50+ Indonesian Words of Wisdom and Meaning

Learning Bahasa Indonesia can be done in many ways but the fastest way is to practice in Indonesian conversation phrase.  Daily conversation in Bahasa Indonesia usually full of slang and informal words. While formal language are mostly used in letters, news, documents, literature, and other formal writings. Proverbs and words of wisdom are also mostly used in those pieces. Below are some common Indonesian words of wisdom along with the meaning and English equivalent.

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Indonesian Words of Wisdom Literal English Meaning/English equivalent Meaning
Ada gula ada semut When there is sugar there is ants Common people are attracted to something interesting.
Ada udang di balik batu A shrimp hidden behind a stone Refers to a hidden intention usually negative behine someone’s or something’s activity.
Ada asap ada api Every why has its wherefore If there is rumor, there should be truth behind it.
Air tenang menghanyutkan Look before you leap, because snakes among sweet flowers do creep. Never let your guard down, because behind calm situation there is always danger behind.
Bagai pungguk merindukan bulan Like an owl missing/yearning for the moon To wish for something impossible
Bagai pinang dibelah dua Like a betel nut split in half Something very identical, very similar
Bagai air di daun talas As the water on the taro leaf A person who cannot be trusted
Bersakit-sakit dahulu bersenang-senang kemudian You got to lose, to know how to win Do the more difficult things so you can be more relaxed in the end.
Besar pasak daripada tiang The peg is bigger than the pole When your expense is bigger than the income
Buah jatuh tidak jauh dari pohon Fruit falls close to tree Children’s nature always resembles the parents
Diamana ada kemauan di situ ada jalan When there is a will there is a way If you are sufficiently determined to achieve something, then you will find a way for doing so.
Gajah di depan mata tak kelihatan namun kuman diseberang lautan nampak You can see the speck in your brother’s eye but not the plank in your own. A condition when you pay more attention to other’s fault than your own.
Guru kencing berdiri, murid kencing berlari A teacher pees standing up and pupils pee on the run Teacher (refers to adults, role models) is bad, the youngster are worse.
Habis manis sepah dibuang When the sweetness is gone, the pulp will be thrown out (like chewing bubblegum) When something is no use anymore, it will be thrown out.
Karena nila setitik, rusak susu sebelanga One rotten apple will spoil the whole barrel Small mistake ruins all the efforts
Lain ladang lain belalang, lain lubuk lain ikannya Do not measure others by your own yardstick Different household has different rules and condition.
Mulutmu harimaumu Your mouth is your tiger The words you are speaking is the reflection of yourself
Rumput tetangga selalu lebih hijau The neighbor’s grass is always the greener What other people have always seems the better
Rajin pangkal pandai Diligence is the mother of good luck Those who work hard are likely enjoy good fortune
Sekali merengkuh dayung, dua tiga pulau terlampaui One stroke at the paddle, two and three islands have passed Do multiple tasks at once
Sudah jatuh, tertimpa tangga Misery loves company ; a person slips and a ladder falls on him Describe unlucky person who have unlucky streaks or all bad things seem to happen at the same time.

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Indonesian words of wisdom are rarely used in daily conversation, but most people use it in formal context or simply for social media status or caption. Well, which words of wisdom suit you best?