150 Indonesian Idioms and Proverbs with Complete Meaning

Every language has its own uniqueness. One factor that makes Bahasa Indonesia unique is the diversity of the vocabulary. Indonesian vocabulary can be used in the root form or adding prefix and suffix. In some cases, Indonesian vocabulary can also be combined with other vocabularies and form idioms and proverbs.

For foreign people leaning Bahasa Indonesia, sometimes it can be quite hard to differentiate between idioms and proverbs. In this article we are going to differentiate idioms and proverbs and see its use in sentence. Here is the Indonesian Idioms and Proverbs. Also learn about famous Indonesian phrases.

Indonesian Idioms

Idioms are a group of vocabulary arranged in certain order to create a new meaning. If each of the vocabulary is separated; they have a complete different meaning from the idioms. This is why idioms cannot be translated word by word unless you know the real meaning and able to explain it. Below is the example of Indonesian idioms along with meaning and the literal translation as well. Also learn about Indonesian idioms and expressions.

Indonesian Idioms and Proverbs

Idioms Literal translation Meaning
Makan asam garam Eat sour and salt Through thick and thin
Empat mata Four eyes Eye to eye communication
Besar kepala Big head Arrogant
Banting tulang To throw a bone To work hard
Mata duitan Money’s eye A person who love money so much
Mata sapi Cow’s egg Sunny side up egg
Kupu-kupu malam Night butterfly Prostitute
Adu domba Sheep fight To divide and conquer
Hilir mudik To go back and forth
Panjang tangan Long hand thief
Campur tangan Mixed hands To get involved in one’s problem
Angkat kaki Lift foot To leave
Gulung tikar Roll a mat To go bankrupt
Naik darah Raise of blood To get angry
Buah tangan Fruits hand Gift
Buah cinta Fruits of love Beloved child
Rendah hati Low heart Down to earth
Buah bibir Fruits of love Byword
Kabar angin Wind news Issues
Mata-mata Eyes Spy
Tertangkap basah Caught wet handed Caught red handed
Bermuka dua Two face Two-faced person
Cinta monyet Monkey love Puppy love
Peras keringat Squeeze sweat Working hard
Gelap mata Blind eyes Loose control
Muka tebal Thick face Shameless person
Berat hati Heavy heart Unwilling
Perang dingin Cold war War without weapons
Liang lahat Tomb
Otak udang Shrimp brain Dumb person
Main mata Eye play To flirt
Banting stir To change occupation
Darah daging Flesh of blood Biological child
Makan angin Eating wind Go out for fresh air
Putar otak Brain reverse To find another solution
Badan dua Two bodied Pregnant, eating for two
Buang muka Throw a face Turn away
Sebatang kara Living alone
Datang bulan Moon coming Menstrual period
Hati kecil Small child Deepest heart
Tutup usia Close age Die, passed away
Gila harta Crazy of wealth Person who loves to pile up wealth
Main api Playing fire Do something risky
Pindah tangan Move hands Shifting of transition (property, belongings)
Kepala dingin Cold head To think logically
Lintah darat Land leech Loan shark
Unjuk gigi Showing tooth Demonstrate skill
Unjuk rasa Utter the feelings Demonstration
Besar mulut Big mouth Blabber mouth
Bunga desa Flower of the village The most beautiful girl in the block
Bunga tidur Flower of the sleep Dream
Kelinci percobaan Experiment rabbit Guinea pig
Balik kucing Turn a cat To go back home before even reach to destination
Dari mulut ke mulut Mouth to mouth Word of mouth
Kopi darat (kopdar) Land coffee To meet someone you know from internet
Cinta buta Blind love Head over the heel in love
Kebakaran jenggot Flaming beard Fire in the pants

Example of idioms in sentences

  • Ani ingin berbicara empat mata dengan Agus. (Ani wants to have an eye to eye conversation with Agus.)
  • Berdasarkan berita yang beredar dari mulut ke mulut, besok sekolah akan libur. (according to word of mouth news, school will be off tomorrow.)
  • Hujan deras membuat Ganda harus balik kucing dan libur bekerja. (The heavy rain forces Ganda to comb back home and take a day off.)
  • Pencuri itu tertangkap basah sedang merampok sebuah toko. (The thief is caught red handed while robbing a store.)
  • Dia harus putar otak agar bisa membayar hutang. (He has to think of another way to pay off debt.)
  • Sebagai seorang ayah, ia harus bekerja banting dan peras keringat. (As a father, he has to work his ass off.)

