A-Z Untranslatable Indonesian Phrases You Need to Add to Your Vocabulary

Languages often have those phrases which are hard to translate to other languages. This applies to Bahasa Indonesia as well. The language has several popular phrases with no equivalent of them in the English language. These are often phrases included in informal Bahasa.

Informal Bahasa Indonesia is a type of Bahasa that does not always adhere to the Indonesian grammatical standard. It’s a type of slang, although some idioms and expressions are also included. It’s usually spoken on friendly setting or non-work environment. Find out more about informal Bahasa Indonesia in this article.

Back to untranslatable Indonesian phrases, let’s check out some expressions here to make you cooler among your Indonesian friends. Sometimes slangs like this make it sounds difficult to learn Bahasa. Don’t worry, it’s easy to learn Indonesian language.

1. Masuk Angin

Masuk Angin is probably the most common of diseases people suffer in Indonesia. In English, Masuk Angin can be translated roughly to “Entering wind”. Doesn’t make sense, right? Not only that it has no English equivalent, but the disease also does not have any medical term.

People who masuk angin usually suffer bloating or flatulence. Sometimes fever and cold are also included. Sometimes they burp or fart a lot. In general, Masuk Angin is that sense when you don’t feel good especially on your stomach area.

Examples: Aku nggak bisa ikut nonton sore ini, lagi masuk angin nih. (I can’t join watching movies tonight, I have Masuk Angin)

2. Kerokan

The remedy for masuk angin is the good old “kerokan”. It’s a healing method originally invented by the Indonesians and thus, no English equivalent whatsoever.

When you do kerokan, you do as follows: You find an old coin, pick a pinch of menthol balm with it or any ointment oil, then proceed to scratch your back with the said coin.

The result is pretty cool, or scary, depending on your view about lines of red marks in between your ribs. According to Indonesians, this red marks force your blood vessel to get rid of any substances that caused your “Masuk Angin”, especially the wind. No medical explanation is available other than the possibility to increase blood circulation. Others possibly just a placebo effect.

Example: Kakek sedang kerokan untuk menghilangkan rasa mual. (Grandpa is doing “kerokan” to relieve nausea).

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is kerokan.jpg

3. Alay

The children of the kite. The literal meaning of Alay can be a cool title of a book. However, the term alay is nowhere near cool. If you’re an alay, you’re the epitome of uncool. Even Indonesians find it hard to describe what’s Alay in a short sentence.

They can only describe the characteristic, like the tendency mixing numbers as a replacement of alphabet while texting. Alay people also tend to have hysterical responses over small things.

Example: “Alay banget sih kamu” (You are very alay).

4. Garing and Jayus

Garing and Jayus are our next untranslatable words. When people are garing, they are simply not a good conversationalist or they are boring to have a conversation with.

It’s only awkward when hanging out with them. Their joke is jayus: not funny and invokes a cringiness instead.

Example: Aku ngga suka kalau ada Andi, dia garing dan jayus! (I don’t like it when Andi is present, he’s garing and jayus)

Also, know what the meaning of “Bego” in Indonesian

5. Latah

Latah is a weird characteristic when people are: 1. Easy to surprised then proceed to say the last word they spoke fast and repeatedly. It’s a psychosomatic condition only happening among Indonesians.

Thus you can’t find English words for latah, not even a word that closes to describe it.

Latah also bears a connotative meaning describing a person who is easily swayed by a trend or other people and can’t really think by themselves.

Example: Nenek aku kalau lagi latah lucu sekali. (My grandma is very funny when Latah).

6. Ilfil or ilfeel

Ilfil or ilfeel is a combination of two words, Ilang or hilang, which means lost in English, and the second word is an English word “feeling”. Together, it can roughly translate into the loss of feeling.

A loss of feeling is described as numb or unemotional in English. However, ilfeel is more like a cringey feeling after faced with the behavior of a certain person or a cringe situation.

Example: “Kelakuan anak alay memang bikin ilfeel”. (The attitude of alay kids makes me ilfeel)

7. Baper

When you saw something, like watching a movie that got you remembering an ex, Indonesians will say you “Baper”.

Baper can be described as, a nostalgic feeling, or a sudden emotional feeling triggered by a completely unrelated event. There’s no one short word to describe “Baper”.


Jangan baper ah. (Don’t get carried away with emotion).

Lagunya bikin baper. (The song makes me sad) 

8. Cabe-cabean

Cabe-cabean is a group of teenage girls who are seen as bratty or unruly according to Indonesians. Perhaps the closest equivalent of it is “the basic bitch” in the western world.

However, there are a lot of striking differences. For example, the typical cabe-cabean is often of a school-age, less-educated,  and coming from a disadvantaged background.

You can learn more in-depth about the word cabe in this article.

9. Kepo

Nosey is perhaps the closest word to describe kepo. It means a behavior when someone can’t mind their own business. It can also mean stalking, as in social media stalking.

Example: Jangan kepo, ah. (Mind your own business).

Ngapain? Lagi kepo-in dia, ya? (What are you doing? Stalking her social media again?)

More about the meaning of the word kepo.

So, those are some Indonesian untranslatable words. Now you won’t get confused again when someone said a word which is literal meaning doesn’t make sense. Because you now have these words in your vocabulary! Happy learning.