special request: getting a hair cutting in Cantonese

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First, cutting hair, getting a haircut is 剪[jin2]頭[tau4]髮[faat3]/ 飛[fei1]髮[faat3].

剪[jin2] means cut.

頭[tau4]髮[faat3] means hair.


髮[faat3] is short for 頭[tau4]髮[faat3]. The 飛[fei1] as a verb to mean cut, I have heard different origins. Some said the word 飛[fei1] comes from the English word “fade”, as in fade hair. Some have suggested that 飛[fei1] means fit. To mean your hair is well fitted after the cut. Some have also suggested that back then the barber would swing the hair in a way that the action looks like the hand is taking off flying.

For salons, it is called 飛[fei1]髮[faat3]舖[pou3]/ 髮[faat3]形[ying4]屋[uk1]. The barber is 髮[faat3]形[ying4]師[si1]

今[gam1]日[yat6]想[seung2]做[jou6]咩[me1]? What do you want to do today?

我[ngo5]想[seung2]... I want to...

今[gam1]日[yat6]我[ngo5]想[seung2]... Today I want to…

剪[jin2]頭[tau4]髮[faat3] - get a haircut

That’s the most general way of saying getting a haircut.

齋[jaai1]剪[jin2]/ 淨[jing6]剪[jin2]/ 淨[jing6]係[hai6]剪[jin2]/ 單[daan1]剪[jin2] - cutting hair only

齋[jaai1]剪[jin2] - 齋[jaai1] this word when used as a noun means the Chinese vegetarian food, the ones you can get at the temples occasionally. But 齋[jaai1] here means only, it derives from the word dry. You can use it as an adjective as well.

吓[ha5]? 淨[jing6]係[hai6]食[sik6]飯[faan6]好[hou2]齋[jaai1]嫁[ga3]喎[wo3]!

Huh? Just eating rice is so dry!

Here it just means dry, not wet or dry, but boring, bland kind of meaning.

淨[jing6]剪[jin2] / 淨[jing6]係[hai6]剪[jin2] - only cut.

淨[jing6]係[hai6] means only. 淨[jing6] is short for 淨[jing6]係[hai6]

單[daan1]剪[jin2] - single cut

單[daan1] means single. Usually this term is used on the salon signs.

剪[jin2]短[dyun2] - cut (the hair) short

洗[sai2]剪[jin2]吹[cheui1] - wash cut and dry

吹[cheui1]頭[tau4] - blow dry

洗[sai2]頭[tau4] washing hair

染[yim5]髮[faat3] - dye hair

染[yim5] means dye, taint, stain. This is where you can use the colour words you have learned. If you don’t know them, you can go back to the episode on colours.

挑[tiu1]染[yim5] - highlight 挑[tiu1] is the proper formal way of saying pick or choose. So when you highlighting your hair, you are picking which strands of hair to dye.

電[din6]髮[faat3]- perming hair 電[din6] means electricity. 電[din6]髮[faat3] is means perming, whether it be straight or curly. In Hong Kong, when you say 電[din6]髮[faat3] it is usually understood as a curly perm.

電[din6]攣[lyun4/lyun1]/ 曲[kuk1]髮[faat3] - perming hair (curly) 攣[lyun4/lyun1] means bent or not straight. For people who have curly hair you can describe yourself as 攣[lyun1]毛[mou1]/ 攣[lyun1]頭[tau1]髮[faat3], meaning curly hair or curly fur.

**Pay attention and not say 佢[keui5]係[hai6]攣[lyun4/lyun1]嘅[ge3] meaning he or she is not straight. When you say this, you are referring to somebody’s sexuality and it can be offensive. Remember to say 佢[keui5]係[hai6]攣[lyun1]毛[mou1]嘅[ge3]/ 佢[keui5]係[hai6]攣[lyun1]頭[tau1]髮[faat3]嘅[ge3]. For saying that he or she has curly hair.

