Indonesian slang

Indonesian slang

Indonesian slang ("bahasa gaul" or "bahasa prokem") is an informal language of Indonesia primarily spoken in urban areas.


Indonesian slang is the informal version of Indonesian. Despite its direct origins, Indonesian slang often differs quite significantly in both vocabulary and grammatical structure from the most standard form of Indonesia's national language.

Its native name, "bahasa gaul" (the 'social language'), was a term coined in the late 1990s where "bahasa" means 'language' and "gaul" means 'social', 'cool' or 'trendy'. Similarly, the term "bahasa prokem" (a more out-dated name for Indonesian slang) created in the early 1980s means 'the language of gangsters'. "Prokem" is a slang form of the word "preman" and was derived from the Dutch word "free-man" (lit. gangster).

Indonesian slang is predominantly used in everyday conversation, social milieus, among popular media and, to a certain extent, in teen publications or pop culture magazines. For those living in more urbanized regions of Indonesia, Indonesian slang language often functions as the primary language medium for communication in daily life. While it would be unusual to communicate orally with people on a casual basis with very formal Indonesian, the use of proper or 'good and correct' Indonesian ("bahasa Indonesia yang baik dan benar") is abundant in the media, government bodies, schools, universities, workplaces, amongst some members of the Indonesian upper-class or nobility and also in many other more formal situations.

Indonesian slang is an ever-evolving language phenomenon. This is, in part, due to its vocabulary that is often so different from that of standard Indonesian and Malaysian and also because so many new words (both original and foreign) are quite easily incorporated into its increasingly wide vocabulary list. However, as with any language, the constant changing of the times means that some words become rarely used or are rendered obsolete as they are considered to be outdated or no longer follow modern day trends.


At present, there is no formal classification for Indonesian slang language as it is essentially a manipulated and popularized form of the Indonesian (the national language of Indonesia).

Indonesian is part of the Western Malayo-Polynesian subgroup of the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian languages. According to the Ethnologue, Indonesian is modelled after Riau Malay, a form of Old Malay originally spoken in Northeast Sumatra.Fact|date=April 2007

Geographic distribution

Indonesian slang language is mostly spoken in urban regions of the Indonesian archipelago. Variations of slang language can be found from city to city, mainly characterised by derivatives of the different local ethnic languages. For example, in Bandung, West Java, the local slang language contains vocabulary from the Sundanese language while the slang found in Jakarta tends to be heavily influenced by English or the old Batavian dialect (i.e. the language of the original inhabitants of Jakarta or "Batavia" as it was known during the Dutch occupation). For more information relating to the geographics of Indonesian slang and regional influences, please see "Region Specific Slang" below).

Official status

Indonesian slang language is not an official language of Indonesia. However, it is a modified form of the Indonesian language and is widely used for everyday communication and in informal situations.


Indonesian slang generally uses the same pronunciation as standard Indonesian, although there are many influences from regional dialects on certain aspects such as accent and grammatical structure. Loan words adopted from foreign languages (especially European) such as English or Dutch are often transliterated according to the modern Indonesian orthography. For example, 'please' is often written as "plis". Another closely related phenomenon to arise in recent years is the formation of complex nouns or phrases created using a combination of English and Indonesian (slang) in the one sentence. A prime example of this is the phrase "so what gitu loh!", meaning "who cares?!" or quite simply "so what!" with added emphasis from the phrase "gitu loh". "Gitu" is an abbreviated form of the Indonesian word "begitu" meaning "like that/ such" while "loh" (also spelt "lho") is simply a particle of expression commonly used in slang or conversational Indonesian to show surprise or instigate a warning. In these cases of combined, interlingual phrases, the original spelling (and quite often the pronunciation) of the foreign word(s) are retained. Hence, the English component of the Indonesian slang phrase "so what gitu loh!" remains relatively unchanged as far as spelling and pronunciation are concerned.


The overall structure of Indonesian slang is not all that different from formal Indonesian, although in many cases sentences are simplified or shortened when necessary. The differences between formal and colloquial Indonesian are most evident in vocabulary and grammatical structures (eg. affixes).


The structure of the Indonesian slang language is mostly derived from formal Indonesian, however its vocabularly is a different story altogether. Indonesian slang vocabulary is enriched by a combination of derivatives or loan words/ structures from foreign languages such as Min Nan commonly referred to as Hokkien, English, and Dutch, as well as local ethnic languages such as Batavian, Sundanese, and Javanese. However, in many cases, new words are simply created at random, their origins often quite obscure.

