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Thread: Indonesian Idioms

  1. #1
    Member travellingchez's Avatar
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    Default Indonesian Idioms

    As with every language Indonesian has many idioms which can be very confusing for the language learner. Especially as the words often have no relation to the meaning.

    Here are a few common ones

    Angkat telur (lift eggs)- closest to kissing arse
    Cari muka (looking face) - trying to look good
    Cuci mata (wash eyes) - window shopping/taking in another view
    anak buah - (fruit child) - Subordinate
    anak bawang -(onion child) - the odd one out/the one whose picked last.
    tangan panjang - (long arm/hand) - thief
    jalan tikus - (rat road) - similar to the English rat run meaning short cut.

    There are so many more. Feel free to share more
    The challenge is to be yourself in a world that is trying to make you like everyone else.

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    Otak udang (shrimp brain) = Stupid If you ever peeled a shrimp that still has its head on, you know that the head is full of its crap.
    Kambing hitam (black goat) = Scapegoat
    Muka tembok (wall face) = Thick skinned
    Cuci mulut (wash mouth) = Desert
    Kaki tangan (leg arm) = Staff, assistants, minions

    Indonesian is surprisingly literal compared to English. This is probably because most people have access to a second (ethnic) language to express euphemisms.

  3. #3

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    I don't know that many, but I can think of a couple:
    Malu-malu kucing (shy shy cat): somebody who is very shy or too embarrassed to speak
    buaya dara (probably misspelled; "land crocodile"): playboy / sexually aggressive male

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    Done by lovers: main gila = playing crazy. Old idiom but still makes me smile each time I hear somebody saying it.

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    angkat tangan (raise hand): surrender
    buah tangan (hand fruit) : gifts
    buah bibir (lips fruit) : byword
    anak emas (gold child) : the fave child

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    i once heard someone said "om om senang" and "tante girang"

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    CMIIW

    cuci tangan (wash off hands) = try to escape from something by cleaning up evidence
    angkat kaki (lift foot) = to leave
    ringan tangan (light hand) = love to help, in sinister way: quick at raising hands & beating up somebody
    jago merah (red roaster) = big fire/flame (often used in fire disaster)
    main api (play with fire) = do something risky
    buang muka (throw face away) = to look away, to avert or ignore in purpose
    buah hati (fruit of heart) = beloved child
    bintang lapangan (star in the field) = the MVP
    gulung tikar (to roll the mat) = go bankrupt
    pindah tangan (move hands) = transition of authority (for belongings, possession of things)
    darah biru (blue blood) = aristocrat
    darah dingin (cold blooded) = cold blooded
    tangan besi (iron hand) = dictactor
    lintah darat (leech) = similar to loan shark?
    naik daun (going up leaf) = becoming popular
    meja hijau (green table) = the court (law)
    banting tulang (throw bones) = work hard
    kepala dingin (cold head), to think with "kepala dingin" is to think clearly not just based on emotion. "mendinginkan kepala" is to cool off
    unjuk gigi (showing tooth) = bare fangs, to demonstrate your skill
    unjuk rasa (utter the feelings) = demonstration
    gigit jari (biting finger) = to feel dissapointed
    kelinci percobaan = guinea pig
    tangan hijau = green finger
    bunga desa (flower in the village) = the most beautiful girl in a village
    besar kepala (big head) = arrogant
    besar mulut = big mouth / blabber mouth
    mata hati, to use "mata hati" is to use your heart/conscience
    kutu buku = book worm
    kutu loncat (jumping flea) = a fickle person, a term used for people love changing jobs.
    muka dua = two faced

    There are idioms i find it hard to explain, anybody could help?
    1./ balik kucing
    2./ goyang lidah (is this even an idiom??)
    3./ tangan dingin


    Are the words "meja makan", "lidah api", "sapu tangan", "rumah sakit", "sapu lidi" just noted as "kata majemuk" (composite words)? It'll be great if somebody explain the difference...

    I'll add up more if I some words come up to my mind

  8. #8
    Member judylin's Avatar
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    Oh yeah..
    tuan rumah (house master) = a host.
    kupu2 malam (night butterfly) = prostitute
    angkat jempol (to raise thumbs) = admit somebody's greatness
    mata hijau (green eyes) = money oriented
    silat lidah (tongue fight) = bicker

  9. #9
    Member naughtygab's Avatar
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    goyang lidah is actually to explain how great the food is .. the food is so good that will shake your tongue
    tangan dingin is for someone who can heal someone easily , or someone who can always make the plant grow.

    kata majemuk is when 2 different meaning words are combined results a new specific product but not a idiom

    like sapu is broom, tangan is hand, but when it's combined, it's sapu tangan handkerchief
    rumah is house, sakit is sick , but when it's combined it's rumah sakit - hospital

    so it's different than besar kepala, since besar kepala is an idiom, geez.. i need to open my 5th grade bahasa indonesia book he he ..
    dont judge a book by it cover. judge it by it price. good books are expensive

  10. #10
    Member travellingchez's Avatar
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    Some great idioms here. Learnt a few new ones.

    One that my friend recently taught me was panas panas tai ayam - (hot hot chicken shit) - someone who starts something then suddenly drops and moves onto something else.
    Another was - kambing di bedakin - (goat with make-up on) - mutton dressed as lamb

    More idioms

    gede rasa - big headed often shorten to GR
    cinta monyet - (monkey love) - puppy love /childish crush.
    main mata - (playing eyes) - flirting
    anak pasaran - (market child) - common/ commoner
    bau tanah - (smells of dirt/soil) - nearing death / one foot in the grave
    tertangkap tangan basah - (caught wet handed) - caught red handed
    pas foto - to get to first base eg to kiss as the head being the only thing you can see in a passport photo.
    The challenge is to be yourself in a world that is trying to make you like everyone else.

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