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Bahasa Indonesia
Pronunciation[baˈha.sa in.doˈne.si.ja]
Native toIndonesia
RegionIndonesia (as official language)
Significant language speakers: East Timor, Malaysia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Taiwan, Netherlands, Japan, South Korea, and others
EthnicityOver 1,300 Indonesian ethnic groups
Native speakers
L1 speakers: 43 million (2010 census)[1]
L2 speakers: 156 million (2010 census)[1]
Total speakers: 300 million (2022)[2]
Early forms
Standard forms
Latin (Indonesian alphabet)
Indonesian Braille
SIBI (Manually Coded Indonesian)
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
 East Timor (Indonesian used as a working language and a trade language with Indonesia)[7]
Regulated byLanguage Development and Fostering Agency (Badan Pengembangan dan Pembinaan Bahasa)
Language codes
ISO 639-1id
ISO 639-2ind
ISO 639-3ind
  Countries of the world where Indonesian is a majority native language
  Countries where Indonesian is a minority language
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Indonesian speaker

Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia; [baˈhasa indoˈnesija]) is the official and national language of Indonesia.[8] It is a standardized variety of Malay,[9] an Austronesian language that has been used as a lingua franca in the multilingual Indonesian archipelago for centuries. With over 280 million inhabitants, Indonesia ranks as the fourth most populous nation globally.[10] The majority of its population predominantly communicates in Indonesian, making it the largest language by number of speakers in Southeast Asia and one of the most widely spoken languages in the world.[11] Indonesian vocabulary has been influenced by various regional languages such as Javanese, Sundanese, Minangkabau, Balinese, Banjarese, and Buginese, as well as by foreign languages such as Arabic, Dutch, Portuguese, and English. Many borrowed words have been adapted to fit the phonetic and grammatical rules of Indonesian, enriching the language and reflecting Indonesia's diverse linguistic heritage.

Most Indonesians, aside from speaking the national language, are fluent in at least one of the more than 700 indigenous local languages; examples include Javanese and Sundanese, which are commonly used at home and within the local community.[12][13] However, most formal education and nearly all national mass media, governance, administration, and judiciary and other forms of communication are conducted in Indonesian.[14]

Under Indonesian rule from 1976 to 1999, Indonesian was designated as the official language of Timor Leste. It has the status of a working language under the country's constitution along with English.[7][15]: 3 [16] In November 2023, the Indonesian language was recognized as one of the official languages of the UNESCO General Conference.

The term Indonesian is primarily associated with the national standard dialect (bahasa baku).[17] However, in a looser sense, it also encompasses the various local varieties spoken throughout the Indonesian archipelago.[9][18] Standard Indonesian is confined mostly to formal situations, existing in a diglossic relationship with vernacular Malay varieties, which are commonly used for daily communication, coexisting with the aforementioned regional languages and with Malay creoles;[17][12] standard Indonesian is spoken in informal speech as a lingua franca between vernacular Malay dialects, Malay creoles, and regional languages.

The Indonesian name for the language (bahasa Indonesia) is also occasionally used in English and other languages. Bahasa Indonesia is sometimes improperly reduced to Bahasa, which refers to the Indonesian subject (Bahasa Indonesia) taught in schools, on the assumption that this is the name of the language. But the word bahasa only means language. For example, French language is translated as bahasa Prancis, and the same applies to other languages, such as bahasa Inggris (English), bahasa Jepang (Japanese), bahasa Arab (Arabic), bahasa Italia (Italian), and so on. Indonesians generally may not recognize the name Bahasa alone when it refers to their national language.[19]


Early kingdoms era

Rencong alphabet, native writing systems found in central and South Sumatra. The text reads (Voorhoeve's spelling): "haku manangis ma / njaru ka'u ka'u di / saru tijada da / tang [hitu hadik sa]", which is translated by Voorhoeve as: "I am weeping, calling you; though called, you do not come" (in modern Malay "Aku menangis, menyerukan engkau, kaudiseru, tiada datang [itu adik satu]").
Kedukan Bukit Inscription, written in Pallava script, is the oldest surviving specimen of the Old Malay language.

Standard Indonesian is a standard language of "Riau Malay",[4][5] which despite its common name is not based on the vernacular Malay dialects of the Riau Islands, but rather represents a form of Classical Malay as used in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the Riau-Lingga Sultanate. Classical Malay had emerged as a literary language in the royal courts along both shores of the Strait of Malacca, including the Johor Sultanate and Malacca Sultanate.[20][21][22] Originally spoken in Northeast Sumatra,[23] Malay has been used as a lingua franca in the Indonesian archipelago for half a millennium. It might be attributed to its ancestor, the Old Malay language (which can be traced back to the 7th century). The Kedukan Bukit Inscription is the oldest surviving specimen of Old Malay, the language used by Srivijayan empire.[24] Since the 7th century, the Old Malay language has been used in Nusantara (archipelago) (Indonesian archipelago), evidenced by Srivijaya inscriptions and by other inscriptions from coastal areas of the archipelago, such as Sojomerto inscription.[24]

Old Malay as lingua franca

For centuries, Srivijaya, through its expansion, economic power and military prowess, was responsible for the widespread of Old Malay throughout the Malay Archipelago. It was the working language of traders and it was used in various ports, and marketplaces in the region.[25]

Trade contacts carried on by various ethnic peoples at the time were the main vehicle for spreading the Old Malay language, which was the main communications medium among the traders. Ultimately, the Old Malay language became a lingua franca and was spoken widely by most people in the archipelago.[26][27]

Indonesian (in its standard form) has essentially the same material basis as the Malaysian standard of Malay and is therefore considered to be a variety of the pluricentric Malay language. However, it does differ from Malaysian Malay in several respects, with differences in pronunciation and vocabulary. These differences are due mainly to the Dutch and Javanese influences on Indonesian. Indonesian was also influenced by the Melayu pasar (lit.'market Malay'), which was the lingua franca of the archipelago in colonial times, and thus indirectly by other spoken languages of the islands.

Malaysian Malay claims to be closer to the classical Malay of earlier centuries, even though modern Malaysian has been heavily influenced, in lexicon as well as in syntax, by English. The question of whether High Malay (Court Malay) or Low Malay (Bazaar Malay) was the true parent of the Indonesian language is still in debate. High Malay was the official language used in the court of the Johor Sultanate and continued by the Dutch-administered territory of Riau-Lingga, while Low Malay was commonly used in marketplaces and ports of the archipelago. Some linguists have argued that it was the more common Low Malay that formed the base of the Indonesian language.[28]

Colonial era and the birth of Indonesian

When the Dutch East India Company (VOC) first arrived in the archipelago at the start of the 1600s, the Malay language was a significant trading and political language due to the influence of the Malaccan Sultanate and later the Portuguese. However, the language had never been dominant among the population of the Indonesian archipelago as it was limited to mercantile activity. The VOC adopted the Malay language as the administrative language of their trading outpost in the east. Following the bankruptcy of the VOC, the Batavian Republic took control of the colony in 1799, and it was only then that education in and promotion of Dutch began in the colony. Even then, Dutch administrators were remarkably reluctant to promote the use of Dutch compared to other colonial regimes. Dutch thus remained the language of a small elite: in 1940, only 2% of the total population could speak Dutch. Nevertheless, it did have a significant influence on the development of Malay in the colony: during the colonial era, the language that would be standardized as Indonesian absorbed a large amount of Dutch vocabulary in the form of loanwords.

Volksraad session held in July 1938 in Jakarta, where Indonesian was formally used for the first time by Jahja Datoek Kajo

The nationalist movement that ultimately brought Indonesian to its national language status rejected Dutch from the outset. However, the rapid disappearance of Dutch was a very unusual case compared with other colonized countries, where the colonial language generally has continued to function as the language of politics, bureaucracy, education, technology, and other fields of importance for a significant time after independence.[29] The Indonesian scholar Soenjono Dardjowidjojo [id] even goes so far as to say that when compared to the situation in other Asian countries such as India, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, "Indonesian is perhaps the only language that has achieved the status of a national language in its true sense" since it truly dominates in all spheres of Indonesian society.[30] The ease with which Indonesia eliminated the language of its former colonial power can perhaps be explained as much by Dutch policy as by Indonesian nationalism. In marked contrast to the French, Spanish and Portuguese, who pursued an assimilation colonial policy, or even the British, the Dutch did not attempt to spread their language among the indigenous population. In fact, they consciously prevented the language from being spread by refusing to provide education, especially in Dutch, to the native Indonesians so they would not come to see themselves as equals.[29] Moreover, the Dutch wished to prevent the Indonesians from elevating their perceived social status by taking on elements of Dutch culture. Thus, until the 1930s, they maintained a minimalist regime and allowed Malay to spread quickly throughout the archipelago.

Dutch dominance at that time covered nearly all aspects, with official forums requiring the use of Dutch, although since the Second Youth Congress (1928) the use of Indonesian as the national language was agreed on as one of the tools in the independence struggle. As of it, Mohammad Hoesni Thamrin inveighed actions underestimating Indonesian. After some criticism and protests, the use of Indonesian was allowed since the Volksraad sessions held in July 1938.[31] By the time they tried to counter the spread of Malay by teaching Dutch to the natives, it was too late, and in 1942, the Japanese conquered Indonesia. The Japanese mandated that all official business be conducted in Indonesian and quickly outlawed the use of the Dutch language.[32] Three years later, the Indonesians themselves formally abolished the language and established bahasa Indonesia as the national language of the new nation.[33] The term bahasa Indonesia itself had been proposed by Mohammad Tabrani in 1926,[34] and Tabrani had further proposed the term over calling the language Malay language during the First Youth Congress in 1926.[3]

Indonesian language (old VOS spelling):
Jang dinamakan 'Bahasa Indonesia' jaitoe bahasa Melajoe jang soenggoehpoen pokoknja berasal dari 'Melajoe Riaoe' akan tetapi jang soedah ditambah, dioebah ataoe dikoerangi menoeroet keperloean zaman dan alam baharoe, hingga bahasa itoe laloe moedah dipakai oleh rakjat diseloeroeh Indonesia; pembaharoean bahasa Melajoe hingga menjadi bahasa Indonesia itoe haroes dilakoekan oleh kaoem ahli jang beralam baharoe, ialah alam kebangsaan Indonesia

Indonesian (modern EYD spelling):
Yang dinamakan 'Bahasa Indonesia' yaitu bahasa Melayu yang sungguhpun pokoknya berasal dari 'Melayu Riau' akan tetapi yang sudah ditambah, diubah atau dikurangi menurut keperluan zaman dan alam baru, hingga bahasa itu lalu mudah dipakai oleh rakyat di seluruh Indonesia; pembaharuan bahasa Melayu hingga menjadi bahasa Indonesia itu harus dilakukan oleh kaum ahli yang beralam baru, ialah alam kebangsaan Indonesia

"What is named as 'Indonesian language' is a true Malay language derived from 'Riau Malay' but which had been added, modified or subscribed according to the requirements of the new age and nature, until it was then used easily by people across Indonesia; the renewal of Malay language until it became Indonesian it had to be done by the experts of the new nature, the national nature of Indonesia"

— Ki Hajar Dewantara in the Congress of Indonesian Language I 1938, Solo[35][36]

Several years prior to the congress, Swiss linguist, Renward Brandstetter wrote An Introduction to Indonesian Linguistics in 4 essays from 1910 to 1915. The essays were translated into English in 1916. By "Indonesia", he meant the name of the geographical region, and by "Indonesian languages" he meant Malayo-Polynesian languages west of New Guinea, because by that time there was still no notion of Indonesian language.

Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana was a great promoter of the use and development of Indonesian and he was greatly exaggerating the decline of Dutch. Higher education was still in Dutch and many educated Indonesians were writing and speaking in Dutch in many situations (and were still doing so well after independence was achieved). He believed passionately in the need to develop Indonesian so that it could take its place as a fully adequate national language, able to replace Dutch as a means of entry into modern international culture. In 1933, he began the magazine Pujangga Baru (New Writer — Poedjangga Baroe in the original spelling) with co-editors Amir Hamzah and Armijn Pane. The language of Pujangga Baru came in for criticism from those associated with the more classical School Malay and it was accused of publishing Dutch written with an Indonesian vocabulary. Alisjahbana would no doubt have taken the criticism as a demonstration of his success. To him the language of Pujangga Baru pointed the way to the future, to an elaborated, Westernised language able to express all the concepts of the modern world. As an example, among the many innovations they condemned was use of the word bisa instead of dapat for 'can'. In Malay bisa meant only 'poison from an animal's bite' and the increasing use of Javanese bisa in the new meaning they regarded as one of the many threats to the language's purity. Unlike more traditional intellectuals, he did not look to Classical Malay and the past. For him, Indonesian was a new concept; a new beginning was needed and he looked to Western civilisation, with its dynamic society of individuals freed from traditional fetters, as his inspiration.[11]

The prohibition on use of Dutch led to an expansion of Indonesian language newspapers and pressure on them to increase the language's wordstock. The Japanese agreed to the establishment of the Komisi Bahasa (Language Commission) in October 1942, formally headed by three Japanese but with a number of prominent Indonesian intellectuals playing the major part in its activities. Soewandi, later to be Minister of Education and Culture, was appointed secretary, Alisjahbana was appointed an 'expert secretary' and other members included the future president and vice-president, Sukarno and Hatta. Journalists, beginning a practice that has continued to the present, did not wait for the Komisi Bahasa to provide new words, but actively participated themselves in coining terms. Many of the Komisi Bahasa's terms never found public acceptance and after the Japanese period were replaced by the original Dutch forms, including jantera (Sanskrit for 'wheel'), which temporarily replaced mesin (machine), ketua negara (literally 'chairman of state'), which had replaced presiden (president) and kilang (meaning 'mill'), which had replaced pabrik (factory). In a few cases, however, coinings permanently replaced earlier Dutch terms, including pajak (earlier meaning 'monopoly') instead of belasting (tax) and senam (meaning 'exercise') instead of gimnastik (gymnastics). The Komisi Bahasa is said to have coined more than 7000 terms, although few of these gained common acceptance.[11]

Adoption as the national language

The Youth Pledge was the result of the Second Youth Congress held in Batavia in October 1928. On the last pledge, there was an affirmation of Indonesian language as a unifying language throughout the archipelago.

The adoption of Indonesian as the country's national language was in contrast to most other post-colonial states. Neither the language with the most native speakers (Javanese) nor the language of the former European colonial power (Dutch) was to be adopted. Instead, a local language with far fewer native speakers than the most widely spoken local language was chosen (nevertheless, Malay was the second most widely spoken language in the colony after Javanese, and had many L2 speakers using it for trade, administration, and education).

In 1945, when Indonesia declared its independence, Indonesian was formally declared the national language,[8] despite being the native language of only about 5% of the population. In contrast, Javanese and Sundanese were the mother tongues of 42–48% and 15% respectively.[37] The combination of nationalistic, political, and practical concerns ultimately led to the successful adoption of Indonesian as a national language. In 1945, Javanese was easily the most prominent language in Indonesia. It was the native language of nearly half the population, the primary language of politics and economics, and the language of courtly, religious, and literary tradition.[29] What it lacked, however, was the ability to unite the diverse Indonesian population as a whole. With thousands of islands and hundreds of different languages, the newly independent country of Indonesia had to find a national language that could realistically be spoken by the majority of the population and that would not divide the nation by favouring one ethnic group, namely the Javanese, over the others. In 1945, Indonesian was already in widespread use;[37] in fact, it had been for roughly a thousand years. Over that long period, Malay, which would later become standardized as Indonesian, was the primary language of commerce and travel. It was also the language used for the propagation of Islam in the 13th to 17th centuries, as well as the language of instruction used by Portuguese and Dutch missionaries attempting to convert the indigenous people to Christianity.[29] The combination of these factors meant that the language was already known to some degree by most of the population, and it could be more easily adopted as the national language than perhaps any other. Moreover, it was the language of the sultanate of Brunei and of future Malaysia, on which some Indonesian nationalists had claims.

Over the first 53 years of Indonesian independence, the country's first two presidents, Sukarno and Suharto constantly nurtured the sense of national unity embodied by Indonesian, and the language remains an essential component of Indonesian identity. Through a language planning program that made Indonesian the language of politics, education, and nation-building in general, Indonesian became one of the few success stories of an indigenous language effectively overtaking that of a country's colonisers to become the de jure and de facto official language.[33] Today, Indonesian continues to function as the language of national identity as the Congress of Indonesian Youth envisioned, and also serves as the language of education, literacy, modernization, and social mobility.[33] Despite still being a second language to most Indonesians, it is unquestionably the language of the Indonesian nation as a whole, as it has had unrivalled success as a factor in nation-building and the strengthening of Indonesian identity.

Modern and colloquial Indonesian

Road signs in an airport terminal
Toll gate in Bali
Indonesian language used on a Kopaja bus advertisement

Indonesian is spoken as a mother tongue and national language. Over 200 million people regularly make use of the national language, with varying degrees of proficiency. In a nation that is home to more than 700 native languages and a vast array of ethnic groups, it plays an important unifying and cross-archipelagic role for the country. Use of the national language is abundant in the media, government bodies, schools, universities, workplaces, among members of the upper-class or nobility and also in formal situations, despite the 2010 census showing only 19.94% of over-five-year-olds speak mainly Indonesian at home.[38]

Standard Indonesian is used in books and newspapers and on television/radio news broadcasts. The standard dialect, however, is rarely used in daily conversations, being confined mostly to formal settings. While this is a phenomenon common to most languages in the world (for example, spoken English does not always correspond to its written standards), the proximity of spoken Indonesian (in terms of grammar and vocabulary) to its normative form is noticeably low. This is mostly due to Indonesians combining aspects of their own local languages (e.g., Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese) with Indonesian. This results in various vernacular varieties of Indonesian, the very types that a foreigner is most likely to hear upon arriving in any Indonesian city or town.[39] This phenomenon is amplified by the use of Indonesian slang, particularly in the cities. Unlike the relatively uniform standard variety, Vernacular Indonesian exhibits a high degree of geographical variation, though Colloquial Jakartan Indonesian functions as the de facto norm of informal language and is a popular source of influence throughout the archipelago.[17] There is language shift of first language among Indonesian into Indonesian from other language in Indonesia caused by ethnic diversity than urbanicity.[40]

The most common and widely used colloquial Indonesian is heavily influenced by the Betawi language, a Malay-based creole of Jakarta, amplified by its popularity in Indonesian popular culture in mass media and Jakarta's status as the national capital. In informal spoken Indonesian, various words are replaced with those of a less formal nature. For example, tidak (no) is often replaced with the Betawi form nggak or the even simpler gak/ga, while seperti (like, similar to) is often replaced with kayak [kajaʔ]. Sangat or amat (very), the term to express intensity, is often replaced with the Javanese-influenced banget. As for pronunciation, the diphthongs ai and au on the end of base words are typically pronounced as /e/ and /o/. In informal writing, the spelling of words is modified to reflect the actual pronunciation in a way that can be produced with less effort. For example, capai becomes cape or capek, pakai becomes pake, kalau becomes kalo. In verbs, the prefix me- is often dropped, although an initial nasal consonant is often retained, as when mengangkat becomes ngangkat (the basic word is angkat). The suffixes -kan and -i are often replaced by -in. For example, mencarikan becomes nyariin, menuruti becomes nurutin. The latter grammatical aspect is one often closely related to the Indonesian spoken in Jakarta and its surrounding areas.

Classification and related languages

Malay historical linguists agree on the likelihood of the Malay homeland being in western Borneo stretching to the Bruneian coast.[41] A form known as Proto-Malay language was spoken in Borneo at least by 1000 BCE and was, it has been argued, the ancestral language of all subsequent Malayan languages. Its ancestor, Proto-Malayo-Polynesian, a descendant of the Proto-Austronesian language, began to break up by at least 2000 BCE, possibly as a result of the southward expansion of Austronesian peoples into Maritime Southeast Asia from the island of Taiwan.[42] Indonesian, which originated from Malay, is a member of the Austronesian family of languages, which includes languages from Southeast Asia, the Pacific Ocean and Madagascar, with a smaller number in continental Asia. It has a degree of mutual intelligibility with the Malaysian standard of Malay, which is officially known there as bahasa Malaysia, despite the numerous lexical differences.[43] However, vernacular varieties spoken in Indonesia and Malaysia share limited intelligibility, which is evidenced by the fact that Malaysians have difficulties understanding Indonesian sinetron (soap opera) aired on Malaysia TV stations, and vice versa.[44]

Malagasy, a geographic outlier spoken in Madagascar in the Indian Ocean; the Philippines national language, Filipino; Formosan in Taiwan's aboriginal population; and the native Māori language of New Zealand are also members of this language family. Although each language of the family is mutually unintelligible, their similarities are rather striking. Many roots have come virtually unchanged from their common ancestor, Proto-Austronesian language. There are many cognates found in the languages' words for kinship, health, body parts and common animals. Numbers, especially, show remarkable similarities.

