The Meaning of “Bu” in Indonesia – Examples

When you’re visiting Indonesia, you’ll notice how Indonesians use often the word “Bu”. You heard them a lot especially when someone address a lady. What does “Bu” mean in Indonesia? Let’s see…

The literal meaning of bu.

“Bu” is short from the word “Ibu”. Ibu in popular Bahasa Indonesia means mother. You can pronounce ibu as ee-bwu. According to the main dictionary of Bahasa Indonesia, the word ibu bears more meaning than just mother. These are the meanings of the word “Ibu”:

1. Mother

Specifically, Ibu means a woman who has given birth to someone. It means mother, and that’s also how children call their mother in Indonesia. So, bu as a short word of Ibu also means “mom”.

Let’s see some examples:

  • Sayangilah ibumu. (Love your mother)
  • Peran seorang ibu sangat besar bagi perkembangan anak. (The role of mother is crucial for children development).
  • Ibu dan Ayah sedang pergi ke luar kota. (Mother and Father went out of town)
  • Bu, apakah ibu tahu dimana sepatuku? (Mom, do you know where my shoes are?
  • Bu, bolehkah aku membeli buku ini? (Mom, can I buy this book?)

Variation of “Bu” as mother:

The word “bu” is not the only way children call their mother. Children in Indonesia also call their mothers “Mama” or “Bunda”. It depends on how the mother wants to be called by their children. However, all basically mean the same: mother.

Also, read on how to express gratitude in Indonesian.

2. Married women

Bu also how people greet and call ladies who are married. This is a form of formal greetings in Indonesia. Being called “bu” means as respect to the said lady.

Regardless of whether they have children or not, people call a mature lady “Bu”. The word “Bu” is put in front of their name. In English, it’s equivalent to the word “Mrs.”.


  • Bu Ratih, bagaimana kabar Anda? (Mrs. Ratih, how are you?)
  • Saya dan Bu Dewi akan menghadiri pertemuan besok. (I and Mrs. Dewi will attend tomorrow’s meeting)
  • Pak Pratama dan Bu Pratama mengundang keluarga dan kerabat ke pesta mereka. (Mr. and Mrs. Pratama invited family and relatives to their party.)

3. Greetings for women in general

Regardless of their marital status, a woman is called “Bu” in a formal situation. It’s one of Indonesian’s formal greetings in a business situation.

For example, customer service in a Bank addressing a customer. A student will address their female teacher as bu, regardless whether they’re married or have children yet. 

On a general situation where the speaker doesn’t know really well about a lady, calling them bu is the most polite way, such as when you’re buying something in the market and don’t know the name of the seller lady. In English, “Bu” here is equivalent with the word “Ms.”, “Ma’am”, or “Madam”.

More about the Indonesian word for “Ms.” here.

Let’s see examples in various situations:

  • Halo, bisa bicara dengan Ibu Ratih? (Hello, may I speak to Ms. Ratih?)
  • Ada yang bisa kami bantu hari ini, Ibu Dewi? (How can we help you today, Ms. Dewi?)
  • Berapa harga jeruk sekilo, Bu? (How much one kg of oranges, Ma’am?)
  • Bu, apakah ibu tahu bus ke arah Candi Borobudur? (Ma’am, do you know the bus heading to Borobudur Temple?)

To a female teacher:

  • Selamat pagi, Bu Guru! (Good Morning, Ma’am (teacher)).
  • Bu Guru, saya minta ijin ke toilet. (Ma’am, can I ask permission to go to the restroom?)

Learn more about Indonesian greetings and gestures here. You can also read more extensive examples of the word “Ibu here. By learning a lot about this simple but important word, you can finally understand why bu is one of the popular words in Indonesia. Happy learning!