A large proportion of the vocabulary used in Indonesian slang language was developed from formal Indonesian through several methods [ [ Bahasa ABG dalam Cerpen Remaja: Implikasi Pengajarannya bagi Siswa/i Sekolah Menegah di Australia ] ] , most of which are listed below:

*Nasalisation of active verb, shortening or exclusion of the original prefix and adding -in at the end of the word, for example:
**"memikirkan (pikir)" (to think) into "mikirin"
**"menanyakan" (to ask) into "nanyain" (exclusion of "me-")
*Adding -in at the end of the passive transitive verbs, for example:
**"diajari" (to be taught) into "diajarin"
**"dipukuli" (to be beaten) into "dipukulin"
*Adding ke- at the beginning of passive intransitive verbs, instead of using ter- and altering pronunciation from 'a' to 'e' (Javanese influence) for example:
**"tertangkap" (to be caught) into "ketangkep"
**"terpeleset" (to accidentally slip) into "kepeleset"
*Eliminating one or few letters of the word, for example:
**"habis" (depleted/ finished) into "abis"
**"tahu" (know) into "tau"
*Contraction of two or more words into one word, for example:
**"terima kasih" (thank) into "makasih"
**"jaga image" (to safeguard one's social image) into "jaim"
*Replacing letter a with e in some words (Javanese influence), for example:
**"benar" (correct) into "bener"
**"pintar" (smart) into "pinter"
**"malas" (lazy) into "males"
*Contracting diphthong into monosyllabic letter, for example:
**"kalau" (if) into "kalo"
**"pakai" (use) into "paké"
*Addition/ exclusion of silent consonants and glottal stops to the beginning/ends of words:
**"pakai" (use) into "paké" or even "pakék"
**"enggak" (no, not) into "nggak" or "ngga" or even "gak/ga/kaga/ogah/wegah" ("enggak" itself is also an slang word.)
*Contracting the beginning three letters with the infix -ok- after the first letter (ended with closest consonant if the third letter is a vowel), for example:
**"Bapak" (father) into "Bokap"
**"Jual" (sell) into "Jokul"
**"Berak" (defecate) into "Bokér"Some words are simply transliterated from English, for example:
*"Sorry" into "sori"
*"Friend" into "prén"
*"Swear" into "suer"
*"Brother" into "bruer" or "bro"
*"Sister" into "suez" or "sis"

Many words also emerged without following the above rules at all, many of which have their own unique history and/or origin. For example:
*"Cuék" (to ignore or to take something easy) - Popularized by the Indonesian singer Ruth Sahanaya in her 80s hit "Astaga"; most likely derived from the Malay word "cuai", that means 'negligent'.
*"Do'i" (boyfriend / girlfriend) - Originated from the word "dia" (him/her) transformed by inserting letter 'o' in the middle and deleting the last letter 'a'. It is later transformed into "Doski".
*"Bokép"' (pornographic film) - Originated from abbreviation "BF" which means 'Blue Film'. "BF" is read 'Be-Ef', which in its pidgin form is read as "Be-Ep". The word "Bokep" obtained by inserting infix -ok- in between 'Be-Ep'.
*"Jayus" - Lame or corny; meant to be or sound funny, but it is not.
*"Jijay" - 'Disgusting' or 'grotesque'. Sometimes used to express a condition of 'utmost disgust'. Used in the phrase jijay bajay. The same rules apply to "najis" and "najis jaya" (sometimes changed to 'ji-ji' (or 'jijik') when speaking to a child)
*"ABG / Abégé" = Anak Baru Gede - Young Adults. An example of an abbreviated phrases transformed into a 'new' word.

Vocabulary evolution


*"Kumpul kebo" - Lit. means 'water buffalo-style gathering' or 'gather like cattle'. This term basically means that two people in a relationship are living together without being married, i.e. in a domestic partnership/ de facto relationship. To Kumpul kebo in Indonesia is considered immoral and sometimes illicit. For these reasons and also those relating to religion, Asian culture and general ethics, it is often frowned upon in modern Indonesian society to do such a thing.


The 1980s was the era of "bahasa prokém". At this time slang language vocabulary was formed by inserting the infix -ok- after the first consonant of a word, and deleting the last syllable, creating a totally new word. "Prokem" itself is a "prokem" word, created by adding -ok- to "preman" and removing the -an.

For example, the word "Bapak" was broken into "B-ok-apak" and the last "-ak" is deleted, and the resulting word is "Bokap" which, until this day, is used as a slang term for Father.