Numbers in Austronesian languages
Language 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
PAN, c. 4000 BCE *isa *DuSa *telu *Sepat *lima *enem *pitu *walu *Siwa *puluq
Malay/Indonesian satu dua tiga empat lima enam tujuh lapan/delapan sembilan sepuluh
Amis cecay tusa tulu sepat lima enem pitu falu siwa pulu'
Sundanese hiji dua tilu opat lima genep tujuh dalapan salapan sapuluh
Tsou coni yuso tuyu sʉptʉ eimo nomʉ pitu voyu sio maskʉ
Tagalog isá dalawá tatló ápat limá ánim pitó waló siyám sampu
Ilocano maysá dua talló uppát limá inném pitó waló siam sangapúlo
Cebuano usá duhá tuló upat limá unom pitó waló siyám napulu
Hiligaynon isá duwá tatló apat limá anom pitó waló siyám pulo
Chamorro maisa/håcha hugua tulu fatfat lima gunum fiti guålu sigua månot/fulu
Malagasy iray/isa roa telo efatra dimy enina fito valo sivy folo
Cham sa dua klau pak limâ nam tajuh dalipan thalipan pluh
Toba Batak sada dua tolu opat lima onom pitu ualu sia sampulu
Minangkabau ciek duo tigo ampek limo anam tujuah salapan sambilan sapuluah
Rejang[45] do duai tlau pat lêmo num tujuak dêlapên sêmbilan sêpuluak
Javanese siji loro telu papat lima nem pitu wolu sanga sepuluh
Tetun ida rua tolu hat lima nen hitu ualu sia sanulu
Biak eser/oser suru kyor fyak rim wonem fik war siw samfur
Fijian dua rua tolu lima ono vitu walu ciwa tini
Kiribati teuana uoua teniua aua nimaua onoua itiua waniua ruaiua tebuina
Samoan tasi lua tolu lima ono fitu valu iva sefulu
Hawaiian kahi lua kolu lima ono hiku walu iwa -'umi

There are more than 700 local languages in Indonesian islands, such as Javanese, Sundanese, etc. While Malay as the source of Indonesian is the mother tongue of ethnic Malay who lives along the east coast of Sumatra, in the Riau Archipelago, and on the south and west coast of Kalimantan (Borneo). There are several areas, such as Jakarta, Manado, Lesser Sunda islands, and Mollucas which has Malay-based trade languages. Thus, a large proportion of Indonesian, at least, use two language daily, those are Indonesian and local languages. When two languages are used by the same people in this way, they are likely to influence each other.[46]

Aside from local languages, Dutch made the highest contribution to the Indonesian vocabulary, due to the Dutch colonization over three centuries, from the 16th century until the mid-20th century.[47][48][46] Asian languages also influenced the language, with Chinese influencing Indonesian during the 15th and 16th centuries due to the spice trade; Sanskrit, Tamil, Prakrit and Hindi contributing during the flourishing of Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms from the 2nd to the 14th century; followed by Arabic after the spread of Islam in the archipelago in the 13th century.[49] Loanwords from Portuguese were mainly connected with articles that the early European traders and explorers brought to Southeast Asia. Indonesian also receives many English words as a result of globalization and modernization, especially since the 1990s, as far as the Internet's emergence and development until the present day.[50] Some Indonesian words correspond to Malay loanwords in English, among them the common words orangutan, gong, bamboo, rattan, sarong, and the less common words such as paddy, sago and kapok, all of which were inherited in Indonesian from Malay but borrowed from Malay in English. The phrase "to run amok" comes from the Malay verb amuk (to run out of control, to rage).[51][52][53][54]

Indonesian is neither a pidgin nor a creole since its characteristics do not meet any of the criteria for either. It is believed that the Indonesian language was one of the means to achieve independence, but it is opened to receive vocabulary from other foreign languages aside from Malay that it has made contact with since the colonialism era, such as Dutch, English and Arabic among others, as the loan words keep increasing each year.[55]

Geographical distribution

In 2010, Indonesian had 42.8 million native speakers and 154.9 million second-language speakers,[1] who speak it alongside their local mother tongue, giving a total number of speakers in Indonesia of 197.7 million.[1] It is common as a first language in urban areas, and as a second language by those residing in more rural parts of Indonesia.

The VOA and BBC use Indonesian as their standard for broadcasting in Malay.[56][57] In Australia, Indonesian is one of three Asian target languages, together with Japanese and Mandarin, taught in some schools as part of the Languages Other Than English programme.[58] Indonesian has been taught in Australian schools and universities since the 1950s.[59]

In East Timor, which was occupied by Indonesia between 1975 and 1999, Indonesian is recognized by the constitution as one of the two working languages (the other being English), alongside the official languages of Tetum and Portuguese.[7] It is understood by the Malay people of Australia's Cocos Keeling Islands in the Indian Ocean, also in some parts of the Sulu area of the southern Philippines and traces of it are to be found among people of Malay descent in Sri Lanka, South Africa, and other places.[14]

Indonesian as a foreign language

Indonesian is taught as a foreign language in schools, universities and institutions around the world, especially in Australia, the Netherlands, Japan, South Korea, Timor-Leste, Vietnam, Taiwan, the United States, and the United Kingdom.[60][61][62][63][64][65][66][67][68][69][non-primary source needed]

Official status

Indonesian is also the language of Indonesian mass media, such as magazines. Printed and broadcast mass media are encouraged to use standard Indonesian, although more relaxed popular slang often prevails.

Indonesian is the official language of Indonesia, and its use is encouraged throughout the Indonesian archipelago. It is regulated in Chapter XV, 1945 Constitution of Indonesia about the flag, official language, coat of arms, and national anthem of Indonesia.[8] Also, in Chapter III, Section 25 to 45, Government regulation No. 24/ 2009 mentions explicitly the status of the Indonesian language.[70]

The national language is Indonesian.

— Article 36, Chapter XV, Constitution of Indonesia[8]

Indonesian functions as a symbol of national identity and pride, and is a lingua franca among the diverse ethnic groups in Indonesia and the speakers of vernacular Malay dialects and Malay creoles. The Indonesian language serves as the national and official language, the language of education, communication, transaction and trade documentation, the development of national culture, science, technology, and mass media. It also serves as a vehicle of communication among the provinces and different regional cultures in the country.[70]

Indonesian is used in schools.

According to Indonesian law, the Indonesian language was proclaimed as the unifying language during the Youth Pledge on 28 October 1928 and developed further to accommodate the dynamics of Indonesian civilization.[70] As mentioned previously, the language was based on Riau Malay,[4][71] though linguists note that this is not the local dialect of Riau, but the Malaccan dialect that was used in the Riau court.[21] Since its conception in 1928 and its official recognition in the 1945 Constitution, the Indonesian language has been loaded with a nationalist political agenda to unify Indonesia (former Dutch East Indies). This status has made it relatively open to accommodate influences from other Indonesian ethnic languages, most notably Javanese as the majority ethnic group, and Dutch as the previous coloniser. Compared to the indigenous dialects of Malay spoken in Sumatra and Malay peninsula or the normative Malaysian standard, the Indonesian language differs profoundly by a large amount of Javanese loanwords incorporated into its already-rich vocabulary. As a result, Indonesian has more extensive sources of loanwords, compared to Malaysian Malay.

The disparate evolution of Indonesian and Malaysian has led to a rift between the two standardized varieties. This has been based more upon political nuance and the history of their standardization than cultural reasons, and as a result, there are asymmetrical views regarding each other's variety among Malaysians and Indonesians. Malaysians tend to assert that Malaysian and Indonesian are merely different normative varieties of the same language, while Indonesians tend to treat them as separate, albeit closely related, languages. Consequently, Indonesians feel little need to harmonise their language with Malaysia and Brunei, whereas Malaysians are keener to coordinate the evolution of the language with Indonesians,[72] although the 1972 Indonesian alphabet reform was seen mainly as a concession of Dutch-based Indonesian to the English-based spelling of Malaysian.

In November 2023, the Indonesian language was recognised as one of the official languages of the UNESCO General Conference. Currently there are 10 official languages of the UNESCO General Conference, consisting of the six United Nations languages, namely English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish, as well as four other languages of UNESCO member countries, namely Hindi, Italian, Portuguese, and Indonesian.[73][74]

Official policy

As regulated by Indonesian state law UU No 24/2009, other than state official speeches and documents between or issued to Indonesian government, Indonesian language is required by law to be used in:[75]

  1. Official speeches by the president, vice president, and other state officials delivered within or outside Indonesia
  2. Agreements involving either government, private institutions, or individuals
  3. National or international forums held in Indonesia
  4. Scientific papers and publications in Indonesia
  5. Geographical names in Indonesia (name of buildings, roads, offices, complexes, institutions)
  6. Public signs, road signs, public facilities, banners, and other information of public services in public area.
  7. Information through mass media

However, other languages may be used in dual-language setting to accompany but not to replace Indonesian language in: agreements, information regarding goods / services, scientific papers, information through mass media, geographical names, public signs, road signs, public facilities, banners, and other information of public services in public area.[75]

While there are no sanctions of the uses of other languages,[75] in Indonesian court's point of view, any agreements made in Indonesia but not drafted in Indonesian language, is null and void.[76] In any different interpretations in dual-language agreements setting, Indonesian language shall prevail.[77]



Indonesian has six vowel phonemes as shown in the table below.[78][79]

Indonesian vowel phonemes
Front Central Back
Close /i/ /u/
Close-Mid /e/ /ə/ /o/
Open /a/

In standard Indonesian orthography, the Latin alphabet is used, and five vowels are distinguished: a, i, u, e, o. In materials for learners, the mid-front vowel /e/ is sometimes represented with a diacritic as ⟨é⟩ to distinguish it from the mid-central vowel ⟨ê⟩ /ə/. Since 2015, the auxiliary graphemes ⟨é⟩ and ⟨è⟩ are used respectively for phonetic [e] and [ɛ] in Indonesian, while Standard Malay has rendered both of them as ⟨é⟩.[80]

The phonetic realization of the mid vowels /e/ and /o/ ranges from close-mid ([e]/[o]) to open-mid ([ɛ]/[ɔ]) allophones. Some analyses set up a system which treats the open-mid vowels /ɛ/ and /ɔ/ as distinct phonemes.[81] Poedjosoedarmo argued the split of the front mid vowels in Indonesian is due to Javanese influence which exhibits a difference between ⟨i⟩ [i], ⟨é⟩ [e] and è [ɛ]. Another example of Javanese influence in Indonesian is the split of back mid vowels into two allophones of [o] and [ɔ]. These splits (and loanwords) increase instances of doublets in Indonesian, such as ⟨satai⟩ and ⟨saté⟩. Javanese words adopted into Indonesian have greatly increased the frequency of Indonesian ⟨é⟩ and ⟨o⟩.[46]

High vowels (⟨i⟩, ⟨u⟩) could not appear in a final syllable in traditional Malay if a mid-vowel (⟨e⟩, ⟨o⟩) happened in the previous syllable, and mid-vowels could not occur in the final syllable if a high vowel was present in the second-to-last syllable.[11]

Traditional Malay does not allow the mid-central schwa vowel to occur in consonant open or closed word-final syllables. The schwa vowel was introduced in closed syllables under the influence of Javanese and Jakarta Malay, but Dutch borrowings made it more acceptable. Although Alisjahbana argued against it, insisting on writing ⟨a⟩ instead of an ⟨ê⟩ in final syllables such as koda (vs kodə 'code') and nasionalisma (vs nasionalismə 'nationalism'), he was unsuccessful.[11] This spelling convention was instead survived in Balinese orthography.


