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Learn Indonesian Reduplication Words – Formula & Examples

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In Indonesian, you could find many words that are being repeated twice whether it is partially or fully repeated. This resembles many grammatical functions in Indonesian. This is a common feature that you could find in Indonesian while it’s an alien feature in English. It is called by reduplication. This article will help you learn Indonesian reduplication fast.


There are three types of reduplication that you will encounter in Indonesian. Those types are: partial reduplication, full reduplication, and imitative reduplication.  So let’s not waste more time.

Indonesian words, either they are simple or complex, can be reduplicated. Reduplicating words involves putting the same word right after the root word and separate them with a hyphen. The words that can be reduplicated including:

  1. Root words. i.e.: kupu-kupu; kura-kura
  2. Root words + an affix or more: perubah-ubahan; tulisan-tulisan
  3. Reducplicated root + affixes: kemerah-merahan; berkali-kali

As stated before, Indonesian reduplication is divided into three types. So now, let’s discuss one by one.

Full Reduplication

Full reduplication involves repeating the same exact word without any reduction on the root word. What are considered a full reduplicated word? Here is the explanation:

1. Reduplication without any comparable root word.

This reduplication is considered the root word itself. It includes: sia-sia (without benefit); pura-pura (to pretend); megap-megap (panting). If you want to find what words to try, kindly check indonesian vocabulary.

2. Noun Reduplication

The noun reduplication is mainly functioning to form plurality in Indonesian. However, there are also noun reduplication which considered as root words as in point a. These words mostly are the names of plants, animals, foods, and instruments. Other than that, reduplication also could form a different meaning.

Reduplications that are considered root bases

  • kupu-kupu (butterfly)
  • alang-alang (tall grass)
  • gado-gado (mixed vegetable)
  • oleh-oleh (gift)

Forming different meaning

The meaning could be different, but it is still related to the root word or has similar meaning: i.e.:

Base Meaning Reduplication Meaning
tiba arrive tiba-tiba suddenly
mata eyes mata-mata a spy
langit sky langit-langit ceiling
gula sugar gula-gula sweets

Indicate plurality

Any words other than the words that are included in the categories mentioned above indicate plurality when they are reduplicated. i.e.:

  • Rumah-rumah (houses)
  • Kasur-kasur (beds)
  • Kuda-kuda (horses)

There are some cases such as kuda-kuda which have a distinguishable meaning. Kuda-kuda could means: battle stance; many horses, and horse toys (kuda-kudaan). You could also refer to indonesian plural.

3. Verb Reduplication

Reduplicating verbs resulting into an expression that indicates an action is being done in a leisurely way. i.e.:

Kami keliling-keliling di kebun teh. We are just going around the tea plantation.
Di toko itu kami hanya melihat-lihat. In that shop we were just looking around/browsing.
Dia suka tidur-tiduran di lantai. He likes lying down on the floor.
Anak-anak sedang duduk-duduk di bawah pohon. The children are sitting about under the tree.

Indeed, you may also learn Basic Words in Indonesian to learn it better.

Indicate continued actions:

Dia berteriak-teriak memanggil ibunya. He shouted and shouted for his mother.
Kayu itu terapung-apung di sungai. The wood floated in the river.
Dia menangis terisak-isak. She sobs continuously.
Jangan suka menunda-nunda pekerjaan. Don’t keep delaying the work.

Indeed, you may also learn Indonesian Prefix Table to learn it better.

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Conveying an intensity

menjadi(to become) Kelakuannya menjadi-jadi. – His behavior is getting worse.
membesarkan(enlarge) Dia selalu membesar-besarkan persoalan. – He always exaggerate the problem.
berganti(replace) Setiap minggu kami berganti-ganti ruang rapat. –
Every week we keep changing the meeting room
meminta(request) Saya tidak akan meminta-minta. – I will not beg.

Indeed, you may also  Learn Basic Indonesian Language to learn it better.

Conveying the action has never been done (preceded by “tidak”)

Sudah seminggu dia tidak masuk-masuk. He hasn’t turned up for a week.
Saya tidak bertanya-tanya soal itu. didn’t ask for that matter.

Indeed, you may also learn Indonesian Negations to learn it better.

4. Pronouns Reduplication

The use of this reduplication is to emphasize the root words. i.e.:

Jangan ribut di sini, beliau-beliau sedang rapat! Don’t be noisy, the big shots are having a meeting.
Mengapa hanya saya-saya yang selalu diberi tugas? Why is it always poor old me who gets these jobs?
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5. Adjectives Reduplication

Reduplication of the adverbs also indicates intensity. It could also form adverbs. i.e.

Barang di toko itu mahal-mahal. All the stuff in that store are very expensive.
Dia sudah pergi diam-diam. He has left secretly/quietly.
Jangan sekali-kali kau berani berbuat begitu lagi. Don’t ever dare doing it again.
Tua-tua kurang ajar. Even though he’s already old, he doesn’t act accordingly.

To find the adjectives, refer to Indonesian Adjectives

6. Numbers Reduplication

You could also form adverbs by repeating numbers

Bicaralah satu-satu. Speak one at time.
Mereka masuk dua-dua. They came in two at a time.

Thus, you may first learn about numbering in Indonesian.


Partial reduplication

Partial reduplication occurs only in root words which are initiated by consonants. You simply put the initial letter before the word and followed by an ”e”. Sometimes the words have similar meaning as of the root words. However, it only occurs in several parts of speech (mainly nouns). You can refer to the example below:

Root Word Meaning Reduplicated Meaning
tangga ladder tetangga neighbor
jaka young man jejaka young man
luhur noble leluhur ancestor
tua old tetua elders

Imitative reduplication

Imitative reduplication involves a change of a letter, mostly, of the word. The changes could occur either in consonants or vowels. It resulting into a repetition of words that is not identical but they are similar. It can be applied onto nouns, adjectives and verbs.

This reduplication does not create a new meaning of the root words. It is mainly used only to emphasize the root word itself. The changes also are not interchangeable.

Look at the example below:

The changes in the initial letter

Root Meaning Reduplicated Meaning
sayur vegetable sayur-mayur vegetables
lauk side dish lauk-pauk side dishes
ramah friendly ramah-tamah hospitable
kaya rich kaya-raya very wealthy

Thus, there are Indonesian reduplication words.

The changes in the vowel(s)

desas-desus rumour
warna-warni colorful
gerak-gerik gestures

There is a common pattern in this kind of two vowels reduplication. The first component of the words mostly contain the vowels “o” – “a” and the second contain the vowels “a” – “I”. Note to be taken, this is not the only patter that may occur and neither part of these word could stand alone. Look at the example:

bolak-balik moving back and forth
mondar-mandir moving back and forth
obrak-abrik to make messy
tindak-tanduk attitude
pontang-panting running in haste
teka-teki riddle
asal-usul origin

So, this is the Indonesian reduplication. You could try to form reduplication on whatever words you desire. Try to make a contact with Indonesian people to revise your words if it is not the correct reduplication. Remember, learning Indonesian takes time, but it worth to learn. You could also learn another form on Indonesian in Indonesian phrases and common sentences.

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Kategori : Grammar