電[din6]直[jik6]/ 直[jik6]髮[faat3] - straight perm, straightening hair

**直[jik6] means straight. The same thing applies for sexuality as well. You can say, 佢[keui5]係[hai6]直[jik6]嘅[ge3] is he/ she is straight. Remember to say 佢[keui5]係[hai6]直[jik6]頭[tau4]髮[faat3]嘅[ge3]. For saying that he or she has straight hair. However, for straight hair we won’t say 直[jik6]毛[mou4].

焗[guk6]油[yau4] - hair treatment 焗[guk6] means bake. 油[yau4/yau2] means oil. I guess it’s because when you do a hair treatment, you usually will have those treatment products on your hair, and you will go under that perming heater cone thingy, for “baking” to complete the process.

After you tell them what you want to do with your hair. The front desk or the barber will tell you to sit and wait, they will say 坐[jo6/cho5]一[yat1]坐[jo6/cho5], 坐[jo6/cho5]吓[ha5]先[sin1]啦[la1]。 that’s when you can just sit and chill and wait.

Now that the barber is right in front of you, he or she will probably ask,


How do you want your hair to be cut? How would you like it cut?

First, no matter what gender you are, you probably will want to tell the barber 髮[faat3]形[ying4]師[si1]whether you want it to be cut short or kept long. If you want to keep it long, you can say,


I want to keep my hair long.


I want to cut my hair shorter.

Generally, 長[cheung4/jeung2]髮[faat3]/ 長[cheung4]頭[tau4]髮[faat3] - long hair

短[dyun2]髮[faat3]/ 短[dyun2]頭[tau4]髮[faat3] - short hair

If you just want it to be at shoulder length, you can say,

去[heui3]到[dou3]膊[bok3]頭[tau4] - to the shoulders


I want my hair at shoulder length.


I want to cut it at shoulder length.

Let’s first talk a little more about the more simplistic hair styles髮[faat3]形[ying4].

陰[yam1]/ 瀏[lau4]海[hoi2] - bangs.

I want to cut my hair so I can have bangs.

我[ngo5]想[seung2]剪[jin2]陰[yam1]/ 我[ngo5]想[seung2]剪[jin2]瀏[lau4]海[hoi2]。

For 陰[yam1]/ 瀏[lau4]海[hoi2], the classifier in Hong Kong is 坺[paat6]. The bangs, 坺[paat6]陰[yam1]/ 瀏[lau4]海[hoi2]. My bangs, 我[ngo5]坺[paat6]陰[yam1]/ 瀏[lau4]海[hoi2]. If you find this word too difficult, you can also choose to use the plural classifier, 啲[di1]. The bangs - 啲[di1]陰[yam1]/ 瀏[lau4]海[hoi2]. My bangs 我[ngo5]啲[di1]陰[yam1]/ 瀏[lau4]海[hoi2]

I want to cut / trim my bangs.


我[ngo5]想[seung2]剪[jin2]吓[ha5]我[ngo5]啲[di1]陰[yam1] /



If you want your bangs to be blunt bangs, like straight across your forehead.

齊[chai4]陰[yam1] - Blunt bangs

齊[chai4] means together or even.

我[ngo5]想[seung2]剪[jin2]齊[chai4]陰[yam1] - I want to cut blunt bangs.

On the other hand, if you want to have side bangs or side-swept bangs,

斜[che4/che3]陰[yam1] - side bangs

我[ngo5]想[seung2]剪[jin2]斜[che4/che3]陰[yam1] - I want to cut blunt bangs.

In recent years, there is a type of bangs from Japan and Korea that is very popular in Hong Kong, namely air bangs. Essentially bangs but very airy and thin.

空[hung1]氣[hei3]瀏[lau4]海[hoi2] - air bangs.

我[ngo5]想[seung2]剪[jin2]空[hung1]氣[hei3]瀏[lau4]海[hoi2] - I want to cut air bangs.

If you do want any bangs, you just want your hair to be parted.

分[fan1]界[gaai3] - parted

Middle part

中[jung1]間[gaan1]分[fan1/fan6]界[gaai3] (中[jung1]分[fan1])

我[ngo5]想[seung2]中[jung1]間[gaan1]分[fan1/fan6]界[gaai3] - I want my hair to be parted in the middle.

