Indonesian people have the manner to call family member according to the family tree. It is impolite to call older people in the family by their names without referring to their level in the family tree. Most of the time, the family words such as uncle, aunt, and the like are also used to call other people in the general society. Learn more about communication etiquette in Indonesia.
Calling someone according to the family tree is considered polite while calling others by their names is impolite. Please, make sure to avoid calling older people only by the name when you are in Indonesia. Learn more about How to Introduce Yourself in Indonesian.
Here are the Indonesian words for family members:
1. General words
- Orang dewasa – adult
- Anak-anak – children, kids
- Keluarga – family
- Kerabat – relative
2. Immediate family
- Ibu – mother
- Bapak, ayah – father
- Istri – wife
- Suami – husband
- Anak perempuan – daughter
- Anak laki-laki – son
- Kakak, mbak – older sister
- Kakak, abang, mas – older brother
- Adik perempuan – younger sister
- Adik laki-laki – younger brother
The word ‘ibu’ and ‘bapak’ are not only referred to mother and father. It can also be used when calling older women or men in society such as school, hospital, office, and soon. Those words similar to English word Mrs, Ms, and Mr.
The difference is in English you call someone with title ‘Mr’ or mister the followed with their last name. But in Indonesia, you use ‘bapak’ then followed with their name. For example you call Mr. Winter for Brandon Winter, but never Mr. Brandon meanwhile in Indonesia you call Bapak Ali for Ali Sadikin instead of Bapak Sadikin. Also learn about verbal and nonverbal communication.
In bahasa Indonesia, the words for families such as ‘ibu’ and ‘bapak’ are also shorten into ‘pak’ and ‘bu’. The shorten forms are usually used in informal and everyday life. In addition, the word abang, kakak, mas and mbak are mostly used to call women or men older than you but not quite much.
For example you want to ask a taxi driver who looks like only three years older than you, and then you use the words for older brother/sister. Those words are also a friendly term to call other people. Learn more about conversation for beginner.
3. Extended family
Here are more Indonesian words for family members:
- Ibu mertua – mother in law
- Ayah mertua – father in law
- Nenek – grandmother
- Kakek – grand father
- Paman – uncle
- Bibi – uncle
- Keponakan perempuan – niece
- Keponakan laki-laki – nephew
- Sepupu – cousin
- Nona – Miss
- Nyonya – Mrs
- Tuan – Mr/Sir
- Mbak – Sister (When you call someone older)
- Abang/Bang – Brother (When you call someone older)
Indonesians usually call to foreign people with ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs especially those who come from American, Europe, or anyone who does not look like local people. You may be offended when they call you ‘Mrs’ even when you are not married yet. But don’t be offended, they just trying to be polite.
Learn more about Indonesian words for family members in visual and audio here:
These words are mostly applied in most big cities in Indonesia such as Jakarta, Bandung, Bali, Surabaya, Jogjakarta, and others. In other places such as Riau, Medan, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and other islands, they may have other names to refer to the family member in local dialect. Learn more about bargaining words in Indonesia.