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Friday, November 11, 2005

Indonesian Proverbs


"Ada asap ada api."
Where there is smoke, there is fire
Meaning: There's a cause of everything.

"Ada gula ada semut."
Where there is sugar, there are ants
Meaning: People tend to be attracted to what most benefits them

"Ada tahi ada lalat."
Where there is shit, there are flies
Meaning: People tend to be attracted to what most benefits them

"Ada udang di balik batu."
There is a shrimp behind the stone
Meaning: There are hidden purposes behind an act

"Air beriak tanda tak dalam."
Water with ripple is shallow
Meaning: People with much ado usually don't know much/shallow

"Air cucuran jatuhnya ke pelimbahan juga."
Water drips from the roof will eventually go to the reservoir
Meaning similar to "Like father like son" or "An apple never falls far from the tree"

"Air dicincang tak putus."
Water minced will not get separated.
Meaning: Like the seaweed that clings to each other after each passing boat separates them, so too a family will come together with the passing of each crisis.
See also: "Biduk lalu kiambang bertaut."

"Air susu dibalas dengan air tuba."
Milk is repaid with poison
Meaning: A good deed that is repaid by a bad deed

"Air tenang menghanyutkan."
Still water runs deep.
Meaning: Never underestimate a quiet person, for he may have qualities that belie his quiet nature.

"Air tenang jangan disangka tiada buaya"
Never think that still water doesn't have crocodiles.
Meaning: Never take for granted a quiet person, for he may have qualities that belie his quiet nature.

"Anak dipangku dilepaskan, beruk di rimba disusukan."
A child in the lap is let go, a monkey from the forest is nursed instead.
Meaning: Changing priorities.

"Alah bisa karena biasa."
Practice makes perfect.
Meaning: If we do a lot of practice we can do a good job.

"Anjing menggonggong, kafilah tetap berlalu."
The dogs are barking, the caravan moves on
Meaning: Useless protest, critic, or sarcasm.

"Asam di gunung, garam di laut bertemu dalam satu belanga."
Tamarind in the mountain, salt in the sea meet in a cauldron.
Tamarind and salt are two of the most important and frequently used spices in Indonesia.
Meaning: Even things that are far apart can meet as one. Usually used to settle differences between two rivalries or to express a relationship from two very different entities. Or, in the context of match-making, even two persons of different backgrounds / from
distant places can meet and eventually get married.

"Bagai air di daun talas."
As if water on talas leaf.
Daun talas has a thin waxy layer and therefore is waterproof.
Meaning: Two things that never get along.
Sometimes used for a person who does not have a firm conviction.

"Bagai aur dengan tebing"
Like the bamboo and the river bank
Meaning: Each is dependent on the other for their mutual survival.
See also: "Bagai kuku dengan isi".

"Bagai kerakap di atas batu, hidup segan mati tak mau."
As if kerakap leaf on a rock, unwilling to live, unwilling to die.
Kerakap is a wide leaf of sirih tree and is extraordinarily resilient and long lasting. However, as with other leafs, once it's plucked off from the tree, it's bound to die.
Meaning: Fighting a losing battle.

"Bagai kuku dengan isi."
Like the fingernail and the flesh beneath.
Meaning: Each is dependent on the other for their mutual survival.
See also: "Bagai aur dengan tebing".

"Bagai makan buah simalakama."
As if eating Simalakama fruit.
The story says that if one is presented with the fruit of Simalakama: If he eats it, his father would die, otherwise his mother would die instead.
Meaning: In a no-win situation where all the possible solutions present has terrible consequence(s).

"Bagai mendapat durian runtuh."
As if receiving falling durian fruits.
Meaning: When a durian tree is already ripe and sweet, many of the durians will fall to the ground. This proverb refers to someone who has suddenly gained much wealth.

"Bagai menatang minyak yang penuh."
Like carrying a cupful of oil.
Meaning: A person who is extremely cautious in doing something. Often used to describe one's love for a child.

"Bagai pungguk merindukan bulan."
Like an owl craving for the moon.
Meaning: A person who wish for something impossible.

"Bagai telur diujung tanduk."
As an egg on the tip of a horn.
Meaning: In a very critical situation as the egg will soon tip-over and fall.

"Bagaikan air dengan minyak."
Like water and oil.
Meaning: Does not mix well together.