The word "Sekolah" (School) was transformed into "Skokul", but this word slowly become outdated and by 1990s the word was no longer used, and changed to "Sekul" or simply "Skul", reminiscent of the English word "school".

Other notable words such as "mémblé", "kécé", the sentence attribute "Nih yé", and the exclamation "Alamakjan!" all emerged in the same decade.

New Millennium

Much of the slang language created post-2000 originated from the Indonesian LBGT community. The latest method for transforming a word is to take a different word which has a similar sound. For example, the word mau (want), is replaced with the word mawar originally meaning rose. Despite its creativity and originality, this latest form of Indonesian slang can be quite complicated to understand, even to the native Indonesians themselves. For example: "Akika tinta mawar macarena" originates from the sentence written in proper Indonesian - "Aku tidak mau makan" meaning 'I don't want to eat'.

Region specific slang

Bandung slang

Bandung is the capital city of West Java province with a predominantly Sundanese culture. The Sundanese language has three levels or forms, namely: high (polite), middle class, and low (impolite). Bandung slang often uses the Low Sundanese pronouns "Aing" [I/me] and "Sia" ["you"] along with the many many other Sundanese translations of popular Indonesian.

Jakarta slang

Jakarta is the capital city of Indonesia with a population of more than 12 million people. Consequently, such a huge population will undoubtedly have a role in the Jakarta slang evolution.

Some prominent examples:
*"Bang" (from 'abang') - Slang form of address for elder males/ brother.
*"Bégo" - Stupid
*"Berapa duit?" or "Berapaan?" - How much money/ how much is the cost?
*"Doang" - Only, that's all
*"Emangnya kenapa?" - So what? / What does it matter?
*"Gilé!" - An exclamation meaning crazy, as emphasis to a sentence or phrase.

Javanese slang

These slangs are shared across Central Java and Yogyakarta where Javanese is predominantly spoken. Like Sundanese which are spoken in Bandung, Javanese also has 3 different set of vocabularies, based on the politeness level. Common people usually talk with a mix between low-Javanese, middle-Javanese, and Indonesian. Some non-Javanese residents added their own dialects to the pot, resulting what is called the Central Java slang

Yogyakarta slang is also known as "Basa Walikan", literally means "'Reverse Language' " [] .

It is a transformation from Javanese, in which Javanese traditional character sequences are being switched with one another, using the formula below:
*ha na ca ra ka → pa dha ja ya nya
*da ta sa wa la → ma ga ba tha nga
*pa dha ja ya nya → ha na ca ra ka
*ma ga ba tha nga → da ta sa wa la

Using the above manner, the exclamation word "Matamu!" (which means: 'Your Eyes!') is transformed into "Dagadu!". You can also using easier method to translate the slang using [ Easy Prokem Translator]

urabaya slang

As the second largest city in Indonesia and the capital of East Java, Surabaya uses a rougher dialect of Javanese and has a fairly complete list of its own slang. Javanese language originated from the Central Javanese farmland and by the time it reached the coastal area of East Java, it changed from its original polite form into a more impolite version with the creation/ further adaptation of many new 'Javanese-style' words and swearwords, many of which are used throughout Indonesia today. like "opo cuk??" means "whatz up?"

Manado slang

Manado slang, is widely used throughout the North Sulawesi province. It is used casually in everyday life and sometimes used in formal occasions. Many words are similar to the Indonesian. "See: Manado Malay".

Medan slang

Medan is the capital of North Sumatra Province. Most of the slang from Medan are heavily influenced by Hokkien and Batak language. For example, Amang for " Father", Inang for " Mother ".

Jambi & Palembang slang

Jambi and Palembang slang mostly involves changing the letter at the end of the word with letter 'o'. However, not all words can be modified to include the characteristic 'o', as this rule applies mostly to words ending with the letter 'a'.

Another characteristic pattern of Jambi and Palembang slang involves the addition or replacement of the final letter of a word with 'k'.
*"Pulak" - "pula" (too, also, as well)
*"Aek" - "air" (water)

Pontianak slang

Pontianak slang is influenced by Malay, Teochew and Dayak and sometimes combined with Hakka. It is spoken in the Malay dialect. These slang varieties are spoken throughout West Kalimantan.

ee also

* Language families and languages
* Demographics of Indonesia

Other related Wikis



External links

* [ Ethnologue report for Indonesian]
* [ Teen Language in Teen Literature]
* [ SEASite guide to pronunciation of Indonesian]
* [ Indonesian Slang Dictionary from Malesbanget]

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