Indonesian is truly a unique language. Not only does it contain many proverbs as well as untranslatable unique Indonesian words, it also contains many funny phrases that you can’t possibly find in other languages. While Indonesia does have a lot of loanwords adapted from other languages such as Dutch, Arabic and Sanskrit, Indonesians have come up with many phrases that might seem odd if you translate it literally, but have a deeper metaphorical meaning once you understand them.
Let’s check out some Indonesian Funny Phrases!
- Buaya darat
It literally translates to ‘land crocodile’, but it’s actually the well-known Indonesian phrase for playboy or womanizer. The origin of this phrase is unknown because on the contrary, crocodiles are believed to be faithful and loyal animals in Indonesia.
- Buang air kecil/besar
It literally means “throw small water” or “throw big water”. We all know water can’t be small or big, but apparently this is the common Indonesian phrase for doing “number one” (urinating) or “number two” (defaecating) in the English language. It’s actually pretty formal to use this phrase, but it’s funny comparing its literal meaning to what it actually means.
- Polisi tidur
Can you guess what this phrase means? Literally, it’s ‘sleeping police’, but it’s actually Indonesian for speed bumps! Perhaps it’s because the inclined part of the road resembles a policeman sleeping and slowing down people from driving too fast. You may also learn about Indonesian Essential Phrases
- Cuci mata
You might think it means literally washing your eyes, but it doesn’t! ‘Cuci mata’ is what you do when you refresh yourself by looking at things you like, going to recreational or fun places or window shopping, or even checking out an attractive person. The act is compared to washing one’s eyes as it is refreshing and awakes you.
- Anak buah, kaki tangan
Indonesian Funny Phrases? Fruit children, hands and feet. They aren’t food nor body parts, these two phrases actually mean the same thing, which is employee or assistant.
- Hangat-hangat tai ayam
‘Warm like chicken poo’. Indonesians use this phrase to describe a person who’s only excited to do something at the beginning or when it’s just starting, and quickly lose interest and heart. It’s believed that chicken poo is only warm at the beginning and quickly becomes cold, hence the phrase. You may also learn about Indonesian Keywords and Phrases
- Malu-malu kucing
Malu-malu kucing, or literally ‘shy-shy cat’, is a phrase used to describe being shy or coy, usually in front of a crush or an attractive person.
- Masuk angin
This is arguably the most famous Indonesian phrase used to describe a condition when someone is not feeling well! They’ll mostly just jump to the conclusion that they are suffering from ‘masuk angin’ or ‘enter wind’ in its literal translation. Indonesians believe they’ll easily suffer this kind of sickness as a result of sleeping or being too close to a fan or air-con, or being caught in the rain. To relieve the symptoms (such as having a cold), they usually do massages or drink warm jamus. You may also learn about Indonesian Phrases for Travellers You Should Know
- Tahi lalat
Tahi lalat or “fly poo” isn’t a rude phrase, it actually means mole (as in the one you have on your skin). Although fly poo surely doesn’t look anything like moles, this is the widely used phrase in Indonesian.
- Gak enak badan
You might translate it into ‘not delicious body’ or ‘bad-tasting body’, but this will mostly be the answer of your sick Indonesian friend or colleague if he or she is absent from a meeting or event! It actually means not feeling well.
- Telur mata sapi
How do you like your eggs? Omelette, scrambled, or sunny side up? If you’re staying in an Indonesian hotel and would like to request sunny side up for breakfast, the phrase is actually ‘telur mata sapi’. It literally means nothing close to sunny side up, it actually translates to ‘cow’s eye egg’. Nothing like what it actually is!
- Babi buta
Babi buta means blind pig if you translate it directly. Actually, it’s a phrase used to describe a person lashing out in rage with no control.
Whether it’s a cute baby, a lovely pet, or a stuffed doll, Indonesians would mostly say “gemas” to describe “they’re so cute I could eat it”. Interesting, right? You can describe it in only one word!
- Jomblo ngenes
‘Jomblo’ is how Indonesians label single people, but Indonesian society, especially the modern younger people, have such a negative image on the word ‘jomblo’. It’s more suitable for pathetic, out-of-luck single people. ‘Ngenes’ makes it even more extreme as it means tragic or unfortunate. This phrase is often used to tease your friend who has been single for a really long time. You may also learn about Common Phrases in Indonesian
- Lapar mata
“Hungry eyes”, it means you easily crave for a certain food just by looking at it, or looking at another person enjoying it, then as soon as you buy it, you regret it because it turns out your stomach is not as hungry as your eyes. Yes, Indonesians have a phrase for that!
More Indonesian Funny Expression
Here are more Indonesian funny phrases:
- Panjang Tangan (Long Hand) – for Thieves
- Buah Bibir (Fruit Lips) – for Make The Headlines
- Kepala Batu (Rock Head) – for Stubborn
- Kepala Udang (Shrimp Head) – for Stupid
- Gulung Tikar (Roll the Mat) – for Bankrupt
- Tahi Lalat (Fly Poos) – for Beauty Marks
- Tulang Punggung (Backbone) – for Work Hard
- Buah Tangan (Hand Fruit) – for Souvenirs
- Jam Karet (Rubber Clock) – for People who comes late all the time
- Mata Keranjang (Eye Basket) – is literally for boys who is always cheating
- Kantong Kering (Dry Pocket) – is when you don’t have money at all
How do you find these unique funny phrases? For more learning, check out Indonesian words you need to know.