Indonesian has four diphthong phonemes only in open syllables.[82] They are:

  • /ai̯/: kedai ('shop'), pandai ('clever')
  • /au̯/: kerbau ('buffalo'), limau ('lime')
  • /oi̯/ (or /ʊi̯/ in Indonesian): amboi ('wow'), toilet ('toilet')
  • /ei̯/: survei ('survey'), geiser ('geyser')

Some analyses assume that these diphthongs are actually a monophthong followed by an approximant, so ⟨ai⟩ represents /aj/, ⟨au⟩ represents /aw/, and ⟨oi⟩ represents /oj/. On this basis, there are no phonological diphthongs in Indonesian.[83]

Diphthongs are differentiated from two vowels in two syllables, such as:

  • /a.i/: e.g. lain ('other') [la.in], air ('water') [a.ir]
  • /a.u/: bau ('smell') [ba.u], laut ('sea') [la.ut]


Indonesian consonant phonemes
Labial Dental/
Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
voiceless p t͡ʃ k (ʔ)
voiced b d d͡ʒ ɡ
Fricative voiceless (f) s (ʃ) (x) h
voiced (v) (z)
Approximant w l j
Trill r

The consonants of Indonesian are shown above.[78][84] Non-native consonants that only occur in borrowed words, principally from Arabic and English, are shown in parentheses. Some analyses list 19 "primary consonants" for Indonesian as the 18 symbols that are not in parentheses in the table as well as the glottal stop [ʔ]. The secondary consonants /f/, /v/, /z/, /ʃ/ and /x/ only appear in loanwords. Some speakers pronounce /v/ in loanwords as [v], otherwise it is [f]. Likewise, /x/ may be replaced with [h] or [k] by some speakers. /ʃ/ is sometimes replaced with /s/, which was traditionally used as a substitute for /ʃ/ in older borrowings from Sanskrit, and /f/ is rarely replaced, though /p/ was substituted for /f/ in older borrowings such as kopi "coffee" from Dutch koffie. /z/ may occasionally be replaced with /s/ or /d͡ʒ/. [z] can also be an allophone of /s/ before voiced consonants.[85][86] According to some analyses, postalveolar affricates // and // are instead palatals [c] and [ɟ] in Indonesian.[87]

The consonants in Indonesian are influenced by other important languages in Indonesian history. The influences included schwa in final closed syllable (e.g. Indonesian pəcəl vs Malay pəcal), initial homorganic nasal stop clusters of ⟨mb⟩, ⟨nd⟩, and ⟨nj⟩ (e.g. Indonesian mbolos 'to malinger'), the consonant-semivowel clusters (e.g. Indonesian pria vs Malay pəria 'male'),[clarification needed] introduction of consonant clusters ⟨-ry-⟩ and ⟨-ly-⟩ (e.g. Indonesian gərilya vs Malay gərila 'guerrilla'), increased usage of initial ⟨w-⟩ (e.g. warta and bərita 'news') and intervocalic ⟨w-⟩, and increase of initial and post-consonant ⟨y⟩ [j]. These changes resulted from influences of local languages in Indonesia, such as Balinese, Madurese, Sundanese and especially Javanese, and foreign languages such as Arabic and Dutch.[46]

Orthographic note:

The sounds are represented orthographically by their symbols as above, except:

  • /ɲ/ is written ⟨ny⟩.
  • /ŋ/ is written ⟨ng⟩.
  • The glottal stop [ʔ] is written as a final ⟨k⟩, an apostrophe ⟨'⟩ (the use ⟨k⟩ from its being an allophone of /k/ or /ɡ/ in the syllable coda), or it can be unwritten.
  • // is written ⟨c⟩.
  • // is written ⟨j⟩.
  • /ʃ/ is written ⟨sy⟩.
  • /x/ is written ⟨kh⟩.
  • /j/ is written ⟨y⟩.


Indonesian has light stress that falls on either the final or penultimate syllable, depending on regional variations as well as the presence of the schwa (/ə/) in a word. It is generally the penultimate syllable that is stressed, unless its vowel is a schwa /ə/. If the penult has a schwa, then stress usually moves to the final syllable.[88]

However, there is some disagreement among linguists over whether stress is phonemic (unpredictable), with some analyses suggesting that there is no underlying stress in Indonesian.[84][89][90]


The classification of languages based on rhythm can be problematic.[91] Nevertheless, acoustic measurements suggest that Indonesian has more syllable-based rhythm than British English,[92] even though doubts remain about whether the syllable is the appropriate unit for the study of Malay prosody.[89]


Word order in Indonesian is generally subject-verb-object (SVO), similar to that of most modern European languages as well as English. However, considerable flexibility in word ordering exists, in contrast with languages such as Japanese or Korean, for instance, which always end clauses with verbs. Indonesian, while allowing for relatively flexible word orderings, does not mark for grammatical case, nor does it make use of grammatical gender.


Indonesian words are composed of a root or a root plus derivational affixes. The root is the primary lexical unit of a word and is usually bisyllabic, of the shape CV(C)CV(C). Affixes are "glued" onto roots (which are either nouns or verbs) to alter or expand the primary meaning associated with a given root, effectively generating new words, for example, masak (to cook) may become memasak (cooking), memasakkan (cook for), dimasak (be cooked), pemasak (a cook), masakan (a meal, cookery), termasak (accidentally cooked). There are four types of affixes: prefixes (awalan), suffixes (akhiran), circumfixes (apitan) and infixes (sisipan). Affixes are categorized into noun, verb, and adjective affixes. Many initial consonants alternate in the presence of prefixes: sapu (to sweep) becomes menyapu (sweeps/sweeping); panggil (to call) becomes memanggil (calls/calling), tapis (to sieve) becomes menapis (sieves).

Other examples of the use of affixes to change the meaning of a word can be seen with the word ajar (to teach):

  • ajar = to teach
  • ajari = to teach (imperative, locative)
  • ajarilah = to teach (jussive, locative)
  • ajarkan = to teach (imperative, causative/applicative)
  • ajarkanlah = to teach (jussive, causative/applicative)
  • ajarlah = to teach (jussive, active)
  • ajaran = teachings
  • belajar = to learn (intransitive, active)
  • diajar = to be taught (intransitive)
  • diajari = to be taught (transitive, locative)
  • diajarkan = to be taught (transitive, causative/applicative)
  • dipelajari = to be studied (locative)
  • dipelajarkan = to be studied (causative/applicative)
  • mempelajari = to study (locative)
  • mempelajarkan = to study (causative/applicative)
  • mengajar = to teach (intransitive, active)
  • mengajarkan = to teach (transitive, casuative/applicative)
  • mengajari = to teach (transitive, locative)
  • pelajar = student
  • pelajari = to study (imperative, locative)
  • pelajarilah = to study (jussive, locative)
  • pelajarkan = to study (imperative, causative/applicative)
  • pelajarkanlah = to study (jussive, causative/applicative)
  • pengajar = teacher, someone who teaches
  • pelajaran = subject, education
  • pelajari = to study (jussive, locative)
  • pelajarkan = to study (jussive, causative/applicative)
  • pengajaran = lesson
  • pembelajaran = learning
  • terajar = to be taught (accidentally)
  • terajari = to be taught (accidentally, locative)
  • terajarkan = to be taught (accidentally, causative/applicative)
  • terpelajar = well-educated, literally "been taught"
  • terpelajari = been taught (locative)
  • terpelajarkan = been taught (causative/applicative)
  • berpelajaran = is educated, literally "has education"

-Kan and -i both increase the valency of verbs, but -i should be used "if [the verb] is directly followed by an animate object."[93]

Noun affixes

Noun affixes are affixes that form nouns upon addition to root words. The following are examples of noun affixes:

Type of noun affixes Affix Example of root word Example of derived word
Prefix pə(r)- ~ pəng- duduk (sit) penduduk (population)
kə- hendak (want) kehendak (desire)
Infix ⟨əl⟩ tunjuk (point) telunjuk (index finger, command)
⟨əm⟩ kelut (dishevelled) kemelut (chaos, crisis)
⟨ər⟩ gigi (teeth) gerigi (toothed blade)
Suffix -an bangun (wake up, raise) bangunan (building)
Circumfix kə-...-an raja (king) kerajaan (kingdom)
kerja (work) pekerjaan (occupation)

The prefix per- drops its r before r, l and frequently before p, t, k. In some words it is peng-; though formally distinct, these are treated as variants of the same prefix in Indonesian grammar books.

Verb affixes

Similarly, verb affixes in Indonesian are attached to root words to form verbs. In Indonesian, there are:

Type of verb affixes Affix Example of root word Example of derived word
Prefix bər- ajar (teach) belajar (to study)[94]
məng- tolong (help) menolong (to help)
di- ambil (take) diambil (be taken)
məmpər- panjang (length) memperpanjang (to lengthen)
dipər- dalam (deep) diperdalam (be deepened)
tər- makan (eat) termakan (to have accidentally eaten)
Suffix -kan letak (place, keep) letakkan (keep, put)
-i jauh (far) jauhi (avoid)
Circumfix bər-...-an pasang (pair) berpasangan (in pairs)
bər-...-kan dasar (base) berdasarkan (based on)
məng-...-kan pasti (sure) memastikan (to make sure)
məng-...-i teman (company) menemani (to accompany)
məmpər-...-kan guna (use) mempergunakan (to utilise, to exploit)
məmpər-...-i ajar (teach) mempelajari (to study)
kə-...-an hilang (disappear) kehilangan (to lose)
di-...-i sakit (pain) disakiti (to be hurt by)
di-...-kan benar (right) dibenarkan (is allowed to)
dipər-...-kan kenal (know, recognise) diperkenalkan (is being introduced)

Adjective affixes

Adjective affixes are attached to root words to form adjectives:

Type of adjective affixes Affix Example of root word Example of derived word
Prefix tər- panas (hot) terpanas (hottest)
sə- baik (good) sebaik (as good as)
Infix ⟨əl⟩ serak (disperse) selerak (messy)
⟨əm⟩ cerlang (radiant bright) cemerlang (bright, excellent)
⟨ər⟩ sabut (husk) serabut (dishevelled)
Circumfix kə-...-an barat (west) kebaratan (westernized)

In addition to these affixes, Indonesian also has a lot of borrowed affixes from other languages such as Sanskrit, Arabic and English. For example, maha-, pasca-, eka-, bi-, anti-, pro- etc.


Common derivational affixes for nouns are peng-/per-/juru- (actor, instrument, or someone characterized by the root), -an (collectivity, similarity, object, place, instrument), ke-...-an (abstractions and qualities, collectivities), per-/peng-...-an (abstraction, place, goal or result).


Indonesian does not make use of grammatical gender, and there are only selected words that use natural gender. For instance, the same word is used for he/him and she/her (dia or ia) or for his and her (dia, ia or -nya). No real distinction is made between "girlfriend" and "boyfriend", both of which can be referred to as pacar (although more colloquial terms as cewek girl/girlfriend and cowok boy/boyfriend can also be found). A majority of Indonesian words that refer to people generally have a form that does not distinguish between the sexes. However, unlike English, distinction is made between older or younger.

There are some words that have gender: for instance, putri means "daughter" while putra means "son"; pramugara means "male flight attendant" while pramugari means "female flight attendant". Another example is olahragawan, which means "sportsman", versus olahragawati, meaning "sportswoman". Often, words like these (or certain suffixes such as "-a" and "-i" or "-wan" and "wati") are absorbed from other languages (in these cases, from Sanskrit). In some regions of Indonesia such as Sumatra and Jakarta, abang (a gender-specific term meaning "older brother") is commonly used as a form of address for older siblings/males, while kakak (a non-gender specific term meaning "older sibling") is often used to mean "older sister". Similarly, more direct influences from other languages, such as Javanese and Chinese, have also seen further use of other gendered words in Indonesian. For example: Mas ("older brother"), Mbak ("older sister"), Koko ("older brother") and Cici ("older sister").


Indonesian grammar does not regularly mark plurals. In Indonesian, to change a singular into a plural one either repeats the word or adds para before it (the latter for living things only); for example, "students" can be either murid-murid or para murid. Plurals are rarely used in Indonesian, especially in informal parlance. Reduplication is often mentioned as the formal way to express the plural form of nouns in Indonesian; however, in informal daily discourse, speakers of Indonesian usually use other methods to indicate the concept of something being "more than one". Reduplication may also indicate the conditions of variety and diversity as well, and not simply plurality.

Reduplication is commonly used to emphasise plurality; however, reduplication has many other functions. For example, orang-orang means "(all the) people", but orang-orangan means "scarecrow". Similarly, while hati means "heart" or "liver", hati-hati is a verb meaning "to be careful". Also, not all reduplicated words are inherently plural, such as orang-orangan "scarecrow/scarecrows", biri-biri "a/some sheep" and kupu-kupu "butterfly/butterflies". Some reduplication is rhyming rather than exact, as in sayur-mayur "(all sorts of) vegetables".