"Berakit-rakit ke hulu, berenang-renang ke tepian. Bersakit-sakit dahulu, bersenang-senang kemudian."
Rafting up the stream, swimming to its edge. Getting pains first, having fun next."
Often, both couplet are cited. Sometimes just the first couplet. Rafting up the stream signifies arduous effort, swimming (downhill) is the fun and easy part.
Meaning: No pain no gain.

"Berat sama dipikul, ringan sama dijinjing."
Heavy we shoulder together, light we hand-carry together.
Meaning: Collaboration, sharing of burden irrespective of the weight.

"Bermain air basah, bermain api hangus."
Playing with water, wet. Playing with fire, burned.
Meaning: Every action has its consequences.

"Bersakit-sakit dahulu bersenang-senang kemudian."
The second couplet of "Berakit-rakit ke hulu, berenang-renang ke tepian."
Meaning: No pain no gain.

"Bersatu kita teguh, bercerai kita runtuh."
United we stand, divided we fall

"Besar pasak dari pada tiang."
The peg is greater than the stake
In camping, pegs for the camp should be smaller than the stakes. It would be a waste if we make the pegs greater than the stakes.
Meaning: Expense is bigger than income.

"Biduk lalu kiambang bertaut."
Hull gets past seaweed gets together again.
Meaning: Like the seaweed that clings to each other after each passing boat separates them, so too a family will come together with the passing of each crisis.
See also: "Air dicincang tak putus"

"Buruk muka cermin dibelah."
Ugly face, the mirror is split.
Meaning: Blaming the wrong reason/cause or creating a scapegoat.

"Dimana ada kemauan, di situ ada jalan."
Where there is a will, there is a way

"Dimana bumi dipijak, disitu langit dijunjung."
Wherever we stand, we have to hold the sky
Meaning: Wherever we live, we must observe the local custom.

"Dimana tak da lang, aku lah lang, kata belalang."
Where there are no eagles, I am the one, said the grasshopper.
Here's a rhyming play in the proverb. The first and second "lang" are Eagle = Elang, which rhymes with Grasshopper = Belalang.
Meaning: Where's no top dogs, underdogs will be seen as one.

"Duduk sama rendah, tegak sama tinggi."
Sitting the same low, standing the same height
Meaning: Equality, emancipation.

"Dunia tak selebar daun kelor."
The world isn't as wide as kelor leaves.
Meaning: The opposite of It's A Small World.
Usually to comfort a broken heart, suggesting "Hey, there are still plenty of girls/guys out there."

"Gajah bertarung lawan gajah, pelanduk mati di tengah-tengah."
Elephants wage war against elephants, deers die in the midst
Meaning: When prominent persons fights, commoners would suffer.

"Gajah di pelupuk mata tak tampak, semut diseberang lautan tampak."
An elephant on the eyelid can't be seen, but an ant on the other side of the sea can.
Meaning: An egoistic person can't realize his/her own mistakes, but can always find mistakes of others

"Gajah mati meninggalkan gadingnya, macan mati meninggalkan belangnya, manusia mati meninggalkan namanya."
An elephant dies leaves its tusk, a tiger dies leaves its stripes, a person dies leaves his/her name.
Meaning: Someone will be remembered by his/her accolades.

"Guru kencing berdiri, murid kencing berlari."
The teacher urinates while standing, the pupil urinates while running."
Meaning: A junior will always mimic/do what the senior does.


"Habis manis sepah dibuang."
Literally: Habis = Finished, Manis = Sweet, Sepah = Tasteless, Dibuang = Thrown away.
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 (egoistic act)

"Hati gajah sama dilapah, hati tungau sama dicecah"
Translation: An elephant is still an elephant when flayed; a flea is still a flea if you proke at it.
Meaning: You get what you get - if you get a lot of something, then you have a lot, if you get a small amount of something, you only have a small amount.


"Ingin hati memeluk gunung, apa daya tangan tak sampai."
Translation: The will of the heart is to hug the mountain, but the arm is not long enough.
Meaning: This proverb is often used to illustrate a person who does not have enough resources to do/accomplish his goal/wish.


"Jadilah kumbang, hidup sekali di taman bunga, jangan jadi lalat, hidup sekali di bukit sampah."
Be a bee, lived once in a flowery garden, not a fly, lived once in heaps of garbage.
Meaning: Live a good and useful life.

"Jadilah orang pandai bagai padi yang merunduk."
Be a smart man, like drooping paddy.
Paddy droops more as it matures since its kernel is getting heavier.
Meaning: To be a smart man you need to be humble. Or: A smart man is usually humble. See Tong kosong nyaring bunyinya.


