Indonesian Expressions

Indonesian Idioms with Audio

List of Indonesian idioms below not only will entertain you with their funny literal meanings, but also teach you about the culture and logic of the language.

In this blog post, we provide the most common Indonesian idioms along with their audio so you will how to say them correctly.

Animals Idioms in Indonesian

  • Adu domba

Literal Translation: adu/mengadu=to pit, domba=sheep

Idiomatic Translation: to pit against

Sentence example:

Wanita itu mengadu domba saya dengan suami saya.

(That woman pitted me against my husband)

  • Buaya darat

Literal Translation: buaya = crocodile, darat = land

Idiomatic Translation: playboy

Sentence example:

Jangan percaya dengannya. Dia itu laki – laki buaya darat.

(Do not trust him. He is a playboy!)

  • Kambing hitam

Literal Translation: kambing = goat, hitam = black

Idiomatic Translation: scapegoat

Sentence example:

Anto jadi kambing hitam atas masalah kemarin.

(Anto became the scapegoat for yesterday’s problem)

  • Kupu – kupu malam

Literal Translation: kupu – kupu = butterfly, malam =  night

Idiomatic Translation: a prostitute

Sentence example:

Ada banyak kupu-kupu malam di klub malam itu/

(There are many prostitutes in that night club)

  • Malu – malu kucing

Literal Translation: malu – malu = shy, kucing = cat

Idiomatic Translation: coy

Sentence example:

Kalau kamu ambil saja, jangan malu – malu kucing.

(If you want it, just take it. Do not be coy about it.

  • Muka badak

Literal Translation: muka = face, badak – rhino

Idiomatic Translation: have no shame

Sentence example:

Kenapa kamu kencing di jalan? Dasar muka badak!

(Why are you peeing on the street? You have no shame.

Indonesian Idioms related to Body Parts

  • Banting tulang

Literal Translation: banting = to slam, tulang = bone

Idiomatic Translation: to work hard

Sentence example:

Yuda banting tulang demi keluarganya

(Yuda works hard for his family)

  • Berbadan dua

Literal Translation: berbadan = have a body (badan=body), dua = two

Idiomatic Translation: to get pregnant

Sentence example:

Karena berbadan dua, dia cepat capek.

(Because she is pregnant, she gets tired quickly)

  • Besar kepala

Literal Translation: besar = big, kepala = head

Idiomatic Translation: puffed up, snobbish

Sentence example:

Jangan puji dia biar tidak besar kepala

(Do not praise him so he does not get puffed up)

  • Buah bibir

Literal Translation: buah = fruit, bibir = lips

Idiomatic Translation: make the headlines

Sentence example:

Warung itu jadi buah bibir karena makanannya yang sangat mahal

(That warung (small restaurant) has become a byword because of their very expensive meals)

  • Buah hati

Literal Translation: buah = fruit, hati = liver

Idiomatic Translation: beloved children

Sentence example:

Mereka terlihat lebih Bahagia setelah kehadiran buah hati.

(They look happier after their baby)

  • Buah tangan

Literal Translation: buah = fruit, tangan = hand

Idiomatic Translation: souvenirs

Sentence example:

Orang Indonesia biasanya membawa buah tangan dari perjalanan wisata mereka.

(Indonesians usually bring souvenirs from their holiday trip)

  • Cuci mata

Literal Translation: cuci = to wash, mata = eyes

Idiomatic Translation: to go out and check out good looking girls/boys

Sentence example:

Joko nongkrong di mal untuk cuci mata

(Joko hangs out in malls to check out girls)

  • Darah biru

Literal Translation: darah = blood, biru = blue

Idiomatic Translation: aristoctrats

Sentence example:

Kita bisa tahu orang Bali yang punya darah biru dari Namanya

(We can tell Balinese aristocrats from their names)

  • Mata keranjang

Literal Translation: mata = eyes, keranjang = basket

Idiomatic Translation: ladies man

Sentence example:

Dia sudah punya istri tapi masih saja mata keranjang

(He already has a wife, but he is still a ladies’ man)

  • Mata – mata

Literal Translation: mata = eyes

Idiomatic Translation: a spy

Sentence example:

Saya pikir dia hanya karyawan biasa, ternyata dia mata – mata.

(I thought he was just a regular employee, it turns out he’s spy)

  • Mulut ember

Literal Translation: mulut = mouth, ember = bucket

Idiomatic Translation: a blabbermouth

Sentence example:

Jangan kasih tau Koncreng. Dia mulut ember!