Distributive affixes derive mass nouns that are effectively plural: pohon "tree", pepohonan "flora, trees"; rumah "house", perumahan "housing, houses"; gunung "mountain", pegunungan "mountain range, mountains".

Quantity words come before the noun: seribu orang "a thousand people", beberapa pegunungan "a series of mountain ranges", beberapa kupu-kupu "some butterflies".

Plural in Indonesian serves just to explicitly mention the number of objects in sentence. For example, Ani membeli satu kilo mangga (Ani buys one kilogram of mangoes). In this case, "mangoes", which is plural, is not said as mangga-mangga because the plurality is implicit: the amount a kilogram means more than one mango rather than one giant mango. So, as it is logically, one does not change the singular into the plural form, because it is not necessary and considered a pleonasm (in Indonesian often called pemborosan kata).


Personal pronouns are not a separate part of speech, but a subset of nouns. They are frequently omitted, and there are numerous ways to say "you". Commonly the person's name, title, title with name, or occupation is used ("does Johnny want to go?", "would Madam like to go?"); kin terms, including fictive kinship, are extremely common. However, there are also dedicated personal pronouns, as well as the demonstrative pronouns ini "this, the" and itu "that, the".

Personal pronouns

From the perspective of a European language, Indonesian boasts a wide range of different pronouns, especially to refer to the addressee (the so-called second person pronouns). These are used to differentiate several parameters of the person they are referred to, such as the social rank and the relationship between the addressee and the speaker. Indonesian also exhibits pronoun avoidance, often preferring kinship terms and titles over pronouns, particularly for respectful forms of address.

The table below provides an overview of the most commonly and widely used pronouns in the Indonesian language:

Common pronouns
Person Respect Singular Plural
1st person exclusive Informal, Familiar aku I kami we
(s/he,they, not you)
Standard, Polite saya
1st person inclusive All kita we
(s/he,they, and you)
2nd person Familiar kamu, engkau, kau you kalian you all
Polite Anda Anda sekalian
3rd person Familiar dia, ia s/he, it mereka they
Polite beliau s/he
  • First person pronouns

Notable among the personal-pronoun system is a distinction between two forms of "we": kita (you and me, you and us) and kami (us, but not you). The distinction is not always followed in colloquial Indonesian.

Saya and aku are the two major forms of "I". Saya is the more formal form, whereas aku is used with family, friends, and between lovers. Sahaya is an old or literary form of saya. Sa(ha)ya may also be used for "we", but in such cases it is usually used with sekalian or semua "all"; this form is ambiguous as to whether it corresponds with inclusive kami or exclusive kita. Less common are hamba "slave", hamba tuan, hamba datuk (all extremely humble), beta (a royal addressing oneselves), patik (a commoner addressing a royal), kami (royal or editorial "we"), kita, təman, and kawan.

  • Second person pronouns

There are three common forms of "you", Anda (polite), kamu (familiar), and kalian "all" (commonly used as a plural form of you, slightly informal). Anda is used with strangers, recent acquaintances, in advertisements, in business, and when you wish to show distance, while kamu is used in situations where the speaker would use aku for "I". Anda sekalian is polite plural. Particularly in conversation, respectful titles like Bapak/Pak "father" (used for any older male), Ibu/Bu "mother" (any older woman), and tuan "sir" are often used instead of pronouns.[95][better source needed]

Engkau (əngkau), commonly shortened to kau.

  • Third person pronouns

The common word for "s/he" and "they" is ia, which has the object and emphatic/focused form dia. Bəliau "his/her Honour" is respectful. As with "you", names and kin terms are extremely common. Mereka "someone", mereka itu, or orang itu "those people" are used for "they".

  • Regional varieties

There are a large number of other words for "I" and "you", many regional, dialectical, or borrowed from local languages. Saudara "you" (male) and saudari (female) (plural saudara-saudara or saudari-saudari) show utmost respect. Daku "I" and dikau "you" are poetic or romantic. Indonesian gua "I" (from Hokkien Chinese: ; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: góa) and lu "you" (Chinese: ; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: ) are slang and extremely informal.

The pronouns aku, kamu, engkau, ia, kami, and kita are indigenous to Indonesian.

Possessive pronouns

Aku, kamu, engkau, and ia have short possessive enclitic forms. All others retain their full forms like other nouns, as does emphatic dia: meja saya, meja kita, meja anda, meja dia "my table, our table, your table, his/her table".

Possessed forms of meja "table"
Pronoun Enclitic Possessed form
aku -ku mejaku (my table)
kamu -mu mejamu (your table)
ia -nya mejanya (his, her, their table)

There are also proclitic forms of aku, ku- and kau-. These are used when there is no emphasis on the pronoun:

Ku-dengar raja itu menderita penyakit kulit. Aku mengetahui ilmu kedokteran. Aku-lah yang akan mengobati dia.
"It has come to my attention that the King has a skin disease. I am skilled in medicine. I will cure him."

Here ku-verb is used for a general report, aku verb is used for a factual statement, and emphatic aku-lah meng-verb (≈ "I am the one who...") for focus on the pronoun.[96]

Demonstrative pronouns

There are two demonstrative pronouns in Indonesian. Ini "this, these" is used for a noun which is generally near to the speaker. Itu "that, those" is used for a noun which is generally far from the speaker. Either may sometimes be equivalent to English "the". There is no difference between singular and plural. However, plural can be indicated through duplication of a noun followed by a ini or itu. The word yang "which" is often placed before demonstrative pronouns to give emphasis and a sense of certainty, particularly when making references or enquiries about something/ someone, like English "this one" or "that one".

Pronoun Indonesian English
ini buku ini This book, these books, the book(s)
buku-buku ini These books, (all) the books
itu kucing itu That cat, those cats, the cat(s)
kucing-kucing itu Those cats, the (various) cats
Pronoun + yang Example sentence English meaning
Yang ini Q: Anda mau membeli buku yang mana?

A: Saya mau yang ini.

Q: Which book do you wish to purchase?

A: I would like this one.

Yang itu Q: Kucing mana yang memakan tikusmu?

A: Yang itu!

Q: Which cat ate your mouse?

A: That one!


Verbs are not inflected for person or number, and they are not marked for tense; tense is instead denoted by time adverbs (such as "yesterday") or by other tense indicators, such as sudah "already" and belum "not yet". On the other hand, there is a complex system of verb affixes to render nuances of meaning and to denote voice or intentional and accidental moods. Some of these affixes are ignored in colloquial speech.

Examples of these are the prefixes di- (patient focus, traditionally called "passive voice", with OVA word order in the third person, and OAV in the first or second persons), meng- (agent focus, traditionally called "active voice", with AVO word order), memper- and diper- (causative, agent and patient focus), ber- (stative or habitual; intransitive VS order), and ter- (agentless actions, such as those which are involuntary, sudden, stative or accidental, for VA = VO order); the suffixes -kan (causative or benefactive) and -i (locative, repetitive, or exhaustive); and the circumfixes ber-...-an (plural subject, diffuse action) and ke-...-an (unintentional or potential action or state).

  • duduk to sit down
  • mendudukkan to sit someone down, give someone a seat, to appoint
  • menduduki to sit on, to occupy
  • didudukkan to be given a seat, to be appointed
  • diduduki to be sat on, to be occupied
  • terduduk to sink down, to come to sit
  • kedudukan to be situated

Forms in ter- and ke-...-an are often equivalent to adjectives in English.


Four words are used for negation in Indonesian, namely tidak, bukan, jangan, and belum.

  • Tidak (not), often shortened to tak, is used for the negation of verbs and "adjectives".
  • Bukan (be-not) is used in the negation of a noun.

For example:

Indonesian Gloss English
Saya tidak tahu (Saya gak/nga tahu(informal) I not know I do not know
Ibu saya tidak senang (Ibu saya gak/nga senang(informal)) mother I not be-happy My mother is not happy
Itu bukan anjing saya that be-not dog I That is not my dog


For negating imperatives or advising against certain actions in Indonesian, the word jangan (do not) is used before the verb. For example,

  • Jangan tinggalkan saya di sini!
Don't leave me here!
  • Jangan lakukan itu!
Don't do that!
  • Jangan! Itu tidak bagus untukmu.
Don't! That's not good for you.


There are grammatical adjectives in Indonesian. Stative verbs are often used for this purpose as well. Adjectives are always placed after the noun that they modify.

Indonesian Gloss English
Hutan hijau forest green (The) green forest
Hutan itu hijau forest that green That/the forest is green
Kereta yang merah carriage which red (The) carriage which is red = the red carriage
Kereta merah carriage red Red carriage
Dia orang yang terkenal sekali he/she person which famous very He/she is a very famous person
Orang terkenal person famous Famous person
Orang ini terkenal sekali person this famous very This person is very famous

To say that something "is" an adjective, the determiners "itu" and "ini" ("that" and "this") are often used. For example, in the sentence "anjing itu galak", the use of "itu" gives a meaning of "the/that dog is ferocious", while "anjing ini galak", gives a meaning of "this dog is ferocious". However, if "itu" or "ini" were not to be used, then "anjing galak" would only mean "ferocious dog", a plain adjective without any stative implications. The all-purpose determiner, "yang", is also often used before adjectives, hence "anjing yang galak" also means "ferocious dog" or more literally "dog which is ferocious"; "yang" will often be used for clarity. Hence, in a sentence such as "saya didekati oleh anjing galak" which means "I was approached by a ferocious dog", the use of the adjective "galak" is not stative at all.

Often the "ber-" intransitive verb prefix, or the "ter-" stative prefix is used to express the meaning of "to be...". For example, "beda" means "different", hence "berbeda" means "to be different"; "awan" means "cloud", hence "berawan" means "cloudy". Using the "ter-" prefix, implies a state of being. For example, "buka" means "open", hence "terbuka" means "is opened"; "tutup" means "closed/shut", hence "tertutup" means "is closed/shut".

Word order

Adjectives, demonstrative determiners, and possessive determiners follow the noun they modify.

Indonesian does not have a grammatical subject in the sense that English does. In intransitive clauses, the noun comes before the verb. When there is both an agent and an object, these are separated by the verb (OVA or AVO), with the difference encoded in the voice of the verb. OVA, commonly but inaccurately called "passive", is the basic and most common word order.

Either the agent or object or both may be omitted. This is commonly done to accomplish one of two things:

1) Adding a sense of politeness and respect to a statement or question

For example, a polite shop assistant in a store may avoid the use of pronouns altogether and ask:

Ellipses of pronoun (agent & object) Literal English Idiomatic English
Bisa dibantu? Can + to be helped? Can (I) help (you)?
2) Agent or object is unknown, not important, or understood from context

For example, a friend may enquire as to when you bought your property, to which you may respond:

Ellipses of pronoun (understood agent) Literal English Idiomatic English
Rumah ini dibeli lima tahun yang lalu House this + be purchased five-year(s) ago The house 'was purchased' five years ago

Ultimately, the choice of voice and therefore word order is a choice between actor and patient and depends quite heavily on the language style and context.


Word order is frequently modified for focus or emphasis, with the focused word usually placed at the beginning of the clause and followed by a slight pause (a break in intonation):

  • Saya pergi ke pasar kemarin "I went to the market yesterday" – neutral, or with focus on the subject.
  • Kemarin, saya pergi ke pasar "Yesterday I went to the market" – emphasis on yesterday.
  • Ke pasar, saya pergi kemarin "To the market I went yesterday" – emphasis on where I went yesterday.
  • Pergi ke pasar, saya, kemarin "To the market went I yesterday" – emphasis on the process of going to the market.

