21 Untranslatable Indonesian Words with No English Equivalent

Each language has no translatable words and Bahasa Indonesia is no exception. Besides learning proper Indonesian grammar and pronunciation, it is also important to know some words which do not have equivalent translation in English. Having influence from local dialect, here are some popular Indonesian words with no English equivalent.

Related: Indonesian pronunciation guide

  1. Rugi – in Indonesia, the word ‘rugi’ has lots of meaning in different context. But in general it means something that is not worth the money or time.
  2. Ngetem – public transportation in Indonesia mostly are not going to operate if they do not have enough passengers. The bitter truth about this phenomenon is they just waiting for passengers literary everywhere and it takes quite a long time. Indonesian people call this as ‘ngetem’.
  3. Latah – this is an abnormal expression or behavior as result from shock. When a latah person shock, they will curse, screaming, make a typical movements, and even laughter uncontrollably.
  4. Kebelet – kebelet is a term used when someone has the urge to do something for example kebelet kawin and kebelet pipis. The feeling is almost the same when you crave for something.
  5. Gemes – when you see a baby with cuteness overload or someone you love or miss so much, and you get uncontrollable urge to bite or pinch their cheek and hug them tightly.
  6. Nyempil – the word is used when someone or something fit in a really tight size.
  7. Jayus – when someone makes not so funny jokes and you cannot help but laughing.
  8. Jomblo – Jomblo refers to a person who incapable of getting boyfriend/girlfriend.
  9. Alay – a person considered ‘alay’ when he/she acts beyond her/his age. For example kids who act like adult or adults act like teenager.
  10. Masuk angin – literary translated as ‘enter wind’, masuk angin is a condition when you feel bloated, nausea, and dizzy because of cold weather, constant exposure to windy situation, stay up late, and late meal.
  11. Cuci mata – this is an activity when someone just go out to have a fresh air and maybe flirt a bit.
  12. Mudik – an activity of returning to hometown or village. The word mostly refers for returning home during Islamic holiday such as Idul Fitri.
  13. Lapar mata – when you bought something that you do not actually need. Then, you just being ‘lapar mata’.
  14. Bengong – the condition when you have nothing to say or stumble upon something. It also describe when someone daydreaming.
  15. Ngemper – during heavy rain and you stand in store front to keep from the water.
  16. Baper – stands for ‘bawa perasaan’ means a condition when someone is overly sensitive about something.
  17. Lebay – this term is used when someone have excessive expression over something.
  18. Jadian – the word is used when someone wants to ask other person for a date.
  19. Sumpah, lo? – ‘sumpah’ literary means vow in English. But when it is ‘sumpah lo?’ it is an expression used to say are you sure? Or really?
  20. Mager – stands for ‘males gerak’ is a term used when someone is just too lazy to get up from bed.
  21. Kan – The shorter way of saying anything, mostly the meaning is, “I told you so but you never listened.”

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Those Indonesian Words with No English Equivalent, words are most used in everyday conversation especially among friends. It is better not to use the words with someone who are not close enough to you or someone you respect most. Fail to use the words in proper context potentially offense other people. So, are you tempted to use one of those words in everyday Indonesian conversation?

Related: Indonesian Grammar Structures for Beginners