From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaKiasu is a word that literally means 'fear of losing'
However its actual usage would imply a meaning more approaching that of "dog in a manger", and yet not quite. Examples of kiasu behaviour includes accumulating too much food on one's plate during a buffet lunch in case there is no more later, or joining a queue many days in advance just to ensure that one successfully gets hold of the limited free tickets to events, promotions and shows such as Singapore's annual National Day Parade.
This word is so widely used by Singaporeans and Malaysians that it is incorporated into their English vocabulary (in the form of Singlish). It is often used in describing the social attitudes of people, especially about South East Asian society and its values. Its widespread use is often because these attitudes are common—to not lose out in a highly competitive society (e.g. by above-cited examples), or to the extent of parents imposing heavy study labour on their children in their wish to make them at the very top of all other students.
Growing up with this attitude, these students often become ambitious businesspeople, with the desire to be on top in wealth and prestige regardless of whether the most prestigious careers are aligned with their true capabilities.
Kiasu is commonly compared to Kiasi (literally, fear of death) and both are commonly used to describe behaviour where Kiasu or Kiasu-ism means to take extreme means to achieve success and Kiasi or Kiasi-ism means to take extreme means to avoid risk.