The last two are more likely to be encountered in speech than in writing.

Measure words

Another distinguishing feature of Indonesian is its use of measure words, also called classifiers (kata penggolong). In this way, it is similar to many other languages of Asia, including Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Burmese, and Bengali.

Measure words are also found in English such as two head of cattle or a loaf of bread, where *two cattle and a bread[a] would be ungrammatical. The word satu reduces to se- /sə/, as it does in other compounds:

Measure word Used for measuring Literal translation Example
buah things (in general), large things, abstract nouns
houses, cars, ships, mountains; books, rivers, chairs, some fruits, thoughts, etc.
'fruit' dua buah meja (two tables), lima buah rumah (five houses)
ekor animals 'tail' seekor ayam (a chicken), tiga ekor kambing (three goats)
orang human beings 'person' seorang laki-laki (a man), enam orang petani (six farmers), seratus orang murid (a hundred students)
biji smaller rounded objects
most fruits, cups, nuts
'grain' sebiji/ sebutir telur (an egg), sebutir/ butiran-butiran beras (rice or rices)
batang long stiff things
trees, walking sticks, pencils
'trunk, rod' sebatang tongkat (a stick)
həlai things in thin layers or sheets
paper, cloth, feathers, hair
'leaf' sepuluh helai pakaian (ten cloths)
kəping keping flat fragments, slabs of stone, pieces of wood, pieces of bread, land, coins, paper 'chip' sekeping uang logam (a coin)
pucuk letters, firearms, needles 'sprout' sepucuk senjata (a weapon)
bilah things which cut lengthwise and thicker 'blade' sebilah kayu (a piece of wood)
bidanɡ things shaped square or which can be measured with number 'field' sebidang tanah/lahan (an area)
potong things that are cut
'cut' sepotong roti (slices of bread)
utas nets, cords, ribbons 'thread' seutas tali (a rope)
carik things easily torn, like paper 'shred' secarik kertas (a piece of paper)

Example: Measure words are not necessary just to say "a": burung "a bird, birds". Using se- plus a measure word is closer to English "one" or "a certain":

Ada seekor burung yang bisa berbicara
"There was a (certain) bird that could talk"

Writing system

Indonesian is written with the Latin script. It was originally based on the Dutch spelling and still bears some similarities to it. Consonants are represented in a way similar to Italian, although ⟨c⟩ is always /tʃ/ (like English ⟨ch⟩), ⟨g⟩ is always /ɡ/ ("hard") and ⟨j⟩ represents /dʒ/ as it does in English. In addition, ⟨ny⟩ represents the palatal nasal /ɲ/, ⟨ng⟩ is used for the velar nasal /ŋ/ (which can occur word-initially), ⟨sy⟩ for /ʃ/ (English ⟨sh⟩) and ⟨kh⟩ for the voiceless velar fricative /x/. Both /e/ and /ə/ are represented with ⟨e⟩.

Spelling changes in the language that have occurred since Indonesian independence include:

Phoneme Obsolete
/u/ oe u
// tj c
// dj j
/j/ j y
/ɲ/ nj ny
/ʃ/ sj sy
/x/ ch kh

Introduced in 1901, the van Ophuijsen system (named from the advisor of the system, Charles Adriaan van Ophuijsen) was the first standardization of romanized spelling. It was most influenced by the then current Dutch spelling system and based on the dialect of Malay spoken in Johor.[97] In 1947, the spelling was changed into Republican Spelling or Soewandi Spelling (named by at the time Minister of Education, Soewandi). This spelling changed formerly spelled oe into u (however, the spelling influenced other aspects in orthography, for example writing reduplicated words). All of the other changes were a part of the Perfected Spelling System, an officially mandated spelling reform in 1972. Some of the old spellings (which were derived from Dutch orthography) do survive in proper names; for example, the name of a former president of Indonesia is still sometimes written Soeharto, and the central Java city of Yogyakarta is sometimes written Jogjakarta. In time, the spelling system is further updated and the latest update of Indonesian spelling system issued on 16 August 2022 by Head of Language Development and Fostering Agency decree No 0424/I/BS.00.01/2022.[82]

Letter names and pronunciations

The Indonesian alphabet is exactly the same as in ISO basic Latin alphabet.

Majuscule Forms
Minuscule Forms
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Indonesian follows the letter names of the Dutch alphabet. Indonesian alphabet has a phonemic orthography; words are spelled the way they are pronounced, with few exceptions. The letters Q, V and X are rarely encountered, being chiefly used for writing loanwords.

Letter Name (in IPA) Sound (in IPA) English equivalent
Aa a (/a/) /a/ a as in father
Bb be (/be/) /b/ b as in bed
Cc ce (/t͡ʃe/) /t͡ʃ/ ch as in check
Dd de (/de/) /d/ d as in day
Ee e (/e/) /e/ e as in red
Ff ef (/ef/) /f/ f as in effort
Gg ge (/ge/) /ɡ/ g as in gain
Hh ha (/ha/) /h/ h as in harm
Ii i (/i/) /i/ ee as in see
Jj je (/d͡ʒe/) /d͡ʒ/ j as in jam
Kk ka (/ka/) /k/ k as in karma
Ll el (/el/) /l/ l as in else
Mm em (/em/) /m/ m as in empty
Nn en (/en/) /n/ n as in energy
Oo o (/o/) /o/ o as in owe
Pp pe (/pe/) /p/ p as in pet
Qq qi or qiu (/ki/ or /kiu̯/) /k/ q as in queue
Rr er (/er/) /r/ Spanish rr as in perro
Ss es (/es/) /s/ s as in establish
Tt te (/te/) /t/ t as in text
Uu u (/u/) /u/ oo as in pool
Vv ve (/ve/ or /fe/) /v/ or /f/ v as in vest
Ww we (/we/) /w/ w as in wet
Xx ex (/eks/) /ks/ or /s/ x as in ex
Yy ye (/je/) /j/ y as in yes
Zz zet (/zet/) /z/ z as in zebra

In addition, there are digraphs that are not considered separate letters of the alphabet:[98]

Digraph Sound English equivalent
ai /aɪ/ uy as in buy
au /aʊ/ ou as in ouch
oi /oɪ/ oy as in boy
ei /eɪ/ ey as in survey
gh /ɣ/ or /x/ similar to Dutch and German ch, but voiced
kh /x/ ch as in loch
ng /ŋ/ ng as in sing
ny /ɲ/ Spanish ñ; similar to ny as in canyon with a nasal sound
sy /ʃ/ sh as in shoe


Pie chart showing percentage of other languages contribute on loan words of Indonesian language

  Dutch (42.5%)
  English (20.9%)
  Arabic (19%)
  Sanskrit and Hindi (9%)
  Chinese (3.6%)
  Portuguese (2%)
  Tamil (2%)
  Persian (1%)

As a modern variety of Malay, Indonesian has been influenced by other languages, including Dutch, English, Greek (where the name of the country, Indonesia, comes from), Arabic, Chinese, Portuguese, Sanskrit, Tamil, Hindi, and Persian. The vast majority of Indonesian words, however, come from the root lexical stock of Austronesian (including Old Malay).[33]

The study of Indonesian etymology and loan words reveals both its historical and social contexts. Examples are the early Sanskrit borrowings from the 7th century during the trading era, the borrowings from Arabic and Persian during the time of the establishment of Islam in particular, and those from Dutch during the colonial period. Linguistic history and cultural history are clearly linked.[99]

List of loan words of Indonesian language published by the Badan Pengembangan Bahasa dan Perbukuan (The Language Center) under the Ministry of Education and Culture:[100]

Language origin Number of words
Dutch 3280
English 1610
Arabic 1495
Sanskrit 677
Chinese 290
Portuguese 131
Tamil 131
Persian 63
Hindi 7

Note: This list only lists foreign languages, thus omitting numerous local languages of Indonesia that have also been major lexical donors, such as Javanese, Sundanese, Betawi, etc.

Loan words of Sanskrit origin

Indonesian National Police, Indonesian Air Force and Indonesian Army mottos are Rastra Sewakottama, Swa Bhuwana Paksa, Kartika Eka Paksi, all in the Sanskrit language.

The Sanskrit influence came from contacts with India since ancient times. The words were either borrowed directly from India or with the intermediary of the Old Javanese language. Although Hinduism and Buddhism are no longer the major religions of Indonesia, Sanskrit, which was the language vehicle for these religions, is still held in high esteem and is comparable with the status of Latin in English and other Western European languages. Sanskrit is also the main source for neologisms, which are usually formed from Sanskrit roots. The loanwords from Sanskrit cover many aspects of religion, art and everyday life.

From Sanskrit came such words as स्वर्ग surga (heaven), भाषा bahasa (language), काच kaca (glass, mirror), राज- raja (king), मनुष्य manusia (mankind), चिन्ता cinta (love), भूमि bumi (earth), भुवन buana (world), आगम agama (religion), स्त्री Istri (wife/woman), जय Jaya (victory/victorious), पुर Pura (city/temple/place) राक्षस Raksasa (giant/monster), धर्म Dharma (rule/regulations), मन्त्र Mantra (words/poet/spiritual prayers), क्षत्रिय Satria (warrior/brave/soldier), विजय Wijaya (greatly victorious/great victory), etc. Sanskrit words and sentences are also used in names, titles, and mottos of the Indonesian National Police and Indonesian Armed Forces such as: Bhayangkara, Laksamana, Jatayu, Garuda, Dharmakerta Marga Reksyaka, Jalesveva Jayamahe, Kartika Eka Paksi, Swa Bhuwana Paksa, Rastra Sewakottama, Yudha Siaga, etc.

Because Sanskrit has long been known in the Indonesian archipelago, Sanskrit loanwords, unlike those from other languages, have entered the basic vocabulary of Indonesian to such an extent that, for many, they are no longer perceived to be foreign. Therefore, one could write a short story using mostly Sanskrit-derived words. The short story below consists of approximately 80 words in Indonesian that are all derived from Sanskrit, as well as a few native function words and affixes.

Karena semua dibiayai menggunakan dana negara jutaan rupiah, sang mahaguru sastra bahasa Kawi, mahasiswa-mahasiswi perguruan swasta, duta-duta negeri mitra dan suami/istrinya, Menteri Kebudayaan dan Pariwisata, karyawan-karyawati perusahaan ketenagakerjaan, beserta anggota lembaga nirlaba segera berdarmawisata ke kawasan pedesaan di utara kota kabupaten Probolinggo antara candi-candi purba berarca, berwahana pedati keledai di kala senja, lalu bersama kepala desa menyaksikan para petani dan gembala yang berjiwa bersahaja serta berbudi nirmala secara berbahagia berupacara, seraya memerdukan suara gita-gita mantra, yang merupakan sarana pujian mereka memuja nama suci Pertiwi, Dewi Bumi yang bersedia menganugerahi mereka karunia dan restu, menjaga jiwa raga dari bahaya, mala petaka dan bencana.

Loan words of Chinese origin

The relationship with China has been going since the 7th century when Chinese merchants traded in some areas of the archipelago such as Riau, West Borneo, East Kalimantan, and North Maluku. As the kingdom of Srivijaya appeared and flourished, China opened diplomatic relations with the kingdom in order to secure trade and seafaring. In 922, Chinese travelers visited Kahuripan in East Java. Since the 11th century, hundreds of thousands of Chinese migrants left Mainland China and settled in many parts of Nusantara (now called Indonesia).

