Indonesian Homonyms

What makes a language special is that not only has it been developed throughout history, but also how it has been helping humankind in spreading ideas. The number of languages that exist in this world is plentiful. The number of vocabs that are contained in each language is even abundant.


With the number of vocabs that one language has, there are still words that have the same spelling, same pronunciation but have a different meaning. This is called homonyms. Being the sixth most spoken language, the Indonesian language has homonyms as well. You can tell the different meanings of each homonym by looking at its context while using it in a sentence. Let’s take a look at these Indonesian homonyms!


1. Bisa

You might often hear the word ‘bisa’ in the Indonesian language when you are asking or stating if one is able to do certain things. The word ‘bisa’ can be followed by words of action or types of skills. For Example:


Saya bisa memasak.

(I can cook.)


What you might have not noticed before is that the word ‘bisa’ also means animal’s venom. ‘Bisa’ can be used to describe the venom of any animals such as snakes, scorpions, and other insects. To put this in a sentence you can say:


Ular kobra memiliki bisa yang mematikan.

(King Cobra has deadly venom.)


2. Bunga

If you see colorful petals on top of some green plants in the park, then you are probably looking at ‘bunga’. ‘Bunga’ in Indonesian means flowers. If you are a big fan of flowers and nature, you might want to come to visit Indonesia to see the largest ‘bunga’ in the world which is the Rafflesia Arnoldi. You can say:


Saya ingin lihat bunga Rafflesia di Indonesia.

(I want to see Rafflesia flowers in Indonesia).


Aside from flowers, ‘bunga’ is also used to express bank interest which is the amount of extra money that you will get to your savings account. This can also mean the extra money that you have to pay if you are having a loan to the bank. For Example:


Bank X memberi bunga 5% setiap bulan.

(The X Bank gives 5% of interest each month.)


3. Malang

The top city with the most tourist visits in Indonesia is definitely Bali, but there is also a city in East Java, Indonesia that you should visit. That city is called ‘Malang’. This city is very famous for its local commodity which is apples.


Yesterday I went to Malang.

(Kemarin saya pergi ke Malang.)


The word ‘malang’ does not only roled as the name of a city, but it can also be used to describe something that is unfortunate. You can also say ‘malang’ as a form of expression.


Malang sekali anak itu.

(Poor kid.)


4. Rapat

What's the one thing that people usually do at the office when they gather in a room discussing certain topics? Exactly, they are having a meeting. In Indonesia we call it ‘rapat’. ‘Rapat’ is usually spoken to describe a meeting although it does not always have to be in the office.


Jangan lupa, besok pagi kita rapat ya!

(Don’t forget our meeting tomorrow!)


Other than to describe a meeting, ‘rapat’ can also mean to put something very tightly or to leave very minimal space between two things. The very simple example is when you close the lid of a lunch box, it blocks the air from going inside the box. You can express it by saying:


Tempat bekal itu tertutup rapat.

(That lunch box is closed tightly.)


5. Tanggal

We can use the word ‘tanggal’ to tell the date. You might find this word very common on a daily basis because a lot of people ask about it all the time. You can also ask this question to practice your Indonesian numbers. For instance:


A: “Tanggal berapa hari ini?”

(What date is today?)


B: “Hari ini tanggal dua puluh.”

(Today is the twentieth.)


Despite its function to tell the date, ‘tanggal’ can also mean that something is being detached from its original place and it dropped all the way down. Indonesians usually use this word to tell how their teeth fell out.


Gigi saya tanggal tadi malam.

(My teeth fell out last night.)


So, did you see these words coming? We hope you enjoy reading these homonyms. Practice your Indonesian by using these words with all of its contexts so you can fully understand the difference. The more understanding you’ve accomplished, the more fluent you are in speaking the language. Happy learning!




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