A-Z List of English Words from Indonesian Origin

Indonesia is an Austronesian language, which means it is a language widely known in Southeast Asia and around the Pacific area. Indonesian language is unique because it is the official language for hundreds, even thousands of different ethnic groups in Indonesia. Aside from that, Indonesian language also contains many words that are derived or ‘borrowed’ from other countries, such as Indonesia’s former colonizers like Dutch, as well as traders and religious travelers who came to Indonesia long ago, like Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persian language.

Here are they:

Although Indonesia borrows many words from many foreign languages, did you know the English language also contains loanwords originating from Indonesian language? Indonesian shares many similarities with Malay language and the English people adapted these words directly from Malay during the British colonial period in British Malaya, however there are also original Indonesian especially Javanese words that are used by English people until today. You might even know most of these words!

The following is the list of English words from Indonesian Origin. Many of these words are words or terms for Indonesian objects like Indonesian clothing, weapon and musical instruments because there aren’t any English words for those, such as batik, keris, and wayang, while other words are used as names of animals and plants that are native to Indonesia and the region around it, as they are indigeneous to Indonesians and cannot be found in other places.

We have the words babirusa, cockatoo, orangutan and Komodo for this case. The recent English adoption of Indonesian words are concerning science and technology, for example food-processing terms (e.g. agar and tempeh) to specific volcanology or geography terms (e.g. lahar and ribu).

List of English Words from Indonesian Origin

Let’s see the list below!

1. Indonesian Animals

The following is the list of English words from Indonesian Origin:

  • Babirusa, compound word from babi (pig) and rusa (deer)
  • Banteng
  • Bantam, from the town of Banten
  • Binturong
  • Cassowary from kasuari (Papuan)
  • Cockatoo from kakatua
  • Dugong from duyung
  • Komodo dragon, from Komodo
  • Orangutan
  • Pangolin from pengguling or trenggiling
  • Siamang
  • Tapir
  • Tokay (gecko) from tokek (Javanese)
  • Trepang from teripang

Learn more Indonesian words for animal names as well. 

2. Indonesian Plants

  • Bamboo from bambu
  • Gambier from gambir
  • Gutta percha from getah perca
  • Kapok from kapuk
  • Meranti, a kind of tropical tree native to Indonesian region
  • Merbau, also a kind of tropical tree
  • Paddy from padi (Indonesian) / pari (Javanese)
  • Pandanus from pandan
  • Ramie from rami
  • Rattan from rotan
  • Sago/sagoo from sagu, a staple food for Eastern parts of Indonesia like Papua.
  • Cajuput from kayu Putih

3. Indonesian Fruits

The following is the list of English words from Indonesian Origin:

  • Cempedak, a durian-like fruit with a distinct smell
  • Durian
  • Langsat
  • Mangosteen from manggis (manggustan)
  • Rambutan
  • Salak, also known as Zalacca
  • Papaya from pepaya

Learn more Indonesian words for different kinds of fruits too! 

4. Indonesian Foods

  • Agar
  • Ketchup from kecap (soy sauce, not tomato sauce like how English-speaking people mostly know it)
  • Sambal
  • Satay from sate (Javanese)
  • Tempeh from tempe, fermented soybeans usually eaten as a protein-rich food to replace meat

Also learn: Indonesian Words for Food

5. Indonesian Clothing

  • Batik from Batik (Javanese)
  • Canting from canting (Javanese), a technique used to make batik
  • Gingham from genggang
  • Ikat
  • Koteka (Papuan)
  • Sarong from sarung
  • Songket

6. Indonesian Instruments 

Musical Instruments, these are traditional musical instruments played in Indonesia

  • Angklung
  • Gamelan
  • Gong

7. Indonesian Ships

  • Junk from jong
  • Proa (also ‘prahu’ or ‘prau’) from prahu (Javanese) or perahu (Indonesian) (via Portuguese word Proa adapted from Latin word Prora).

8. Indonesian Weaponry

  • Kris from keris (Javanese)
  • Parang
  • Sjambok from cambuk in Indonesia, where it was the name of a wooden rod for punishing slaves

9. Indonesian Units

  • Catty from kati, ultimately derived from Chinese unit
  • Picul: traditional Asian weight unit, derived from Javanese pikul
  • Ribu: topographic prominence unit of mountain or volcano more than 1,000 metres, derived from Indonesian ribu (thousand)

10. Indonesian Behavioral and psychological terms

  • Amok from amuk, throwing a tantrum
  • Latah, a common condition when people repeat what they hear around them when they are shocked or surprised

11. Indonesian Sports

  • Bantam, from bantam chicken, ultimately Banten town
  • Silat, a type of self-defense style from Indonesia
  • Sepak takraw, a kind of soccer game in Indonesia 

Here are other words derived from Indonesian language: 

  • Balanda to refer whiteman, from belanda (Dutchman)
  • Camphor, from kapur barus (“Barus’ chalk”), which refers to the port of Barus in Sumatra as the source of camphor
  • Damar, a plant resin
  • Lahar from lahar (Javanese), which means lava
  • Tombac from tembaga
  • Compound from kampung, which is Indonesian for village or rural area.

Indonesia contains a lot of diverse flora and fauna as well as cultural aspects, which is why these words exist and are adapted into English language. Indonesia is truly a unique language!