Indonesian proverbs

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Proverbs from all Indonesian speaking parts of the world.

A[edit]

  • Ada asap ada api.
    • There is smoke there is fire.
    • English equivalent: Where there is smoke, there is fire.
    • Meaning: "There is no effect without some cause. or It is supposed that if there is a rumour, there must be some truth behind it."
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent: Paczolay, Gyula (1997). "1". European proverbs: in 55 languages, with equivalents in Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Chinese and Japanese. Veszprémi Nyomda. p. 33. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 
    • Atmosumarto (2004). A Learner's Comprehensive Dictionary of Indonesian. Atma Stanton. p. 26. 
  • Air tenang jangan disangka tiada buaya.
    • Never think that still water doesn't have crocodiles.
    • Closest English equivalent: Look before you leap, because snakes among sweet flowers do creep.
    • Meaning: Never take for granted a peaceful outlook since danger may lurk beneath.
    • Hassan (2005). Kamus Pepatah Bidalan \& Perumpamaan. PTS Professional. p. 136. 
  • Air tenang menghanyutkan.
    • Still water runs deep.
    • English equivalent: Still water runs deep.
    • Meaning: "Slow but steady work can achieve much." or "That a man says little does not mean that he does not think profoundly."
    • Source for meaning: Paczolay, Gyula (1997). "64". European proverbs: in 55 languages, with equivalents in Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Chinese and Japanese. Veszprémi Nyomda. p. 323. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 
    • Benamou (2010). RASA: Affect and Intuition in Javanese Musical Aesthetics. Oxford University Press, USA. 
  • Alah bisa karena biasa.
    • It can be because of regular training.
    • English equivalent: Practice makes perfect.
    • Meaning: If we practice enough, we can do really well.
    • Yusmansyah. Aqidah Akhlaq. PT Grafindo Media Pratama. 

juga baik baik dilakukan

B[edit]

  • Bermain air basah, bermain api hangus.
    • Playing with water, wet. Playing with fire, burned.
    • Meaning: Your actions all have consequences. You are responsible for the bad consequences of your bad actions
    • English equivalent: Who sows wind shall harvest storm.
    • Badudu (2008). Kamus peribahasa: memahami arti dan kiasan peribahasa, pepatah, dan ungkapan. Penerbit Buku Kompas. p. 5. 
  • Bersakit-sakit dahulu bersenang-senang kemudian.
    • The second couplet of Berakit-rakit ke hulu, berenang-renang ke tepian.
    • Be sick, then have fun.
    • English equivalent: He that stays in the valley will not get over the hill; He deservers not the sweet, that will not taste of the sour.
    • "Nothing can be achieved without effort, suffering or hardship.", enjoy the prize after working hard.
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent: Martin H. Manser (2007). The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. Infobase Publishing. p. 205. ISBN 978-0-8160-6673-5. 
    • 實用漢俄分類詞典. 中央圖書. 1996. p. x. ISBN 1. 

D[edit]

  • Dimana ada kemauan, di situ ada jalan.
    • With a willingness, there is a possibility.
    • English equivalent: Where there is a will, there is a way.
    • Meaning: "If you are sufficiently determined to achieve something, then you will find a way of doing so."
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent: Martin H. Manser (2007). The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. Infobase Publishing. p. 299. ISBN 978-0-8160-6673-5. 
    • Darmaputera. 365 Anak Tangga Menuju Hidup Berkemenangan (sc). BPK Gunung Mulia. p. 147. 

G[edit]

H[edit]

  • Habis manis sepah dibuang.
    • Habis = Finished, Manis = Sweet, Sepah = Tasteless, Dibuang = Thrown away.
    • Note: Illustrated when someone is enjoying sugar canes: After the sweet part is finished and becomes tasteless, the cane is thrown away.
    • Meaning: We only call our friends if we need help, and we don't help our friends in need.
    • Stevens, Schmidgall-Tellings (2004). Comprehensive Indonesian-English Dictionary. Ohio University Press. p. 165. 

J[edit]

  • Jadilah kumbang, hidup sekali di taman bunga, jangan jadi lalat, hidup sekali di bukit sampah.
    • Translationː Be a bee, living in a flowery garden, not a fly, living in heaps of garbage.
    • English equivalent: Life is what you make of it.
    • Bao. Plesetan Pribahasa. Niaga Swadaya. p. 74. 

K[edit]

  • Kasih hati, minta jantung.
    • If you give your liver, they ask for your heart.
    • English equivalent: Give him an inch and he will take a yard.
    • Meaning: If someone did a favor, they will request a bigger one in the future; taking advantage of kindness.
    • Atmosumarto (2004). A Learner's Comprehensive Dictionary of Indonesian. Atma Stanton. p. 75. 
  • Kepala boleh panas, tetapi hati harus tetap dingin.
    • Head can be heated but heart must stay cool.
    • Meaning: No matter how stressed or angry we are, we have to solve a problem with rationale; A dispute can only be resolved by discussing the problem openly and coolly.
    • Komunikasi Bisnis, edisi 3. Erlangga. p. 254. 

L[edit]

  • Lain ladang lain belalang, lain lubuk lain ikannya.
    • Different fields have different insect, different ponds have different fish.
    • Meaning: Different people have different personality.
    • Meaning: Different background means different thinking.
    • Meaning: Different culture means different custom.
    • Darmaputera (1988). Pancasila and the Search for Identity and Modernity in Indonesian Society: A Cultural and Ethical Analysis. E.J. Brill. p. 248. 
  • Lebih baik satu burung ditangan dari pada sepuluh burung dipohon.
    • Better one bird in the hand than 10 birds on the tree.
    • English equivalent: Better one bird in the hand than two in the bush.
    • Peribahasa \& Pantun Indonesia. Galangpress Group. p. 97. 