The Chinese loanwords are usually concerned with cuisine, trade or often just things exclusively Chinese. Words of Chinese origin (presented here with accompanying Hokkien/ Mandarin pronunciation derivatives as well as traditional and simplified characters) include loteng, (樓/層 = lóu/céng – [upper] floor/ level), mie (麵 > 面 Hokkien mī – noodles), lumpia (潤餅 (Hokkien = lūn-piáⁿ) – springroll), cawan (茶碗 cháwǎn – teacup), teko (茶壺 > 茶壶 = cháhú [Mandarin], teh-ko [Hokkien] = teapot), 苦力 kuli (= 苦 khu (hard) and 力 li (energy) – coolie) and even the widely used slang terms gua and lu (from the Hokkien 'goa' 我 and 'lu/li' 汝 – meaning 'I/ me' and 'you').

Loan words of Arabic origin

Many Arabic words were brought and spread by merchants from Arab Peninsula like Arabian, Persian, and from the western part of India, Gujarat where many Muslims lived.[101] As a result, many Indonesian words come from the Arabic language. Especially since the late 12th century, Old Malay was heavily influenced by the language and produced many great literary works such as Syair, Babad, Hikayat, and Suluk. This century is known as The Golden Age of Indonesian Literature.[101]

Many loanwords from Arabic are mainly concerned with religion, in particular with Islam, and by extension, with greetings such as the word, "selamat" (from Arabic: سلامة salāma = health, soundness)[102] means "safe" or "lucky". Words of Arabic origin include dunia (from Arabic: دنيا dunyā = the present world), names of days (except Minggu), such as Sabtu (from Arabic: سبت sabt-u = Saturday), iklan (آعلان iʻlan = advertisement), kabar (خبر khabar = news), Kursi (كرسي kursī = a chair), ijazah (إجازة ijāza = 'permission', certificate of authority, e.g. a school diploma certificate), kitab (كتاب kitāb = book), tertib (ترتيب tartīb = order/arrangement) and kamus (قاموس qāmūs = dictionary). Allah (Arabic: الله), as is mostly the case for Arabic speakers, this is the word for God even in Christian Bible translations. Many early Bible translators, when they came across some unusual Hebrew words or proper names, used the Arabic cognates. In the newer translations this practice is discontinued. They now turn to Greek names or use the original Hebrew Word. For example, the name Jesus was initially translated as 'Isa (Arabic: عيسى), but is now spelt as Yesus. Several ecclesiastical terms derived from Arabic still exist in Indonesian language. Indonesian word for bishop is uskup (from Arabic: أسقف usquf = bishop). This in turn makes the Indonesian term for archbishop uskup agung (lit.'great bishop'), which is combining the Arabic word with an Old Javanese word. The term imam (from Arabic: إمام imām = leader, prayer leader) is used to translate a Catholic priest, beside its more common association with an Islamic prayer leader. Some Protestant denominations refer to their congregation jemaat (from Arabic: جماعة jamāʻa = group, a community). Even the name of the Bible in Indonesian translation is Alkitab (from Arabic: الكتاب al-kitāb = the book), which literally means "the Book".

Loan words of Portuguese origin

Indonesian word "Gereja" (Church) is derived from Portuguese "Igreja". The sign reads: "Gereja & Candi Hati Kudus Tuhan Yesus Ganjuran Keuskupan Agung Semarang" (The Church and Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Ganjuran Archdiocese of Semarang).

Alongside Malay, Portuguese was the lingua franca for trade throughout the archipelago from the sixteenth century through to the early nineteenth century. The Portuguese were among the first westerners to sail eastwards to the "Spice Islands". Loanwords from Portuguese were mainly connected with articles that the early European traders and explorers brought to Southeast Asia. Indonesian words derived from Portuguese include meja (from mesa = table), bangku (from banco = bench), lemari/almari (from armário = closet), boneka (from boneca = doll), jendela (from janela = window), gereja (from igreja = church), misa (from missa = mass), Natal (from Natal = Christmas), Paskah (from Páscoa = Easter), pesta (from festa = party), dansa (from dança = dance), pesiar (from passear = cruise), bendera (from bandeira = flag), sepatu (from sapato = shoes), garpu (from garfo = fork), kemeja (from camisa = shirt), kereta (from carreta = chariot), pompa (from bomba hidráulica = pump), pigura (from figura = picture), roda (from roda = wheel), nona (from dona = young woman), sekolah (from escola = school), lentera (from lanterna = lantern), paderi (from padre = priest), Santo, Santa (from Santo, Santa = Saint), puisi (from poesia = poetry), keju (from queijo = cheese), mentega (from manteiga = butter), serdadu (from soldado = soldier), meski (from mas que = although), kamar (from câmara = room), laguna (from laguna = lagoon), lelang (from leilão = auction), persero (from parceiro = company), markisa (from maracujá = passion fruit), limau (from limão = lemon), kartu (from cartão = card), Inggris (from inglês = English), Sabtu (from sábado = Saturday), Minggu (from domingo = Sunday), etc.[103]

Loan words of Dutch origin

Crowd at a busy street intersection. There are horse-drawn carriages in the foreground while a three-story building (with the sign "Kam Leng") and a single-story building (with the sign "Chunghua Bioscoop") stand in the background on adjacent corners of the intersection.
The Indonesian word of bioskop is derived from Dutch bioscoop (movie theater).

The former colonial power, the Netherlands, left a sizeable amount of vocabulary that can be seen in words such as polisi (from politie = police), kualitas (from kwaliteit = quality), aktual (from actueel = current), rokok (from roken = smoking cigarettes), korupsi (from corruptie = corruption), kantor (from kantoor = office), resleting (from ritssluiting = zipper), pelopor (from voorloper = frontrunner), persneling (from versnelling = transmission gear), setrum (from stroom = electricity current), maskapai (from maatschappij = company), apotek (from apotheek = pharmacy), handuk (from handdoek = towel), setrika (from strijkijzer = clothes iron), bioskop (from bioscoop = movie theater), spanduk (from spandoeken = banner), korsleting (from kortsluiting = short circuit), om (from oom = uncle), tante (from tante = aunt), traktir (from trakteer = treat) and gratis (from gratis = free). These Dutch loanwords, and many other non-Italo-Iberian, European language loanwords that came via Dutch, cover all aspects of life. Some Dutch loanwords, having clusters of several consonants, pose difficulties to speakers of Indonesian. This problem is usually solved by insertion of the schwa. For example, Dutch schroef [ˈsxruf] > sekrup [səˈkrup] (screw (n.)). One scholar argues that 20% of Indonesian words are inspired by the Dutch language.[104]

Before the standardization of the language, many Indonesian words follow standard Dutch alphabet and pronunciation such as "oe" for vowel "u" or "dj" for consonant "j" [dʒ]. As a result, Malay words are written with that orthography such as: passer for the word Pasar or djalan for the word jalan, older Indonesian generation tend to have their name written in such order as well.

Loan words of English origin

Many English words were incorporated into Indonesian through globalization. Many Indonesians, however, mistake words already adopted from Dutch as words borrowed from English. Indonesian adopts English words with standardization.[105] For example: standardisasi from standardization, aktivitas from activity, aksesori from accessory, paleografi from palaeography, pasien from patient, eksekutif from executive, kupon from coupon, and so on.[106][107] However, there are several words that directly borrowed without standardization that have same meanings in English such as: bus, data, domain, detail, internet, film, golf, lift, monitor, radio, radar, unit, safari, sonar, video, and riil as real.[107]

Other loan words

Modern Indonesian draws many of its words from foreign sources, there are many synonyms. For example, Indonesian has three words for "book", i.e. pustaka (from Sanskrit), kitab (from Arabic) and buku (from Dutch boek); however, each has a slightly different meaning. A pustaka is often connected with ancient wisdom or sometimes with esoteric knowledge. A derived form, perpustakaan means a library. A kitab is usually a religious scripture or a book containing moral guidance. The Indonesian words for the Bible and Gospel are Alkitab and Injil, both directly derived from Arabic. The book containing the penal code is also called the kitab. Buku is the most common word for books.

There are direct borrowings from various other languages of the world, such as karaoke (from カラオケ) from Japanese, and ebi (from えび) which means dried shrimp. Many words that originally are adopted through the Dutch language today however often are mistaken as English due to the similarity in the Germanic nature of both languages. In some cases the words are replaced by English language through globalization: although the word arbei (Dutch: aardbei) still literally means strawberry in Indonesian, today the usage of the word stroberi is more common. Greek words such as demokrasi (from δημοκρατία dēmokratía), filosofi, filsafat (both from φιλοσοφία philosophia), mitos (from μῦθος mythos) came through Dutch, Arabic and Portuguese respectively.

It is notable that some of the loanwords that exist in both Indonesian and Malaysian languages are different in spelling and pronunciation mainly due to how they derived their origins: Malaysian utilises words that reflect the English usage (as used by its former colonial power, the British), while Indonesian uses a Latinate form (e.g. aktiviti (Malaysian) vs. aktivitas (Indonesian), universiti (Malaysian) vs. universitas (Indonesian)).

Acronyms and portmanteau

Since the time of the independence of Indonesia, Indonesian has seen a surge of neologisms which are formed as acronyms (less commonly also initialisms) or blend words.

Common acronyms are ABRI (pronounced [ˈabri], from Angkatan Bersenjata Republik Indonesia 'Indonesian National Armed Forces'), SIM (pronounced [sim], from surat izin mengemudi 'driving licence'), SARA (pronounced [ˈsara], from suku, agama, ras, antargolongan 'ethnic group, religion, race, inter-group [matters]', used when referring to the background of intercommunal conflicts), HAM (pronounced [ham], from hak asasi manusia 'human rights').

Blend words/portmanteau are very common in Indonesian, and have become a productive tool of word formation in both formal and colloquial Indonesian. Examples from official usage include departments and officeholders (e.g. Menlu < Mentri Luar Negeri 'Foreign Minister', Kapolda < Kepala kepolisian daerah 'Head of Regional Police') or names of provinces and districts (Sulut < Sulawesi Utara 'North Sulawesi', Jabar < Jawa Barat 'West Java'. Other commonly used portmanteau include puskesmas < pusat kesehatan masyarakat 'community health center', sembako < sembilan bahan pokok 'basic commodities' (lit.'nine basic commodities').[108]


Indonesia hosts a variety of traditional verbal arts such as poetry, historical narratives, romances, and drama, which are expressed in local languages, but modern genres are expressed mainly in Indonesian.[14] Some of the classic Indonesian stories include Sitti Nurbaya by Marah Rusli, Azab dan Sengsara by Merari Siregar, and Sengsara Membawa Nikmat by Tulis Sutan Sati.[109][110] Modern literature like novels, short stories, stage plays, and free-form poetry has developed since the late years of the 19th century and has produced figures such as novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer, dramatist W.S. Rendra, poet Chairil Anwar, and cinematographer Garin Nugroho.[111] Indonesia's classic novels themselves offer insight into the local culture and traditions and the historical background before and immediately after the country gained independence. One notable example is Shackles, which was written by Armijn Pane in 1940. Originally titled Belenggu, it has been translated into many languages, including English and German.[112]

As speakers of other languages

BIPA (Bahasa Indonesia untuk Penutur Asing) book, which helps foreigners learn the Indonesian language

Over the past few years, interest in learning Indonesian has grown among non-Indonesians.[113] Various universities have started to offer courses that emphasise the teaching of the language to non-Indonesians. In addition to national universities, private institutions have also started to offer courses, like the Indonesia Australia Language Foundation and the Lembaga Indonesia Amerika. As early as 1988, teachers of the language have expressed the importance of a standardized Bahasa Indonesia bagi Penutur Asing (also called BIPA, literally Indonesian Language for Foreign Speaker) materials (mostly books), and this need became more evident during the 4th International Congress on the Teaching of Indonesian to Speakers of Other Languages held in 2001.[114]

Since 2013, the Indonesian embassy in the Philippines has given basic Indonesian language courses to 16 batches of Filipino students, as well as training to members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Due to increasing demand among students, the embassy will open an intermediate Indonesian language course later in the year.[needs update] In an interview, Department of Education Secretary Armin Luistro[115] said that the country's government should promote Indonesian or Malay, which are related to Filipino. Thus, the possibility of offering it as an optional subject in public schools is being studied.