In Hong Kong, when I was growing up, there was a saying, 中[jung1]間[gaan1]分[fan1/fan6]界[gaai3], 心[sam1]理[lei5]變[bin3]態[taai3], meaning middle parting, mind twisted. I think when I was growing up, 中[jung1]間[gaan1]分[fan1/fan6]界[gaai3], the middle parting was quite frowned upon. I personally think it was because back in the days, a lot of Hong Kongers which had the middle parting looked quite nerdy. But I heard middle parting is popular now not in Hong Kong but in North America for the generations younger than mine.

If you want to do different side partings, it’s easy. It all just involves a split of the number 10. For example, if you want to have 60% of the hair on your left side, and 40% of your hair on the right side, you can say,

64分[fan1]界[gaai3]/ 46分[fan1]界[gaai3]

You will take the 6 from the 60%, and the 4 from the 40% and just say 分[fan1]界[gaai3] meaning part or parting.

Same principle, 70% on one side and 30% on the other side,

73分[fan1]界[gaai3]/ 37分[fan1]界[gaai3]

You try, how to say 80% and 20% parting?


how to say 90% and 10% parting?


Good. That’s all for the parting.

If you want to do layering or try to get the hairdresser to thin out your hair, you can say,

偷[tau1]薄[bok6] - layer

偷[tau1] means steal and 薄[bok6] means thin in terms of thickness. I think this term also totally makes sense in Cantonese, because when you do layering or get the hairdresser to thin out your hair, it’s not too noticeable by the others. Hence the word steal偷[tau1].

我[ngo5]想[seung2]偷[tau1]薄[bok6] - I want to do layering.

If you want to do a buzz cut, the cantonese word is

剷[chaan2]青[cheng1] - buzz cut

剷[chaan2] means to shovel or a shovel. 青[cheng1] is turquoise or green, here it is a metaphor for grass. 剷[chaan2]青[ching1/cheng1] is kind of like saying mowing the grass metaphorically. Just on the sides.

我[ngo5]想[seung2]剷[chaan2]青[ching1/cheng1] - I want to have a buzz cut.

However, if you want to shave it bald, you can say,

剷[chaan2]光[gwong1]頭[tau4] - shave it bald.

光[gwong1]頭[tau4] means bald. 我[ngo5]想[seung2]剷[chaan2]光[gwong1]頭[tau4] - I want to shave my head bald. If you want to get a bob hair style, it is super easy, in Cantonese we call the bob,

Bob 頭[tau4] - bob hairstyle

There is another term for a very similar but also frowned upon style,

冬[dung1]菇[gu1]頭[tau4] - mushroom head

冬[dung1]菇[gu1]頭[tau4] is describing a very similar style to bob but with blunt bangs too. As you can imagine, a little funny looking. Let’s say you just had a bob hairstyle cut and feeling really good, then you bump into an auntie and she goes like

“咦[yi4/yi2]? 你[nei5]剪[jin2]咗[jo2]個[go3]冬[dung1]菇[gu1]頭[tau4]?”

“oh you had a mushroom hair cut?”

some people might be offended because like I said 冬[dung1]菇[gu1]頭[tau4] hairstyle is quite often frowned upon or made fun of.

Finally today we will just chat a little more about haircut, then we will talk about hair products and hair textures. When you want to straighten your hair,

電[din6]直[jik6], usually they have something called,

負[fu6]離[lei4]子[ji2]直[jik6]髮[faat3], which is literally negative ion straight hair.

A type of straight perm. You can also say

電[din6]負[fu6]離[lei4]子[ji2], meaning perming negative ion.


I want to do a negative ion straight perm.

我[ngo5]想[seung2]電[din6]負[fu6]離[lei4]子[ji2] /


I want to perm negative ion.

After they put all the hair products on you, they will use a hair straightener, those flat iron on your hair. hair straightener is called a 直[jik6]髮[faat3]夾[gep2].

Let’s talk about curls 電[din6]攣[lyun1] for a second.

If you want big curls, you can say

大[daai6]攣[lyun4/lyun1]. / 大[daai6]圈[hyun1]



圈[hyun1] is circle or a round.

