˥m /
It literally means “dry fish”. It is a term used to call young girls. It is often used by parents to call their children. When it is used amongst adult women, it often means that someone is poor, naughty, or dirty.
Cultural Notes on the Use of Vietnamese Swears and Curses
Note: In Vietnamese, in order to appear vulgar and to raise the intensity and effectiveness of the insult, some Vietnamese string a lot of vulgar/curse words together in the same utterance. In fact, all five of the most vulgar words mentioned in the first section above can be used in the same sentence due to the synthetic nature of the Vietnamese language.
“Đụ má mày đồ con quần què đĩ lôn” means “F^&k you, you f^&king useless b*#ch”
Hope you enjoyed this brief foray in Vietnamese insults, curses and bad words. Remember, some of these phrases may actually start a fight; so don't be "ngu".