Indonesian proverbs

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Proverbs from all Indonesian speaking parts of the world.

A[edit]

  • Ada asap ada api.
    • Where there's smoke, there's fire
    • English equivalent: Every why has its wherefore.
    • "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.
    • Don't be fooled for thinking calm water don't have alligators
    • English equivalent: Look before you leap, because snakes among sweet flowers do creep.
    • "The shaft of the arrow had been feathered with one of the eagle's own plumes. We often give our enemies the means of our own destruction."
    • Aesop, The Eagle Wounded by an Arrow,
    • Hassan (2005). Kamus Pepatah Bidalan \& Perumpamaan. PTS Professional. p. 136. 
  • "Air tenang menghanyutkan."
    • Calm water washes away
    • English equivalent: Still water runs deep.
    • "One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision."
    • B. Russell, New Hopes for a Changing World
    • Sapinah Haji Said (24 June 2015). Kamus Peribahasa Melayu. Pelangi ePublishing Sdn Bhd. p. 28. ISBN 978-967-431-452-1. 
  • Alah bisa karena biasa.
    • It's possible since it's regular.
    • English equivalent:Practice makes perfect.
    • Yusmansyah. Aqidah Akhlaq. PT Grafindo Media Pratama. 

B[edit]

  • Bermain air basah, bermain api hangus.
    • Playing with water, wet. Playing with fire, burned.
    • English equivalent: Sow wind reap a whirlwind.
    • Badudu (2008). Kamus peribahasa: memahami arti dan kiasan peribahasa, pepatah, dan ungkapan. Penerbit Buku Kompas. p. 5. 
  • Bersakit-sakit dahulu bersenang-senang kemudian.
    • To be sick first, to be happy later.
    • The second couplet of Berakit-rakit ke hulu, berenang-renang ke tepian.
    • English equivalent: He deserves not the sweet, that will not taste of the sour.
    • "You got to lose, to know how to win."
    • "No pain, no gain."
    • Alternative meaning: "Do the more difficult things so you can be more relax in the end."
    • Aerosmith, Dream On (1973)
    • 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.
    • English equivalent: Where there is a will, there is a way.
    • "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. 
  • Gajah di depan mata tak kelihatan namun kuman di sebrang lautan nampak jelas
    • Literal translation: Elephant in front of your eyes can't be seen but the speck across the sea are clearly visible
    • English equivalent: You can see the speck in your brother's eye but not the plank in your own.
    • A warning to hypocrites.

H[edit]

  • Habis manis sepah dibuang.
    • After the sweet, the leftover are thrown away.
    • English equivalent: He is a fair weather friend.
    • Meaning: Abandoning something if there are no benefits of using it left.
    • 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.
    • Be like a beetle, living once on a flower field. Don't be like a fly, living once on a mountain of trash
    • English equivalent: Life is what you make of it.
    • Bao. Plesetan Pribahasa. Niaga Swadaya. p. 74. 

K[edit]

  • Kasih hati, minta jantung.
    • Given love, they ask for a heart.
    • Note: "Hati" means either Liver, or the proverbial "heart", while "Jantung" means the organ "heart"
    • English equivalent: Give him an inch and he will take a yard.
    • Atmosumarto (2004). A Learner's Comprehensive Dictionary of Indonesian. Atma Stanton. p. 75. 
  • Kepala boleh panas, tetapi hati harus tetap dingin.
    • The head can be heated but the heart must stay cool.
    • "God sends a curst cow short horns."
    • William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing (1598)
    • Komunikasi Bisnis, edisi 3. Erlangga. p. 254. 

L[edit]

  • Lain ladang lain belalang, lain lubuk lain ikannya.
    • Different fields different grasshoppers, different pools different fishes.
    • English equivalent: Don't measure others by your own yardstick.
    • "Those who understand evil pardon it."
    • George Bernard Shaw, Maxims for Revolutionaries (1903)
    • 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 di tangan daripada sepuluh burung di pohon.
    • Better one bird on hand than ten birds on a 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.
    • Thinking birds would soar high, pigeon on hand released.
    • English equivalent: Better an egg today, than a hen tomorrow.
    • 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'.
    • 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.
    • Think first your idea, for later regrets are useless.
    • 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 are the base for intelligence
    • English equivalent: Diligence is the mother of good luck.
    • "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.
    • However smart a squirrel jumps, in the end they fall back down.
    • English equivalent: The pitcher goes so often to the well that it is broken at last.
    • "He that often takes risks will sooner or later have a failure. or A criminal will finally be caught."
    • "We make plans but the outcome is often different from the expected one. Unconsidered factors or changed conditions often produce an unexpected result."
    • Source for meaning: Paczolay, Gyula (1997). "55". European proverbs: in 55 languages, with equivalents in Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Chinese and Japanese. Veszprémi Nyomda. p. 287. ISBN 1-875943-44-7. 
    • 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.
    • Cannot dance but blame the floor as uneven.
    • Same as: Buruk rupa cermin dibelah.
      • The ugly breaks the mirror.
    • 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. 

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