"Kacang lupa kulitnya."
Translation: A nut forgets its shell
This proverb is often used to illustrate a person who forgets where he/she come from (e.g. hometown, family, heritage, etc.)

"Kalah jadi abu, menang jadi arang."
Translation: Loser becomes ashes, winner becomes (burnt) coal.
This proverb is often used to illustrate a lose/lose situation, where both winner and loser gain nothing from the conflict.

"Kalau tak ingin terlimbur pasang, jangan berumah di tepi laut."
If you don't want to get flooded, don't build a house next to the sea.

"Kalo di hutan tak ada singa, beruk rabun bisa menjadi raja."
If there were no lion in the jungle, a blind monkey can be king.

"Karena mulut badan binasa."
Because of the mouth the body is destroyed.

"Karena nila setitik, rusak susu sebelanga."
One drop of indigo stains the whole cauldron of milk.
The word "indigo" here means something like ink.
Meaning: one ill behaviour may cause others to forget the kindness we've done.

"Kasih anak sepanjang galah, kasih ibu sepanjang jalan."
The love from a child is as long as a stick, the love from a mother is as long as a road
Meaning: A mother's love is neverending

"Ke gunung sama mendaki, ke lurah sama menurun."
Together we climb the mountain, together we climb down the hill
Meaning: Together in good and bad times

"Keluar mulut harimau, masuk mulut buaya."
Out from the tiger's mouth, into the crocodile's mouth.
Meaning: To describe a person who has just gotten out from a precarious situation just to get into another precarious situation.

"Kemarau setahun dihapuskan hujan sehari."
A year of dry season (summer) is erased by a day of rain
Meaning: A long dispute has been forgoten by love, or sometimes a long time of goodness has been forgotten by one badness.

"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.
Meaning: A dispute can only be resolved by discussing the problem openly and coolly.

"Kepala sama hitam, isi hati siapa tahu."
The hair is all colored the same (black in this case), but no one will know the inside of one's heart
Meaning: A different way of thingking in every person


"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.

"Lancar kaji karena diulang, lancar jalan karena ditempuh."
We spell fluently because we keep repeating it. We know the route because we pass it often.
Meaning: Be dilligent in learning.

"Lebih baik satu burung ditangan dari pada sepuluh burung dipohon."
Better one bird in the hand than 10 birds on the tree.
Meaning: Better something than nothing.

"Lempar batu sembunyi tangan."
Throw a stone but hide the hand.
Meaning: Someone who doesn't want to be responsible for his/her doing.

"Luka di kaki, sakit seluruh badan."
A pain in the feet, the whole body feels it.
Meaning: To describe a unity of a society.


"Malu bertanya, sesat di jalan."
Embarrassed to ask will result in getting lost.
Meaning: Asking question is the only way to learn

"Mati satu tumbuh seribu."
One dead replaced by one thousand.
Used to describe the undying spirit of a movement (for instance during the struggle for independence)
Also: "Gugur satu tumbuh seribu." The word 'gugur' means similar as 'mati' (die), but it usually relates only with dead leaves (when a leaf dries it will fall from its tree) or somebody who dies in honour, like the heroes. Thus, "Gugur satu tumbuh seribu" sounds more patriotic than "Mati satu tumbuh seribu."

"Memancing di air keruh."
Fishing in a murky water.
Meaning: Taking advantage of a murky/confusing situation.

"Memang lidah tidak bertulang."
The tongue indeed has no bone.
Meaning: To describe, with disgust, a person who has no principle, who kept changing what he/she says, who is a big time liar.

"Menang jadi arang, kalah jadi abu."
Meaning: To describe a no win situation
Same as: Bagai makan buah simalakama.
See: Kalah jadi abu, menang jadi arang

"Mengharap burung terbang tinggi, punai di tangan dilepaskan."
Meaning: Expecting something bigger, and we let go what we already have.
Example: A gamble who gamble away his paycheck expecting to win big but ends up with nothing.

"Mengharapkan hujan turun, air di tempayan ditumpahkan."
Eager for the rain to fall, water already stored is thrown away.
Same as: Mengharap burung terbang tinggi, punai di tangan dilepaskan

"Menuhuk kawan seiring menggunting dalam lipatan."
To punch a comrade, to cut inside a fold.
Meaning: To describe a traitor (or traitorous acts)

"Merdeka atau mati."
Freedom or death.
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.
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'.


