We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

Why do People Say "Chop-Chop"?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Speakers of English say “chop-chop” when they want someone to hurry up. The term is often directed at children and inferiors, and may be accompanied with a clap of the hands to underscore the urgency of the situation, and a desire to see the command obeyed promptly. While this term is closely associated with British English, it can be heard in other English-speaking nations as well.

The origins of this term are rather convoluted, and in order to get to the bottom of it, we are going to have to take to the high seas. Sailors have been using the slang term “chop” in a variety of senses since at least the 1600s, and when sailors started entering the South China Sea in large numbers, they were exposed to the Chinese term “k'wai-k'wai,” which means “hurry up,” or “get it done quickly.” Over time, sailors picked up the reduplication in the Chinese phrase, but started using their English slang term, and “chop-chop” was born around the 19th century.

When a word or sound is repeated to make a new word or for additional emphasis, it is known in linguistics as “reduplication.” Reduplication is a common feature in many languages, and it is especially common in slang terms. A related slang term from Hawaii, “wiki-wiki,” also means “hurry up,” and several other languages have similar examples of reduplication in slang terms which are meant to tell people to get a move on. Perhaps the reduplication is meant to express impatience or restlessness.

At any rate, “chop-chop” also entered pidgin Cantonese, a version of Cantonese spoken in ports around China which bridged the communication gap between Chinese and English-speaking sailors. English colonists and settlers also used pidgin versions of Chinese with their servants and staff, and chop-chop entered the landlubber's lexicon as a result.

Some people think that the term “chop-chop” is patronizing and offensive, because it was historically used as an expression of disdain towards servants and household staff by colonists. It could also be viewed as a corruption of a legitimate Chinese phrase, rather than a slang term in its own right, and some people prefer not to use it for this reason. Ultimately, the decision to say “chop-chop” or not is up to you, although you may want to ask yourself how you would feel if someone was shouting “chop-chop” and clapping his or her hands at you to get you to hurry.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon989126 — On Feb 20, 2015

I said this at work to someone the other day, pretending to tell them to hustle. This person was Asian. I now feel terrible because I truly had not idea it had Asian origins. I'm a dope. It's not about pleasing people -- it would be perfectly reasonable for her to wonder why I chose those words specifically, and for her to take offense. (the fact that it was simply a coincidence out of ignorance is irrelevant because she doesn't yet know that -- I need to apologize).

By anon340409 — On Jul 02, 2013

Chop-chop comes from chopping things like onions and carrots fast in the kitchen.

By anon264829 — On Apr 30, 2012

Chop in Khmer actually means 'Stop.' Fast is 'Lou-un.'

By anon167072 — On Apr 11, 2011

That's partly correct, but I think it really comes from the Khmer word, Chop chop, which actually means "To be fast."

By anon151003 — On Feb 09, 2011

I say "chop chop lamb-chop" for fun. I can't please the world, however if and when I'm ever in China I will not use this. I will probably hear a lot of slang directed at me (foreigner, outsider, whitey or whatever.) Being PC is just exhausting!

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.