100 Indonesian Idioms and Expression – Meaning

Every language has idioms and expressions. Idioms are a combination of two or more words which create a completely different meaning from the original words. In general, idioms are natural expression of a language, a group of people, or a person. In English, the common idioms are piece of cake, cry baby, old as the hill, cheapsake, barrel of laugh, and many more. Also learn about Indonesian Proverbs with English Equivalent.

In Indonesia, there are also plenty idioms and expression which mostly used in everyday conversation. Indonesians uses idioms to describe a condition, a person, or a thing.

Take a look at below lists of Indonesian idioms and expression. Also learn about Indonesian romantic quotes.

Indonesian Idioms Literal English Translation Meaning
Anak buah Fruit child Subordinate
Anak bawang Onion child The one who always picked out
Anak emas Golden child The favourite child
Angkat tangan Raise hand To surrender
Angkat kaki Lift feet To leave
Adu domba Fighting sheep To divide and conquer
Bintang tamu guest star
Buah bibir Fruit lips One that is noteworthy
Buah tangan Fruit hand Gift, souvenir
Besar mulut Big mouth Blabber mouth
Bunga desa Flower in the village The most beautiful girl in the village
Besar kepala Big head Arrogant
Buah hati Fruit of heart Beloved children
Buang muka Throw face away To ignore in purpose
Banting tulang To throw a bone Hard worker
Bau tanah Smell of soil Near to death/ old people
Berat hati Heavy heart Unwilling
Banting setir  Swerve Choose something else
Badan dua Two bodied Getting pregnant
Banting harga Smash of price Sell in cheap price
Cuci gudang Warehouse cleaning Sell all the stock goods
Campur tangan Mixed hands To get involved in a problem

Indonesian Idioms and Expression

Cinta monyet Monkey love Puppy love
Cuci mata Washing eye Window shopping
Darah muda Young blood Youngsters
Darah biru Blue blood Aristocrat
Datang bulan Moon coming Menstruation
Gigit jari Bite hands To get disappointed
Gulung tikar To roll the mat Go bankrupt
Jago merah Red roosters Big flame, fire
Lintah darat leech The one who rent money out
Naik daun Leaves lift To get famous
Meja hijau Green table Court
Mata hati Heart eye To use your heart/conscious
Kutu buku Book worm
Kutu loncat Jumping flea A person who love changing job
Kepala dingin Cold head To think logically
Kelinci percobaan Guinea pig
Unjuk gigi Showing tooth To perform your skill
Unjuk rasa Utter feelings Demonstration
Kupu-kupu malam Night butterfly Prostitute
Tuan rumah House master Host
Silat lidah Tongue fight To bicker
Jalan tikus Rat road Short cut
Otak udang Shrimp brain Stupid person, doofus
Tangan panjang Long hand Thief
Ringan tangan Light hand The one who love to help others
Tulang punggung A backbone Bread winner
Bunga tidur flower of the sleep dream

That’s all common Indonesian idioms and expression.

Indonesian Expression

Besides idioms, there are also common expression most Indonesians used to explain person, a condition, and more. Also check out our latest articles about Indonesian popular phrases.

  • Rumahku istanaku – literary translated as my home, my castle. This expression has the similar meaning as home sweet home.
  • Orang sabar disayang Tuhan – literary translated as God loves patient person. This means good thing will comes to those who wait
  • Buang air kecil – the expression is used when you want to go to toilet or pee
  • Buang air besar – the expression is used when you want to pooping
  • Lain kali – literary translated as next time. It can be used when you want to say ‘no, thanks’.

Also learn about Indonesian unique words.

  • Tidak enak badan – literary translated as ‘the body is not delicious’. It refers to a condition when you are not feeling well but does not want to say that you are sick.
  • Tinggal lima watt – literary translated as ‘five-watt left’. This expression is used when you are very tired and sleepy and you look like a light bulb which cannot shine due to low watt.
  • Telur mata sapi – in English, we know this expression as sunny side up egg.
  • Hitam di atas putih – this expression means in written. In English, we know this phrase as in black and white.
  • Sirik tanda tak mampu – refers to a character in which when you are envy of someone, it is the sign that you are unable to be like him/her.
  • Orang pelit, rejekinya sempit – stingy person will have narrow blessing

Using Indonesian idioms and expression conversation shows that you have mastered Indonesian language quite well. Continue to use expression and idioms to make you sound more like Indonesian. Also learn Funny Jokes in Indonesian Language.