(Do not tell Koncreng. He is a blabbermouth)

  • Panjang tangan

Literal Translation: Panjang = long, tangan = hands

Idiomatic Translation: light – fingered, to have a habit to steal

Sentence example:

Orang yang panjang tangan tidak akan punya teman.

(People who have a habit to steal would not have any friends)

  • Tangan kanan

Literal Translation: tangan = hand, kanan = right

Idiomatic Translation: right – hand man

Sentence example: –

Dia kaya sekarang sejak jadi tangan kanan bos.
(He is rich now since being the boss’s right-hand man)

  • Tidak enak badan

Literal Translation: tidak = not, enak = delicious, badan = body

Idiomatic Translation: not feeling well

Sentence example: –

Aku tidak kerja hari ini karena tidak enak badan.  
(I didn’t go to work today because I didn’t feel well)


  • Buang air kecil

Literal Translation: buang = throw, air = water, kecil = small

Idiomatic Translation: to urinate / to pee

Sentence example:

Dia suka buang air kecil di bawah pohon.

(He likes to pee under the tree)

  • Buang air besar

Literal Translation: buang = throw, air = water, besar = big

Idiomatic Translation: to defecate / to go number 2

Sentence example:

Orang itu viral karena BAB (buang air besar) sembarangan.

(The person is viral because he pooped at random places)

  • Gaji buta

Literal Translation: gaji = salary, buta = blind

Idiomatic Translation: a salary that is gained without work

Sentence example:

Jangan makan gajo buta, ayo kerja!

(Do not take ‘blind salary’. Let’s do some work!)

  • Gulung tikar

Literal Translation: gulung = to roll, tikar = a mat

Idiomatic Translation: bankrupt / close down

Sentence example:

Restoran itu gulung tikar karena tidak ada pelanggan.

(That restaurant closed because there were no customers)

  • Jam karet

Literal Translation: jam = clock, karet = rubber

Idiomatic Translation: rubber time/ being late

Sentence example:

Banyak orang bilang Indonesia punya budaya jam karet.

(Many people say that Indonesia has a ‘rubber time’ culture)

  • Kabar angin

Literal Translation: kabar = news, angin = wind

Idiomatic Translation: rumor

Sentence example:

Lebih baik tanya langsung daripada percaya dengan kabar angin.

(Better to ask directly instead of believing rumors)

  • Kantong kering (kanker)

Literal Translation: kantong = pocket, kering = dry

Idiomatic Translation: broke/ to be skint

Sentence example:

Setelah liburan, dia kena kanker

(After a holiday, she is broke)

  • Masuk angin

Translation: masuk = to enter, angin = wind

Idiomatic Translation: to catch a cold

Sentence example:

Jangan main di luar malam – malam. Nanti bisa masuk angin.

(Do not play outside at night. You can catch a cold)

  • Polisi tidur

Translation: polisi =  policeman, tidur = sleeping

Idiomatic Translation: speed bumbs

Sentence example:

Pelan – pelan. Ada banyak polisi tidur di gang ini.

(Slowly. There are a lot of speed bumps in this alley)

  • Tahi lalat

Translation: tahi = poop, lalat= fly (the insect)

Idiomatic Translation: mole

Sentence example:

Dia punya tahi lalat di wajahnya.

(She has a mole on her face)

  • Tanggal merah

Translation: tanggal = date, merah = red

Idiomatic Translation: public holiday

Sentence example:

Hari ini tanggal merah untuk merayakan Idul Adha.

(Today is a public holiday to celebrate Eid al-Adha)

  • Tertangkap basah

Translation: tertangkap = caught, basah= wet

Idiomatic Translation: red – handed

Sentence example:

Pencopet itu tertangkap basah Ketika mengambil dompet Nita.(The pickpocket was caught red-handed when taking Nita’s wallet)

I hope you know most of Indonesian idioms by now. If you want to learn most common phrases and expressions in Indonesian, check out this blog post.

About Jembatan Bahasa

Jembatan Bahasa is a professional and highly rated Indonesian language school based in Bali, Indonesia. Our teaching team is experienced and certified to teach Indonesian as a foreign language. Some of them have over eight years of teaching experience and have taught in a prestigious international school in Bali. Interested in learning Indonesian with us? WhatsApp us at +6282 145 950 737 or email at

By Jembatan Bahasa

Jembatan Bahasa is a professional and highly rated Indonesian language school based in Bali, Indonesia. Our teaching team is experienced and certified to teach Indonesian as a foreign language. Some of them have over eight years of teaching experience and have taught in a prestigious international school in Bali. Interested in learning Indonesian with us? WhatsApp us at +6282 145 950 737 or email at