The five most common Cantonese profanities, vulgar words in the Cantonese language are diu (?/?), gau (?/?/?)), lan (?/?), tsat (?/?/?) and hai (?/?), where the first literally means fuck, "Diu" (or Jiu) is literally the word for penis while the rest are sexual organs of either gender. They are sometimes collectively known as the "outstanding five in Cantonese" (?). These five words are generally offensive and give rise to a variety of euphemisms and minced oaths. Similar to the seven dirty words in the United States, these five words are forbidden to say and are bleep-censored on Hong Kong broadcast television. Other curse phrases, such as puk gai (/) and ham gaa caan (/), are also common.
Diu (traditional Chinese: ? or ? ; Jyutping: diu2), literally meaning fuck, is a common but grossly vulgar profanity in Cantonese. In a manner similar to the English word fuck, diu expresses dismay, disgrace, and disapproval. Examples of expressions include diu lei! (! or !, fuck you!), and the highly offensive diu lei lo mo! (? or ?, fuck your mother) or diu lei lo mo chau hai! (, fuck your mother's foul cunt).
The word diu was originally a noun meaning the penis and evolved as a verb. Regarded as a grossly vulgar word in Cantonese, the word has gained a new meaning in Taiwan to refer to "cool". In this context, the Mandarin pronunciation may not be censored on TV broadcasts but the original Cantonese pronunciation is still taboo.
Certain euphemisms exist, including siu (?) (small/little), tsiu (?), yiu (?).
Gau (? or Chinese: ?; Jyutping: gau1), sometimes wrongly written as ? (haau1) or ? (gou1) despite different pronunciations, is a vulgar Cantonese word which literally means erected cock or cocky.
The phrase ?? ngong6 gau1 is an adjective that may be loosely translated as a "dumbass".Minced variants include ngong6 geoi1, ?Q ngong6 kiu1, / ngaang6 gaau1 (lit. hard plastic) and "on9" (used in internet slang). The phrase mou4 lei4 tau4 gau1 (?) meaning "makes no sense" was cut to mou4 lei4 tau4 to avoid the sound gau1. Similar to "fucking" in English, this word is usually used as an adverb. Compare this:
Two common euphemisms gau, which only differ in the tone, include ? gau2 (nine) and ? gau2 (dog, but it may change the original "dumbass" meaning into "cunning" instead).
Euphemisms includes ? laan (lazy) or ? nang (able to).
Tsat (? or ? or Chinese: ?; Jyutping: cat6), sometimes idiomatically written as ?, is a vulgar word for an impotent penis. Ban6 cat6 () (stupid dick) is a more common phrase among others. However, it is usually used as a vulgar adjective especially among the youth. It means "ugly" or "shameful".
cat6 tau4 ( or or ) can be loosely translated as "dickhead".
A common euphemism is ? cat1 (seven), which only differs in the tone. Other euphemisms include ? caat3 (to brush) and ? caak6 (thieves). As a result, thieves that are easily caught by the police are often intentionally described as ban6 caak6 (stupid thieves) in the newspaper to achieve the humorous effects from the phrase ban6 cat6.
Hai (traditional Chinese: ? or ? ; Jyutping: hai1) is a common vulgar word that literally means vagina. The English equivalent is "cunt". ? is more common on the mainland of China, with ? being used in Hong Kong and Macao. The Chinese character ? consists of two parts: the upper part is ? that means "body" while the bottom part ? means "a hole". The Chinese character thus literally means a "hole at the bottom of the body". Two common phrases include ?? so4 hai1 (silly cunt) and cau3 hai1 (stinking cunt). Also another phrase is diu2 hai1 (fuck a pussy).
A common euphemism is ? sai1 (west). The phrase ? sai1 hau2 sai1 min6 (west mouths and west faces) is often used to describe women who have an impolite look. Some words that are associated with western culture such as sai1 yan4 (Westerners) may become Cantonese jokes that base on the ambiguity of these vocabularies. Other euphemisms include ? haai4 (shoes) and ? haai5 (crabs). As a result, crabs are sometimes intentionally linked with other words such as stinking and water to achieve some vagina-related humorous effects.
The word hai can also mean total failure as in the phrase hai1 saai3 (??). The Chinese character ?, which in Cantonese is the verbal particle to stress an action. To further stress the failure, sometimes the phrase hai1 gau1 saai3 is used (the word gau that means penis is put in between the original phrase). Since this phrase is highly offensive (it consists two of the five vulgar words), a euphemism or xiehouyu, a kind of Chinese "proverb", is sometimes used. As in a normal xiehouyu, it consists of two elements: the former segment presents a scenario while the latter provides the rationale thereof. One would often only state the first part, expecting the listener to know the second. The first part is "a man and a woman having a sunbath (naked)" (). Since the penis and vagina are both exposed to the sun, the second part is hai1 gau1 saai3 ()--a pun for total failure. Therefore, if one wants to say that something is a total failure, he only has to say , and the listener will understand the intended meaning.
Puk gai (, usually idiomatically written as ; p?k g?ai) literally means "falling onto street", which is a common curse phrase in Cantonese that may be translated into English as "drop dead". It is sometimes used as a noun to refer to an annoying person that roughly means a "prick". The phrase can also be used in daily life under a variety of situations to express annoyance, disgrace or other emotions. Since the phrase does not involve any sexual organs or reference to sex, some argue that it should not be considered as profanity. Nevertheless, "PK" is often used as a euphemism for the phrase. The written form can be seen on graffiti in Hong Kong and in Guangdong.
In Southeast Asia, the meaning of the phrase has evolved so that it is no longer a profanity, and is usually taken to mean "broke/bankrupt" or "epic fail". In Taiwan, it is commonly used to refer to planking. The term is even used in a colloquial sense by Malaysian Malays, in which case it is usually rendered as "pokai".
Ham6 gaa1 caan2 (??? or ???; Jyutping: ham6 gaa1 caan2) is another common curse phrase in Cantonese that literally means "may your whole family be bulldozed".? caan2 means to bulldozed, which possibly relates to a funeral and ultimately to the meaning of death. Like puk6 gaai1, the phrase can both be used to mean "prick" or to express annoyance, but many find ham gaa caan much more offensive than puk gaai, since the phrase targets the listener's whole family instead of just himself.
or Ham6 gaa1 ling1, ? or ? ham6 gaa1 fu3 gwai3 (may the whole family be rich), or ham gaa ceong (may the whole family be fortunate) are common variant but ? ling (to take/carry something) has little logical relations with the original phrase. Adding the words ham gaa (whole family) in front of a bless can actually reverse the meaning. The appropriate word for "the whole family" is cyun gaa to avoid any negative meanings.
In Hong Kong, there are specific by-laws that forbid the usage of profanity in public. For instance, it is not permitted to "use obscene language ... in Ocean Park", for which "an offence is liable on conviction to a fine at level 1 and to imprisonment for 1 month", while in the MTR, it was prohibited to "use any threatening, abusive, obscene or offensive language ... ." until 2017. However, despite the explicit prohibition by various laws, the exact definition of "obscene language" is not given in the ordinance.