Also learn about Indonesian figure of speech.

Indonesian Proverbs

Proverbs in bahasa Indonesia is translated as pepatah or peribahasa. It is a short figurative expression consists of sentences or group of words. Proverbs are famous expression used for generations and mostly contain moral value, wise words, norm, principle, and also general truth.

Understanding the true meaning of proverbs is important, so that the essential meaning or value can be described using the figurative speech or expression. Below are some examples of Indonesian proverbs along with English equivalent.

Also learn Indonesian words of wisdom.

Indonesian Idioms and Proverbs

Indonesian proverbs English equivalent
Alah bisa karena biasa Practice makes perfect
Air tenang menghanyutkan Still water runs deep
Tak ada gading yang tak retak Even homers sometimes nod, nobody’s perfect
Sepandai-pandainya tupai melompat, akhirnya jatuh juga The pitcher goes so often to the well that is broken at last
Rumput tetangga selalu lebih hijau The grass is always greener on the other side
Nasi sudah menjadi bubur There is no use to cry over the spilt milk
Sekali mendayung dua tiga pulau terlampaui

Sambil menyelam minum air

Killing two birds with one stone
Ada udang di balik batu There is no such thing as free lunch
Siap cepat dia dapat The early bird gets the worm
Gali lobang tutup lobang Robbing Peter to pay Paul
Karena nila setitik rusak susu sebelanga One rotten apple spoil the whole barrel
Seperti during dalam daging A thorn in one’s flesh
Air susu dibalas dengan air tuba Don’t bite a hand that feed you
Di mana tanah dipijak, di situ bumi dijunjung When in Rome, do as the Romans do
Hemat pangkal kaya A penny saved is a penny gained
Diberi hati minta jantung Give him an inch and he will take a yard
Sudah jatuh tertimpa tangga Misfortunes love company
Rajin pangkal kaya Diligence is the mother of good luck
Buruk rupa cermin dibelah It takes two to tango
Kebersihan sebagian dari iman Cleanliness is close to godliness
Berat sama dipikul, ringan sama dijinjing Many hands make light work
Tong kosong nyaring bunyinya Empty vessels make the most noist
Buah jatuh tidak jauh dari pohonnya Like father like son
Setali tiga uang Two identical things
Ada asap ada api Every why has its wherefore
Besar pasak dari pada tiang Do not bite more than you can chew
Habis manis sepah dibuang He is a fair weather friend
Bersatu kita teguh bercerai kita runtuh United we stand, divided we fall
Jangan menilai seseorang dari penampilannya Do not judge a book by its cover
Tak ada rotan akarpun jadi A half loaf is better than none
Bagai air dengan minyak Like a cat and dog

Also learn Indonesian proverbs with English Equivalent

Example of Indonesian proverbs in sentences

  • Jangan sangka dia tidak bisa marah karena air tenang menghanyutkan. (Do not think that he cannot get angry because still water runs deep.)
  • Tidak heran kalau dia jadi anak nakal, kan buah jatuh tidak jauh dari pohonnya. (No wonder if he becomes a bad boy, like father like son, eh?)
  • Jangan jadi besar pasak dari pada tiang, selalu perhitungkan keuangan dengan benar. (do not bite more than you can chew, always calculate your finance correctly.)
  • Apalah daya nasi sudah menjadi bubur, uangnya sudah hilang dan kita harus bertahan. (There is no used to cry over the spilt milk, the money is gone and we have to stand still.)
  • Seumur hidupnya hanya gali lobang tutup lobang karena utang yang menumpuk. (Throughout his life, he is like robbing Peter to pay Paul because the debt is piling up.)
  • Meskipun rumput tetangga selalu lebih hijau, tapi kita tetah harus bersyukur dengan yang kita punya. (Even though the grass is always greener on the other side, we have to count the blessing for everything we have.)
  • Menabunglah sedikit demi sedikit karena hemat pangkal kaya. (Save up little by little because a penny saved is a penny gained.)
  • Mereka bagai air dengan minyak, tidak pernah bersahabat. (They are like cat and dog, never be friend.)
  • Lihat orang lain dari kepribadiannya, jangan menilai seseorang dari penampilannya. (Look other people from their characteristic, do not judge a book by its cover.)

The use of proverbs in everyday life is quite often. Even though there are not much people who understand the meaning of proverbs but it gives different sense of the language. You should try to use proverbs and idioms and enrich your vocabulary.