The Indonesian embassy in Washington, D.C., United States, also began offering free Indonesian language courses at the beginner and intermediate level.[116]



2013 edition of one thousand Indonesian Rupiah banknote, featuring Indonesian national hero Thomas Matulessy


Number English Indonesian IPA
0 zero nol [nol]
1 one satu [sa.tu]
2 two dua [du.(w)a]
3 three tiga [ti.ga]
4 four empat [əm.pat]
5 five lima [li.ma]
6 six enam [ə.nam]
7 seven tujuh [tu.dʒuh]
8 eight delapan [də.la.pan]
9 nine sembilan [səm.bi.lan]
10 ten sepuluh [sə.pu.luh]
11 eleven sebelas [sə.bə.las]
12 twelve dua belas [du.(w)a bə.las]
13 thirteen tiga belas [ti.ga bə.las]
14 fourteen empat belas [əm.pat bə.las]
15 fifteen lima belas [li.ma bə.las]
20 twenty dua puluh [du.(w)a pu.luh]
21 twenty one dua puluh satu [du.(w)a pu.luh sa.tu]
30 thirty tiga puluh [ti.ga pu.luh]
100 one hundred seratus [sə.ra.tus]
200 two hundred dua ratus [du.(w)a ra.tus]
210 two hundred ten dua ratus sepuluh [du.(w)a ra.tus sə.pu.luh]
897 eight hundred ninety seven delapan ratus sembilan puluh tujuh [də.la.pan ra.tus səm.bi.lan pu.luh tu.dʒuh]
1000 one thousand seribu [sə.ri.bu]
10000 ten thousand sepuluh ribu [sə.pu.luh ri.bu]
100000 one hundred thousand seratus ribu [sə.ra.tus ri.bu]
1000000 one million sejuta
satu juta
[sa.tu dʒu.ta]
1000000000 one billion satu miliar [sa.tu mi.li.(j)ar]
[sa.tu mil.jar]
1000000000000 one trillion satu triliun [sa.tu tri.li.(j)un]
[sa.tu tril.jun]


Number English Indonesian IPA
1st first pertama or kesatu [pər.ta.ma]
2nd second kedua [kə.du.(w)a]
3rd third ketiga [kə.ti.ga]
4th fourth keempat [kə.əm.pat]
5th fifth kelima [kə.li.ma]
6th sixth keenam [kə.ə.nam]
7th seventh ketujuh [kə.tu.dʒuh]
8th eighth kedelapan [kə.də.la.pan]
9th ninth kesembilan [kə.səm.bi.lan]
10th tenth kesepuluh [kə.sə.pu.luh]

Days and months

Indonesian-language calendar


English Indonesian IPA
Monday Senin [sə.nin]
Tuesday Selasa [sə.la.sa]
Wednesday Rabu [ra.bu]
Thursday Kamis [ka.mis]
Friday Jumat [dʒum.ʔat]
Saturday Sabtu [sab.tu]
Sunday Minggu [miŋ.gu]


English Indonesian IPA
January Januari [dʒa.nu.(w)a.ri]
February Februari [fɛb.ru.(w)a.ri]
March Maret [ma.rət]
April April [ap.ril]
May Mei [meɪ]
June Juni [dʒu.ni.]
July Juli [dʒu.li]
August Agustus [a.gus.tus]
September September [sɛp.tɛm.bər]
October Oktober [ok.to.bər]
November November [no.fɛm.bər]
December Desember [dɛ.sɛm.bər]

Common phrases

English Indonesian Spelling (in IPA)
Hello! Halo! [ˈhalo]
Good morning! Selamat pagi! [sə'lamat ˈpagi]
Good afternoon! Selamat siang! [səˈlamat ˈsiaŋ]
Good evening! or Good night! Selamat malam! [səˈlamat ˈmalam]
Goodbye! Selamat tinggal! [sə'lamat ˈtiŋɡal]
See you later! Sampai jumpa lagi! [ˈsampai̯ ˈdʒumpa ˈlagi]
Thank you Terima kasih (standard, formal) [təˈrima ˈkasih]
Thanks Makasih (colloquial) [maˈkasih]
You are welcome Sama-sama or terima kasih kembali [ˈsa'ma ˈsama] or [təˈrima ˈkasih kəm'bali]
Yes Ya (standard) or iya (colloquial) [ˈja] or [ˈija]
No Tidak or tak or enggak (colloquial) [ˈtidaʔ] or [ˈtaʔ] or [ˈəŋgaʔ]
And Dan [ˈdan]
Or Atau [a'tau̯]
Because Karena [ˈkarəna]
Therefore Karena itu [ˈkarəna ˈʔitu]
Nothing Tidak ada [ˈtidaʔ ˈada]
Maybe Mungkin [ˈmuŋkin]
How are you? Apa kabar? [ˈapa ˈkabar]
I am fine Baik or Baik-baik saja [ˈbaik] or [ˈbaik ˈbaik ˈsadʒa]
Have a nice day! Semoga hari Anda menyenangkan! [sə'moga ˈhari ˈʔanda məɲəˈnaŋkan]
Bon appétit! Selamat makan! or Selamat menikmati! [sə'lamat ˈmakan] or [səˈlamat mənikˈmati]
I am sorry Maafkan saya [ma'ʔafkan ˈsaja]
Excuse me Permisi [pər'misi]
What? Apa? [ˈapa]
Who? Siapa? [siˈapa]
When? Kapan? [ˈkapan]
Where? Di mana? [di ˈmana]
Why? Mengapa? (standard) or kenapa? (colloquial) [mə'ŋapa] or [kə'napa]
How? Bagaimana? [baɡai̯'mana]
How much? Berapa? [bə'rapa]
What is your name? Nama Anda siapa? [ˈnama ˈʔanda siˈapa]
My name is... Nama saya... [ˈnama ˈsaja]
Do you know? Apakah Anda tahu? [aˈpakah ˈʔanda ˈtahu]
Yes, I know / No, I do not know Ya, saya tahu / Tidak, saya tidak tahu [ˈja ˈsaja ˈtahu] / [ˈtidaʔ ˈsaja ˈtidaʔ ˈtahu]
Can you speak Indonesian? Bisakah Anda berbicara bahasa Indonesia? [biˈsakah ˈʔanda bərbiˈtʃara baˈhasa ʔindoˈnesi̯a]
Yes, I can speak Indonesian / No, I can not speak Indonesian Ya, saya bisa berbicara bahasa Indonesia / Tidak, saya tidak bisa berbicara bahasa indonesia [ˈja ˈsaja ˈbisa bərbiˈtʃara baˈhasa ʔindoˈnesi̯a] / [ˈtidaʔ ˈsaja ˈtidaʔ ˈbisa bərbiˈtʃara baˈhasa ʔindoˈnesi̯a]
What time is it now? Pukul berapa sekarang? [ˈpukul bə'rapa səˈkaraŋ]
It is 5.00 o'clock Sekarang pukul 5.00 [səˈkaraŋ ˈpukul ˈlima]
When will you go to the party? Kapan Anda akan pergi ke pesta itu? [ˈkapan ˈʔanda ˈʔakan pər'gi ke ˈpesta ˈʔitu]
Soon Nanti [ˈnanti]
Today Hari ini [ˈhari ˈʔini]
Tomorrow Besok [ˈbesok]
The day after tomorrow Lusa [ˈlusa]
Yesterday Kemarin [kə'marin]
Congratulations! Selamat! [sə'lamat]
Happy New Year! Selamat Tahun Baru! [sə'lamat ˈtahun ˈbaru]
Merry Christmas! Selamat Natal! [sə'lamat ˈnatal]
Please Mohon or tolong [ˈmohon] or [ˈtoloŋ]
Stop! Berhenti! [bər'henti]
I am happy Saya senang [ˈsaja sə'naŋ]
I understand Saya mengerti [ˈsaja ˈməŋərti]
Help! Tolong! [ˈtoloŋ]
I need help Saya memerlukan bantuan [ˈsaja məmərˈlukan ban'tuan]
Can you help me? Bisakah Anda menolong saya? [biˈsakah ˈʔanda mə'noloŋ ˈsaja]
Can I help you? / Do you need help? Dapatkah saya membantu Anda? / Apakah Anda membutuhkan bantuan? [da'patkah ˈsaja məm'bantu ˈʔanda] / [aˈpakah ˈʔanda məmbuˈtuhkan banˈtuan]
May I borrow your eraser? Bolehkah saya meminjam penghapus Anda? [boˈlehkah ˈsaja mə'minjam peŋ'hapus ˈʔanda]
With my pleasure Dengan senang hati [dəˈŋan sə'naŋ ˈhati]
Welcome Selamat datang [sə'lamat ˈdataŋ]
Welcome to Indonesia Selamat datang di Indonesia [sə'lamat ˈdataŋ di ʔindoˈnesi̯a]
I agree / I disagree Saya setuju / Saya tidak setuju [ˈsaja sə'tudʒu] / [ˈsaja ˈtidaʔ sə'tudʒu]
I understand / I do not understand Saya mengerti / Saya tidak mengerti [ˈsaja ˈməŋərti] / [ˈsaja ˈtidaʔ ˈməŋərti]
I am hungry Saya lapar [ˈsaja ˈlapar]
I am thirsty Saya haus [ˈsaja ˈhaus]
I am sick Saya sakit [ˈsaja ˈsakit]
Get well soon Semoga cepat sembuh [sə'moga tʃə'pat səmˈbuh]
Next lesson Pelajaran selanjutnya [pə'ladʒaran sə'landʒutɲa]


The following texts are excerpts from the official translations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Indonesian and Malaysian Malay, along with the original declaration in English.

English[117] Indonesian[118] Malay[119]
Universal Declaration of Human Rights Pernyataan Umum tentang Hak Asasi Manusia Perisytiharan Hak Asasi Manusia sejagat
Article 1 Pasal 1 Perkara 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. Semua orang dilahirkan merdeka dan mempunyai martabat dan hak-hak yang sama. Mereka dikaruniai akal dan hati nurani dan hendaknya bergaul satu sama lain dalam semangat persaudaraan. Semua manusia dilahirkan bebas dan sama rata dari segi maruah dan hak-hak. Mereka mempunyai pemikiran dan perasaan hati dan hendaklah bergaul dengan semangat persaudaraan.

See also


  1. ^ This article uses asterisks to indicate ungrammatical examples.


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External links

English-Indonesian dictionaries