Maksud Loh: A Guide to How Indonesians Really Speak

A majority of Indonesian-language-trained foreigners arrive in the archipelago and then crash. They can’t understand the slangy everyday Indonesian. Most of the Indonesian spoken on the street comes from the country’s rich slang lexicon, not from formal vocabulary. Yet no guide to Indonesian slang has come out for 15+ years. Until now…voila!

(To buy the best Indonesian slang guide, visit this page to purchase:

To ask why someone is feeling strong about something, Indonesians usually say Kok gitu sih? whereas the textbooks teach, “Mengapa Anda punya perasaan yang ini?” Clearly the textbooks are failing Indonesian language students!

This dictionary’s higher purpose is to let visitors make deeper connections with Indonesia. Too often the foreigners get frustrated by the thick slang and then retreat to their expat bubble. Indonesians also could realize how their colloquial language can be unintelligible even to the most earnest Indonesian language learner. Have some mercy on the bule (foreigner)!

Slang reveals a lot about Indonesia. Perhaps nowhere else more than in Indonesia does the language reflect the cultural influences vying for influence in Indonesia. The etymology is as eclectic as the country’s history.

Much of Jakarta slang reflects the Hokkien influence on the capital given the gua (me) and lu (you) pronouns match the same Hokkien pronouns.

Slang reflects cultural fusion with English-speaking cultures and norms, such as the English phrase “on the way” which gets texted by the stuck-in-traffic or procrastinating-dude to the more punctual friend.

Other slang words reflect Indonesia’s political culture, in Abidin which is is an acronym reflecting public use of funds for a junket trip.

I’ve compiled over 500 words from modern Indonesia and will soon publish into a On The Way book. To be linked here soon.

So let’s get…on the way…a preview of the dictionary is below. Welcome your feedback in comments!


ABG: Youngster. (literally: Anak Baru Gede, a child just got big)

Abidin: A junket. (From Atas BIaya DINas, meaning “courtesy of official funding”)

Abis: Upon finishing something. After. See also “Top abis,” meaning: There’s nothing better.


Bonek: Reckless (but usually funny) person. (from Bondo Nekat).

Bonyok: Parents. (From bokap-nyokap).


Cabut: Let’s go, let’s get out of here.

Cabe-cabean: Riding a motorbike with three or more people. Also refers to a fun-loving young woman who typically drives around on a motorbike with two others, wearing bright leggings, overdone makeup, and loving selfies. The male equivalent would be terong2an (=🍆).

CCP: Secretly (From curi-curi pandang, to steal someone’s sights).

Cewek: Girl, equivalent to “chick” in American slang.

Cowok: Guy.

Cuci mata: To check out the human scenery; window shopping (Literally, “clean the eyes”)

Cuek: Indifferent in a rude way.

Cukong: Rich businessman (particularly of Chinese descent).


Dasar: That’s so you! I knew you’d do that! (From dasar, meaning base. I.e. That’s the base of your personality to do that).


Ember: Indeed. From memang benar. (usually but not always in LGBT community)

Enak Aja: It’s only you who thinks that way. It’s not fair!


Gayus: To make money the unfair way. (From a former low-ranking tax collector named Gayus who made hundreds of thousands from corruption and then bribed his way out of jail daily)

Gitu loh: Indeed


Iseng: Doing something for fun.


Jablay: Romantically frustrated woman, a shortened acronym of jarang dibelai (rarely romanced).


Kacang Larang: Someone who pretends to obey but really just does his own thing.

Kacau: Broken, messed up.

Kagak: No. Also means “that’s nonsense.” (Longer form of “gak” which is a slang version of “tidak,” meaning “no.”)

Kali: Maybe.

Kan: Short form of bukan at sentence’s end to confirm something. Also can get used sarcastically such as “I told you not to do it, but you kept on doing it, now take the consequences.”

Kapok: Don’t do the same mistakes again. (Used for when a Mom scolds a son for doing something she already warned about. Javanese origin).

Kayak: Like. (not a boat)

KDRT: Domestic violence (Compound word from Kekerasaan dalam Rumah Tangga)

Keren: Great, cool, impressive.

Ketawa: To laugh (slang for tertawa,).

Kirain: I thought (From the verb “kira,” meaning “to consider/think”)

Kuper: Dork. (from Kurang pergaulan, not so socialized)

KZL: Feeling annoyed (from “kesel” or “kesal”, usually followed with “bingits”).


Lebay: Exagerrated, over-the-top, “you’re too much.”

Lemot: Lazy; (compound acronym of lemah otak, meaning “slow mind.”)

Lu: You. (From Jakarta slang, originally from Hokkien)


Mager: Lazy. (From malas gerak = too lazy to move)

Modus: Flirtatious. The Indonesian twist on modus operandi.


Nah: Filler word, proceeding something you want to emphasize. Also can mean “See!”

Naksir: Desirous (From Taksir)

Nanya: To ask a question. (Example how often Indonesians cut off the first two letters of a verb)

Nongkrong: Hang out (synonym of “main”)

Norak: Too much.

Nongol: Show up

Nyebelin: Annoying


PD: You’re quite confident! (From percaya diri = confidence)

PDKT: To woo; making a move on a crush (from “pendekatan,” or process of approaching)

Pegel: Capek/tired

Pewe: In a comfortable position for doing nothing or not moving (Acronym of “Posisi wuenak,” the second word being slang of “enak” or delicious)

Pil: Pria Idaman Lain

Pol: Very


Rese: Annoying (synonym of Nyebelin)

Ribet: Busy with unnecessary things

Roti sobek: Man with six-pack abs (Literally, broken bread)


Sih: Filler word, to soften the end of a phrase.

Sip: Yes (usually said with a thumbs up!)

Sok tau: You know it all (Long form of “sotoy” which means the same thing)

STMJ: Sudah tua masih jomblo (already old but still single. A pun on the usual STMJ — susu telor madu jahe, a sweet drink made out of milk, eggs, honey, and ginger.


TTDJ: Be careful on your trip (from haTi haTi Di Jalan; also nickname of a famous DJ, Titi DJ)

Titip: To drop something off so someone can look after it. Also spelt “nitip.”

Top markotop: Very very good.


Ujung ujung duit (UUD): It all comes down to money (Literally: at the end of it is money).


Wil: Dream girl (From Wanita Idaman Lain).

Woles: Slow. From selow, just letter order reversed.


Yoii: Exactly/indeed!

Yuk: Let’s go!

Look for the book soon in Kompas Gramedia bookstore.

Fan of open systems and Web3. Rum and Wisconsin beer drinker. Donor to anti-racist groups. Visited 64 and lived in 11 countries. Views expressed are personal.