Indonesian Homonyms – Examples – Meaning

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When you learned about a certain language, you might also found a unique phenomena. One of it is a homonym or a situation when two/more words that have same pronunciation and spelling but have different literal meaning. Therefore, sometimes you need to decide which meaning is referred by the word. Here are the examples of English and Indonesian Homonyms. (Check also: Indonesian Homophone and Indonesian Synonyms)

  • bear (English)
    (1) giving birth a child
    (2) an animal
  • beruang (Bahasa Indonesia)
    (1) bear
    (2) having … spaces/rooms

However, homonyms are actually two different words, which the meanings are unrelated, but accidentally have same pronunciation and spelling. Therefore, it is not a single word that means many things but still in one scope of theme. Here are the words that NOT considered as homonyms.

  • good = nice, kind, beautiful and so on (NOT a homonym)
  • enak [Bahasa Indonesia] = delicious, comfortable, happy and so on (NOT a homonym)

Now, let’s check the list of Indonesian Homonyms!

Indonesian Homonyms

  • Bunga (flower/ bank interest)
    – Saya menyukai bunga mawar (I love rose [flower])
    – Menabung di bank akan menghasilkan bunga (Saving in bank will give some interest)
  • Muka (front/face)
    – Sampai jumpa di muka ya (I’ll see you at the front)
    – Beli rumah butuh uang muka (Buying a house needs a down payment)
    uang muka = down payment/several cash that purchased at the front of transaction
    Muka bayinya mirip ayahnya (The baby’s face looks a like with his fathers)
  • Bos (boss/BOS)
    *BOS is Bantuan Operasional Sekolah (School Operational Support), which was one of Indonesian education policy)
    – Hari ini bos minta meeting (Today, boss is asking for meeting)
    – Ibnu bisa sekolah karena adanya BOS (Ibnu can afford school because of the BOS)
  • Tanggal (date/fall out – usually for teeth)
    – Gigi adik tanggal dua di tanggal dua (Brother’s two tooth/teeth felt out in second [day of the month].
    *Indonesia has no specific plural nouns for teeth and could mention a date without the month
    Check also : Indonesian Plural Nouns and Indonesian Reduplication 
  • Raut (expression/sharpen)
    Raut wajahnya begitu sedih (Her face expression is really sad)
    – Saya mau raut pensil (I want to sharpen my pencil)
  • Tahu (tofu/know)
    – Saya suka makan tahu
    *It could means : I likes tofu or I love eat, you know
  • Genting (roof/critical)
    – Rumah terdiri dari pintu, jendela, dan genting (A house consists of door, windows, and roof)
    – Suasana sekarang sangat genting (Today’s condition is exteremely critical)
  • Rapat (meeting/tight or too close)
    – Bos minta rapat sekarang juga! (The boss is asking for meeting. Now!)
    – Dua benda ini diletakkan terlalu rapat (These two things were placed too close)
  • Bisa (can/viper poison)
    Bisa ular bisa membunuhmu (Viper’s poison could kill you)
  • Kali (times/river)
    – Dua kali dua sama dengan empat (Two times two equals four)
    – Soni sedang mandi di kali (Soni is taking a bath at the river)
  • Masker (face masker for face treatment/mouth masker)
    – Ibu minta dibelikan masker (Ibu asked me to buy a masker)
    *In this occasion you should ask which masker did the addresser referred
  • Semi (semi-/spring)
    – Pertandingan semifinal akan dilangsungkan pada musim semi (The semifinal will be held in spring)
  • Kompleks (complex/housing)
    – Masalah ini begitu kompleks (This problem is really complex)
    – Menteng adalah kompleks elit di Jakarta (Menteng is an elite complex in Jakarta)
  • Hak (rights/heels)
    – Menggunakan hak tinggi adalah hak dan kebebasan setiap orang, baik perempuan maupun laki-laki (Using high heels is everyone’s rights and freedom, both woman and man)
  • Bulan (moon/month)
    Bulan purnama di bulan Juli (Full moon in July (month))

Homonyms caused by Word Forming

Others Indonesian homonyms are results of Word Forming, either reduplication or affixation. Remember Forming Indonesian Words & Using Indonesian Affixes again!

  • Jari-jari (fingers/radius)
    – Jangan gigit jari-jarimu (Do not bite your fingers)
    Jari-jari adalah setengah dari diameter (radius is half of diameter)
  • Mengopi or ngopi [inf] (have a coffee/copy)
    – Saya mau ngopi dulu (I want to copy [the files]) or  I want to have a coffee)
  • Berevolusi (evolved/revolved)
    – Gadis itu berevolusi menjadi wanita cantik (The girl has evolved/revolved to a gorgeous woman)
  • Buku-buku (books/segmented)
    – Buku-buku kedokteran sangat mahal (Medical books are so expensive)
    – Serangga mempunyai tubuh yang berbuku-buku  (Insects have segmented body)

Further reading: Indonesian Prefixes

Homonyms with Indonesian State

The last part of Indonesian Homonyms is group of words that has same pronunciation and spelling with Indonesian places (usually city, but also includes regency and islands).

  • Medan ([battle]field or capital city of North Sumatra)
    – Para tentara maju ke medan perang di kota Medan (The soldiers are going to the battlefield in Medan)
  • Malang (unlucky/poor or a city in East Java)
    – Anak malang (unlucky child)
    – Anak Malang (Malang boy)
    *Identify the meaning by the capital letter in written form
  • Batu (rock/stone or a city in East Java)
    – Kesempatan ini dapat menjadi batu loncatan (This opportunity could be our stepping-stone)
    – Saya mau ke Batu (I want to go to Batu)
  • Seram (scary/scared or an island in Maluku province)
    – Ibu merasa seram pergi ke pulau Seram (Mom is scared to go to Seram island)
  • Badung (naughty or a regency in Bali)
    – Anak badung dari Badung (A naughty child from Badung)
  • Lombok (chili [in Javanese]) or island in Nusa Tenggara Barat)
    – Orang Lombok pasti suka makan lombok (Lombok people must like to eat chili/spicy things)

Now you have known about Indonesian Homonyms. To enhance your skill please also check these following articles