If you want small curls, you can say 細[sai3]攣[lyun4/lyun1],. / 細[sai3]圈[hyun1]

我[ngo5]想[seung2]電[din6]細[sai3]攣[lyun4/lyun1]。 /


For medium, you can say 中[jung1]攣[lyun4/lyun1],. / 中[jung1]圈[hyun1].

In all honestly, even if you are perfectly fluent in Cantonese, for the best understanding of what kind of curls 攣[lyun4/lyun1] you want, your best best is probably showing the 髮[faat3]形[ying4]師[si1] hairdresser some pictures.

You can say, 我[ngo5]比[bei2]你[nei5]睇[tai2]吓[ha5]我[ngo5]想[seung2]點[dim2]整[jing2]。 Let me show you how I want it to be done.

For both 電[din6]直[jik6]同[tung4]埋[maai4]電[din6]攣[lyun4/lyun1] you can say,

I want it permed naturally.


Let me explain this sentence structure a little bit. I will eventually have an episode about the word 得[dak1] as well. But basically, when you want to connect an adjective or an adverb to an action, you can use the 得[dak1] structure to connect those 2 things.

For example, 我[ngo5]要[yiu3]食[sik6]得[dak1]好[hou2]啲[di1]。 I need to eat better.

The word 得[dak1] is placed between the word 食[sik6] eat, which is an action to the descriptor, 好[hou2]啲[di1] better to connect them to form a proper grammatical sentence.

你[nei5]做[jou6]得[dak1]好[hou2]。 You did well.

Again, The word 得[dak1] is placed between the word 做[jou6], to do, which is an action to the descriptor, 好[hou2] good/ well.

The sentence structure is:

Subject + verb + 得[dak1] + adjective/ adverb.

That’s the most basic understanding of this sentence structure.

I want it permed naturally.


If you want an afro, the term is 爆[baau3]炸[ja3]頭[tau4].

爆[baau3]炸[ja3] means to explode or an explosion. Basically an afro in Cantonese is explosion hair 爆[baau3]炸[ja3]頭[tau4]. Because you often see on TV you can get the same look from some sort of explosive incident.

I want to perm an afro. / I want an afro.


If you want your hair to be crimped, like super frizzy, it is called 粟[suk1]米[mai5]頭[tau4].

粟[suk1]米[mai5] means corn. When the hair is crimped it looks like the shape of corn粟[suk1]米[mai5].

I want my hair crimped. 我[ngo5]想[seung2]電[din6]粟[suk1]米[mai5]頭[tau4]。

I also talked about how hairstyle is 髮[faat3]型[ying4]。

The shape of your face is called 面[min6/min2]形[ying4]。

面[min6/min2] means face, and 形[ying4] is short for 形[ying4]狀[jong6] meaning shape. if you want to ask for the hairdresser’s 髮[faat3]形[ying4]師[si1] opinion or recommendation on which hairstyle fits the shape of your face, you can say,


What hairstyle matches with the shape of my face?

襯[chan3] means to match. Say for example, you are saying it to your couple friends,

you two are a good match.

你[nei5]哋[dei6]2 個[go3]好[hou2]襯[chan3]。

so 襯[chan3] can both be a verb or an adjective.


What hairstyle do you think matches with the shape of my face?

Now let’s talk about the different parts of the hair. We have already talked about bangs陰[yam1]/ 瀏[lau4]海[hoi2], and partings,分[fan1]界[gaai3].

The top of your head is called 頭[tau4]頂[deng2], 頂[ding2/deng2] means the top or the peak. So for example, the mountain peak, or the peak in Hong Kong is called 山[saan1]頂[deng2].

Hair roots are called 髮[faat3]根[gan1]. 根[gan1] means roots, so for example, tree roots are called 樹[syu6]根[gan1].

Hair ends are called 髮[faat3]尾[mei5]. 尾[mei5] means the last one, the tip or the tail. For example, the cat’s tail is 隻[jek3]貓[maau1]條[tiu4]尾[mei5]。

Sideburns are called 滴[dik6/dik1]水[seui2]. 滴[dik6/dik1] is pronounced like the English word “dig”. If you want to tell the 髮[faat3]形[ying4]師[si1] hairdresser,


I want to keep the sideburns.