"Nasi telah menjadi bubur."
The rice has become porridge
Meaning: Describe, usually with regret, something that has already happenned and is irreversible.

"Panas mentari di kepala orang banyak, panas hati dirasa sendiri."
The heat of the sun is felt by everybody, the heat in the heart can only be felt by oneself.
Meaning: There is no point of nurturing a contempt/hate/anger inside us. Just let it go!

"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.)
Similar to: Mati satu tumbuh seribu.

"Pikir dahulu pendapatan, sesal kemudian tidak berguna."
Thinking first is an asset, regret later is useless.
Meaning: Think everything carefully before committing yourself because there is no point for regretting it later.

"Pikir itu pelita hati."
Thought is the light of the heart
Meaning: Think!

"Pucuk dicinta ulam tiba."
Meaning: To get something one silently expects/wishes for.


"Rajin pangkal pandai."
Meaning: diligence is the beginning of brilliance

"Rumput tetangga selalu lebih hijau."
The neighbour's lawn/grass is always greener.
Meaning: we are never satisfied with our posessions.


"Sambil menyelam minum air."
Drink water while diving
Meaning: Do two things at one go

"Sejelek-jelek pemimpin pasti punya anak buah, sebaik-baik pemimpin pasti punya musuh."
No matter how bad a leader is he/she will have followers, no matter how good a leader is he/she will have enemies.
Meaning: There is always someone who loves you, and someone who hates you.

"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.

"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.

"Sekali bah, sekali pantai berubah"
Once there is a flood, the beach will change
Meaning: A change of event such as the death of a leader, will lead to other changes.
Same as: Sambil menyelam minum air.

"Sepandai-pandai tupai meloncat, akhirnya jatuh juga."
No matter how smart a squirrel can jump, it will fall eventually.
Meaning: No matter how smart a person is, eventually he/she will make a mistake.

"Seperti katak dalam tempurung."
Like a frog trapped under a coconut shell
Meaning: No experience, narrow minded (but acts as if he knows everything)

"Seperti katak hendak jadi lembu."
The story says of a frog that wants to be as big as a cow by inflating itself. In the end, its body bursts open and the frog dies.
Meaning: Someone who expect to become someone that beyond him.
Meaning: Someone who wish/expect something impossible.
Similar with: Bagai pungguk merindukan bulan

"Seperti pinang dibelah dua."
Like a halved pinang.
Pinang is a tree with very straight up trunk, similar to the banana tree.
Meaning: Like a twin, very similar (in appearance)
Humorous: "Seperti pinang dibelah dua dengan kapak". The literal meaning is like pinang halved with an axe. Idiomatically, it means two things that are quite different (because you can never halve a pinang with an axe neatly).

"Setajam-tajam pisau, masih lebih tajam lidah."
No matter how sharp a knife gets, a tongue is even sharper.
Meaning: Be careful of what you say as it can hurt more (feelings) than a knife

"Setinggi-tingginya bangau terbang, akhirnya ke pelimbahan juga."
No matter how high a crane flies, it will fall into the pit eventually.
Meaning: No matter how successful a person is, he/she will experience some bad things too.

"Sudah jatuh, tertimpa tangga pula."
A person slips, and a ladder falls on him.
Meaning: All the bad things seems to happen at the same time.
To describe a very unlucky person who has been having an unlucky streak.

"Surga di telapak kaki ibu."
Heaven is on the bottom of mother's foot.
Meaning: A person who loves/cares about their mother is doing the best deed.
This is also a reference to the saying of Prophet Mohammad of the same meaning, explaining the position of Mother in Islamic belief.


"Tak ada gading yang tak retak."
There are no ivory that is not cracked.
Meaning: Nothing is perfect in this world.

"Tak ada rotan, akar pun jadi."
No rattans, roots will do.
Meaning: If you are desperate, you must not be choosy.

"Tak bisa menari dikatakan lantai yang berjungkit."
Cannot dance but blame the floor as uneven.
Meaning: Blaming the wrong reason. Looking for a scapegoat.
Same as: Buruk rupa cermin dibelah.

"Tong kosong nyaring bunyinya."
An empty drum gives good sound.
Meaning: A person who talks a lot usually is empty inside (of knowledge).

"Tua-tua keladi, makin tua makin menjadi nakal."
Older, worser
Meaning: Older but instead of getting wiser, one gets naughtier.

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