Is The Indonesian Word “Bahasa” Derived from Sanskrit “Bhasha?”

As you might know, language is translated as “Bahasa” in Indonesian. You might wonder…

Where does this word come from?

Is it derived from Sanskrit “Bhasha”?

What was the connection between the Indonesian language and Sanskrit?

If you look at Indonesian’ prehistory, you will find that Indonesia has a long story with Hinduism, which used Sanskrit. Therefore, the Indonesian language is also formed from Sanskrit.

And yes, the Indonesian word “Bahasa” derived from Sanskrit “Bhasha”.

What does “Bahasa” mean?

According to The Indian Rennaissance: India’s Rise after a Thousand Years of Decline T by Sanjeev Sanyal, the word “Bhasha” in Sanskrit means language.

Today we can find the word bhāṣā has been used to denote the name of many languages like:

  • Newari – Nepal Bhasa (नेपाल भाषा)
  • Thai – Phasa Thai (ภาษาไทย)
  • Indonesian – Bahasa Indonesia
  • Malay – Bahasa Melayu (بهاس ملايو)
  • Acehnese – Bahsa Acèh or Bahasa Acèh (بهسا اچيه)
  • Sundanese – Basa Sunda
  • Javanese – Basa Jawa (ꦧꦱꦗꦮ)
  • Madurese – Basa Madura
  • Balinese – Basa Bali
  • and many more!

Those languages mentioned above are similar to each other as they have the same origin language: Sanskrit. Therefore, we could simply understand if they sound the same.

As you can see, most of the languages listed above are spoken in Southeast Asia. Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Melayu have the same form and sound as the h sound is preserved. As for others, the h sound has been gone. It turns to be basa. 

The use of the Indonesian word “Bahasa” in referring to spoken national language is indeed the most correct and suitable one. Although it is fine to call it “the Indonesian language”, it will be better if we call it, “Bahasa Indonesia”. By doing so, we give respect to the Indonesian people, who owned this language.

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How to pronounce the word “Bahasa”?

As you can see, there are three vowels in the word “Bahasa”.
It has three syllables as well: Ba-ha-sa.
You should emphasize on the vowel to pronounce it correctly.

I suggest you ask an Indonesian to speak it and imitate the way they say it. Listen to their intonation and try to pronounce it yourself.

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How to write the word “Bahasa” correctly?

If you notice, in this article the word “Bahasa” is always written with a capital letter. It always starts with ‘B’ and not ‘b’.

The Indonesian honor their Bahasa so much as their national and united language. Therefore, writing the word “Bahasa” with lowercase letter b will be considered as impolite.

It is not about formal or informal ways, but a nation’s dignity. The Indonesian believe that “Bahasa” is one of their own dignity. Therefore, it is very important to use the word and write it correctly.

Now we know the origin of the word “Bahasa” and its meaning. Make sure you learn Bahasa Indonesia very well and master it as best as you can. In this way, you will be highly appreciated for respecting Indonesian’s dignity. Don’t you also save your dignity by doing so?