M[edit]

  • Mengharap burung terbang tinggi, punai di tangan dilepaskan.
    • Expecting something bigger, and we let go what we already have.
    • Example: A gambler who gambles away his paycheck expecting to win big but ends up with nothing.
    • English equivalent: Grasp all, lose all.
    • Atmosumarto (2004). A Learner's Comprehensive Dictionary of Indonesian. Atma Stanton. p. 173. 
  • Merdeka atau mati.
    • Freedom or death.
    • Note: That is a very common motto in Indonesian wars against the Dutch colonialisation, usually written Merdeka ataoe mati, because at that time, 'u' was still written as 'oe', just like the current 'y' was 'j', the 'j' was 'dj', and the 'c' was 'tj'.
    • Meaning: We have to fight for our freedom as long as it takes, and we shall not mind the death following our struggle for independence.
    • Torchia, Djuhari (2007). Indonesian Idioms and Expressions: Colloquial Indonesian at Work. Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd.. p. 113. 

P[edit]

  • Patah tumbuh hilang berganti.
    • Whatever broken will grow back, whatever lost will be replaced.
    • Meaning: There will be a replacement for everything.
    • Usually is used to describe the undying spirit of a movement (for instance, during the struggle for independence.). Now mostly used in military circles.
    • Similar to: Mati satu tumbuh seribu.
    • Atmosumarto (2004). A Learner's Comprehensive Dictionary of Indonesian. Atma Stanton. p. 339. 
  • Pikir dahulu pendapatan, sesal kemudian tidak berguna.
    • English equivalent: Look before you leap.
    • "The man who thinks before he acts, is most likely to act with discretion, and have no future cause to repent of his conduct; but he who acts blindly, without any foresight, will probably suffer for his rashness."
    • Trusler, John (1790). Proverbs exemplified, and illustrated by pictures from real life. p. 115. 
    • Atmosumarto (2004). A Learner's Comprehensive Dictionary of Indonesian. Atma Stanton. p. 513. 

R[edit]

  • Rajin pangkal pandai.
    • Diligence is the beginning of brilliance.
    • English equivalent: Diligence is the mother of good luck.
    • Meaning: "Those who work hardest are most likely to enjoy good fortune."
    • Source for meaning of English equivalent: Martin H. Manser (2007). The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. Infobase Publishing. p. 476. ISBN 978-0-8160-6673-5. Retrieved on 12 August 2013. 
    • Atmosumarto (2004). A Learner's Comprehensive Dictionary of Indonesian. Atma Stanton. p. 445. 

S[edit]

  • Sekali lancung ke ujian, seumur hidup orang tak percaya.
    • Once a person cheats in an exam, forever people will distrust him.
    • Meaning: Once you lost the trust of someone, it is almost impossible to gain it back.
    • Brataatmadja (1985). Kamus 5000 Peribahasa Indonesia. Kanisius. p. 272. 
  • Sekali merengkuh dayung, dua tiga pulau terlampaui.
    • One stroke at the paddle, two and three islands have passed.
    • Meaning: Do multiple tasks at one go.
    • Komandoko (2007). Kumpulan Lengkap Peribahasa Indonesia (Ed. Revisi). Pustaka Widyatama. p. 116. 
  • Sepandai-pandai tupai meloncat, akhirnya jatuh juga.
    • No matter how good a squirrel can jump, it will fall eventually.
    • Meaning: No matter how smart a person is, eventually he/she will make a mistake.
    • English equivalent: The pitcher goes so often to the well that it is broken at last.
    • Munif (2003). Lipstik: sebuah novel. Media Pressindo. p. 79. 
  • Sudah jatuh, tertimpa tangga pula.
    • A person slips, and a ladder falls on him.
    • Note: Used to describe a very unlucky person who has been having an unlucky streak.
    • English equivalent: Misery loves company.
    • Meaning: All the bad things seem to happen at the same time.
    • Sidel (2007). Riots, Pogroms, Jihad: Religious Violence in Indonesia. NUS Press. p. 243. ISBN 1. 
  • Siapa menabur angin, akan menuai badai.
    • Who sows the wind will reap the storm.
    • English equivalent: Whoever sows the wind reaps the storm.
    • Meaning: "Trouble once started can spark off a chain reaction, often resulting in a great trouble out of control."
    • Source for meaning: # Paczolay, Gyula (1997). European Proverbs in 55 languages. DeProverbio.com. p. 459. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 
    • Siapno (2002). Gender, Islam, Nationalism and the State in Aceh: The Paradox of Power, Co-optation and Resistance. Taylor \& Francis. p. 235. 

T[edit]

  • Tak bisa menari dikatakan lantai yang berjungkit.
    • Same as: Buruk rupa cermin dibelah.
    • Cannot dance but blame the floor as uneven.
    • English equivalent: A bad worksman blames his tools.
    • Meaning: Blaming the wrong reason. Looking for a scapegoat.
    • Amatullah (2008). Cinta Adinda: kisah tentang kesetiaan. Mizania. p. 221. 
  • Tong kosong nyaring bunyinya.
    • An empty drum gives loud sound.
    • English equivalent: It is not the hen that cackles the most that lay the most eggs.
    • Meaning: It is not he who advertises for himself the most that can achieve the greatest results.
    • Meaning: A person who talks a lot usually is usually empty inside(of knowledge) (but not always).
    • Bodden (2010). Resistance on the National Stage: Theater and Politics in Late New Order Indonesia. Ohio University Press. p. 370.