Learning Javanese Words & Phrases

Aug 28th, 2008, in Society, by

Purba Negoro on the future of Javanese language, and learning some easy words and phrases.

Hello all,

Being a foreigner in Indonesia is indeed hard – but new friends are made instantly when you speak to them in their language – Indonesian. To an Indonesian it means a highly respected white values them enough to bother learning, what many Indonesians truly believe is a backward, provincial, idiotic language – in comparison to English or other European language.

Even more enamouring to the majority – 45%+ of Indonesians – and guaranteed to get you astonished faces and gasps you wish you could capture on film – is speaking some polite Javanese – or Kromo Inggil.

Many wrongly claim Javanese is extinct or dying. Actually – the complete opposite is true – we are finding many young people keen to learn. Sri Gusti Sultan Hamengkubuwana IX has vigourously re-introduced this ancient and beautiful language into his Kingdom – the minor Principalities following suit.

Javanese has been long part of the compulsory primary curriculum of Central Java – as have many regional languages like Batak, Sundanese, Balinese etc – even widely spoken Irian languages – even East Timorese language of Tetum (this is why it is alive still today). See we are not entirely evil.

In Central Java, street signs are becoming bi-lingual, house names – even Wikipedia in Javanese!

And I just bought as new Javanese dictionary to replace my ancient Dutch one – published 2008.

This is almost a complete reversal of Indonesian mindset – to elevate a perceived “kampungan” or provincial language. By all means – we must preserve all our ethnic languages- it is what makes us Indonesians so unique

Until about 1938 – Javanese was very much alive as a language – including a very widely circulated Surabayan newspaper printed entirely in Javanese script.

Tagalog has many Javanese loan words- like ‘aso’ (Javanese is: asuk) for dog.

So here are some very easy basic words that will garner you the affection of your beloved man/womans’ all powerful Javanese mother – you speak this polite Javanse- “you are in like Flynn”:

Note (e in Javanese is almost always the ‘e’ in “enam” or British pronunciation of ‘example’.

I have spelt as pronounced.:

  • Thank-you- Matur Nyuwun
  • You’re welcome: Sami-sami
  • Excuse Me/Beg your Pardon/I’m Sorry- Nyuwun Sewu ultra polite: nyuwun pangapuro
  • Excuse me as in: May I beg your leave? ke Pareng
  • How are you? Kado?s pundi kabaripun? or pripun kabaripun? (ultra polite)
  • May I pass? ndhere langkung? (it literally means- may I pass on your left)
  • Who? Sinten?
  • Here: wonten mriki
  • There: wonten mriko
  • Yes? (as in being called): Dalem Mas/mBak? Dalem Pak/Bu? Dalem sayang?

Age names:

  • Jeng- younger girlfriend
  • Nak- for children
  • Mas/mBak- older brother/sister- anyone slightly younger, same age or older by roughly 10 years
  • Pak/Bu- mother/father- anyone older by 10- 15 years
  • Pak de/Bu de- big father/mother- senior by 15+ years or until about age 65-ish
  • Eyang- grandma/pa- anyone obviously very senior around 70’s ish unless they object (Javanese can be very vain)!
  • No (as in tidak)- boten
  • No- (as in bukan)- sanes (with e is as in ‘keg’)
  • welcome – sugeng rawuh
  • Good evening= Sugeng Dalu
  • Good Afternoon= Sugeng sonten (sore time)
  • Good Morning= Sugeng injang
  • Bon voyage= Sugeng tindak
  • Bon appetit!= Sugeng dahar
  • Please Eat= Monggo dahar
  • Happy Birthday: Sugeng Ambel Warsa!
  • Please (action implied- like silahkan)- monggo
  • I Love you: Dalem tresno panjenengan

Yo wes. Cekap. Parang ya?

50 Comments on “Learning Javanese Words & Phrases”

  1. Purba Negoro says:

    Sorry- Javanese slip- parang is sword.

    I meant to type pareng. Nyuwun pangapuro, ya?

    Also Dutch Gulden featured the four scripts of these four languages: Chinese, Arabic, Javanese and Dutch. on the reverse of the note

    Here is a picture:
    (Javanese top, Chinese left, Arabic right, Dutch bottom):

  2. Kris says:

    Hi, as a linguist, I’m curious what your statement is based on that Tagalog has many Javanese loanwords, I’d be very interested to hear more about that… Thanks

  3. Here’s an online tool to help you improve your skill in Javanese numbers (might be useful in bargaining situations with Javanese vendors).

  4. Peter says:

    Informative post!

    Yes, after staying in Jogja for 2 months, I’d agree that Javanese does not seem to be in the grip of death. It’s spoken just as much if not more than bhs Indo, and some of my friends there actually purposefully speak Javanese instead of Indonesian. Someday I hope to learn basa Jawa, but that may be a long way off. I think it sounds nicer and more sophisticated than bhs Indo, personally.

    Also, I noticed that Javanese culture and history are recieving a lot of interest these days. Just go to any Gramedia.

    I would say that “thanks” in Javanese is much closer to “Matur Nuwun” than “Matur Nyuwun”. No one ever said it like that in my experience.

  5. Peter says:

    But hopefully, I would add, this interest in all things Javanese isn’t just a fad, like the popularity of batik clothing these days seems to be.