For example if you want to do a hair extension 駁[bok3]髮[faat3], 駁[bok3] means to connect, you can say,


I want to do a hair extension.

If you want to do it on your hair ends髮[faat3]尾[mei5], you can say,


Literal: I want on the hair ends do a hair extension.

I want to do a hair extension, on the hair ends.

Another example, if you want to bleach your hair, hair bleaching is called 漂[piu1]染[yim5]. 漂[piu1] is short for 漂[piu1]白[baak6] meaning to bleach, for example bleach is called 漂[piu1]白[baak6]水[seui2], meaning bleaching water. Or if you want to say,

I need to bleach my clothes,


染[yim5] means dye, taint, stain. 染[yim5]髮[faat3] remember is to dye your hair. So 漂[piu1]染[yim5] is literally bleach dye. Meaning to bleach your hair. For example if you want to bleach your hair you can say,


I want to bleach my hair.

If you want to bleach the top of your head only, you can say,


因[yan1]為[wai6]Covid, 我[ngo5]都[dou1]仲[jung6]未[mei6]去[heui3]過[gwo3]髮[faat3]型[ying4]屋[uk1]剪[jin2]頭[tau4]髮[faat3], 已[yi5]經[ging1]差[cha1]唔[m4]多[do1]成[sing4]年[nin4]半[bun3]。

Because of Covid, I still have not been to the salon, it’s been almost a year and a half.

My husband cut my hair but now it looks so terrible that I have to forever tie up my hair.

Ponytail 馬[ma5]尾[mei5]

Pigtails 孖[ma1]辮[bin1]

Braid 鬢[ban3]辮[bin1]

Bun 髻[gai3]

To tie up a bun - 紮[jaat3]髻[gai3]

When you want to describe that your hair is a mess, you can always say,


亂[lyun6] when you use it to describe the situation, it means it’s very messy. For example,


Younger brother’s room is messy.

You can also use you can 亂[lyun6] to describe your feelings, like you are confused and conflicted, don’t know what to do.


I am confused and conflicted, don’t know what to do.

If you want to describe someone’s hair is growing like wild weeds in your lawn, you can say一[yat1]咋[ja3]草[chou2]/ 一[yat1]住[jyu6]草[chou2], 草[chou2] means grass.

我[ngo5]啲[di1]頭[tau4]髮[faat3]成[sing4]咋[ja3]/住[jyu6]草[chou2]咁[gam3/gam2]。 /


My hair is like a bunch of grass.

The texture of your hair is usually, 乾[gon1] dry, 油[yau4] oily or greasy, 厚[hau5] thick in terms of layers, 薄[bok6]thin in terms of layers, 粗[chou1] thick in terms of individual hair thickness and 幼[yau3] thin in terms of individual hair thickness and 幼[yau3] thin in terms of individual hair thickness. Sometimes you might hear the hairdresser 髮[faat3]形[ying4]師[si1] say,

嘩[wa3]! 你[nei5]啲[di1]頭[tau4]髮[faat3]好[hou2]乾[gon1]呀[a3]!

Wow! Your hair is so dry!

They are perhaps hinting that you need a hair treatment 焗[guk6]油[yau4]。

Finally, the hairdresser 髮[faat3]形[ying4]師[si1] should finish your look off with some hair products. For example,

Hair gel - 定[ding6]型[ying4]啫[je1]喱[lei2]

定[ding6]型[ying4] means to hold the shape. 定[ding6] means to set, 型[ying4] means the hairstyle. 啫[je1]喱[lei2] is the English word Jelly.

Hair wax - 髮[faat3]蠟[laap6]

蠟[laap6] means wax, a candle is 蠟[laap6]燭[juk1].

Hair clay - 髮[faat3]泥[nai4]

泥[nai4] is mud.

Hair spray- 噴[pan3]髮[faat3]膠[gaau1]/ 定[ding6]型[ying4]水[seui2]

噴[pan3] means to spray to squirt, 膠[gaau1] means plastic. Literally spray hair plastic.