  6. Aluang Anak Bayang says:

    Our language should be official as we are the majority, the most powerful and most prominent race in the nusantara. The puppet melayu (collaraborator of the Bules) were put in governmental position as they were considered easy to control. Javanese are stubborn and rebellious.

  7. Purba Negoro says:

    enggeh, Mas Peter.

    It is Noowen. I am from DIY myself.

    Setujuh Mas AAB: Agung Ageng Buminegororoyo.

    I agree-we Javanese should well be now above 50% of the population.
    Those rough and rowdy Batak need a good Javanese dose of manners too.

    Javanese is very much essential extra spice to living in Jakarta even.
    Next post I will do Sundanese, then Balinese.

    I think Javanese newspaper needs to be put back into daily circulation- a language unpracticed and unspoken will die. And language is the window to one’s thought and the root of culture.
    Maybe also Sundanese Buginese and maybe Bali- as very similar too and they are our very faithful and loyal friends.

    There are now more Javanese speakers than Japanese!
    All we need to do is help them relearn fluent reading.

    The Javanese script is also very elegant to read- as beautiful as fine Latin script cursive:

    Javanese culture is indeed beautiful- we have positively influenced many of our Austronesian brothers through our language , customs and culture and it deserves far better than neglect.

    No ndherek langkung for us!
    We must be gagah- not takut!

    Soon Javanese will be Unicode ready- we will be finally able to preserve and compose masses of our wonderful literature in our superb language!

    Kris: the fundamental influence of Javanese on Tagalog is neng and ng (Tag- nang and ng) as well as suffix “-an” and prefix “ke”.

    Andriana, asu, api, kita, kami, apat (papat) rambutan, asa, tolong, buntut, etc all Javanese.

    Kampangan and other Philippines languages have much stronger influence still. Phillipinos are our very close Austronesian brothers- we have been interacting and trading for centuries.
    When I go to Singapore- where many Filipinos work- they are often surprised when I can follow their conversation or when I ask- what part of Java are you from?!

    Even Dutch Formosa- now Chinese Taiwan- was in 1600’s majority Austronesian well-known to Javanese and called Siraya.
    The famous “Laguna” copper engraving of Philipines- clearly indicates Kawi script

    KL Adelaar is a very good source. His Javanese is superlative.
    Wolff attributes much Tagolog as Malay- but he is completely ignorant Malay is actually majority Javanese.

    Some PDF download from Adelaar:



    The Austronesian Languages of Asia and Madagascar
    By K. Alexander Adelaar, Nikolaus Himmelmann

    and here is excellent resource for our beautiful script (derived from Brahmin Palava)
    (also Batak, Buginese, Balinese and many more!)


    Now who wants some gudek? oh look cashew pecel from Wonogiri!
    Next post- Sundanese phrases!

    I hope Pak Sudarsono will join us to woo us with his trademark erotic kecapi style!

  8. Kris says:

    I am familiar with the work of Adelaar and Himmelmann. Nobody disputes that Tagalog and Javanese are related, in fact they both belong to the Malayo-Polynesian subgroup of Austronesian. What I’m taking issue with here is your claim that Tagalog borrowed a lot of words from Javanese. I have a suspicion that the borrowings you give are simply cognates from a common source. I don’t have access to scholarly works here, but I know for a fact that kami, kita and api are from the proto-language, and most certainly not from Javanese originally. Otherwise you’d have to explain how the Samoans borrowed their word for fire, afi, from the Javanese.

    As for your criticsm of Wolff, I’d have to download the articles first to understand what you’re criticising here (and right now I don’t have a good enough connection). But if it’s an older reference, it was quite common to call Austronesian Malayo-Polynesian until the Formosan languages were added into the mix. In fact Javanese and Malay belong to the same subsubgroup so large similarities are to be expected. In some cases the link might be obscured by the fact that Malay borrowed a considerable amount of its vocabulary. Indeed the origin of quite some commonly used Malay words is unclear while the corresponding words of many local languages in Indonesia can be traced back to the Austronesian proto-language.

  9. Purba Negoro says:

    Polynesians are genetically Austronesian.

    Many Javanese words have been borrowed to fit their lexicon.

    The theory is that the Austronesians migrated from South coastal Asia- probably somewhere around China-Mynamar border.
    They then island-hopped to Formos and Japan, then downward finally into Indonesia & Phillipines, constantly interacting, then sailed further out- all the way to Hawaii.
    Hawaiians, Samoans, Fijians, Tongans, Maori- all look very much like Batak Sumaterans- very big, solid, people.

    The cultural traits of body decoration, tattooing, poison use, head-hunting, ancestor-worship, expert seamanship and navigation and most especially the trademark outrigger boat remain universal.

    Even in part of Maluku in Indonesia- we find an instrument exactly like the Australian didgeridoo- and we are aware the Aborigines of Northern Territory and Javanese-Buginese all traded.

    Most likely we all remained in contact via trade and intermarriage etc.

    Here is a Samoan-Javanese comparison:

    Australian academia particularly has been polimicised- but neglects the very obvious. Javanese and Indonesian trade- as the dominant nation of the region was far more widespread than realised.
    This would have altered the prevailing perception “Malays” (istelf a problematic colonial term for Moslem inhabitants of the malay arhcipela (all of ASEAN really) Indonesians, etc were lazy, inept, and incapable and undermined the moral reaons for White colonialism.

    Then during the 1970’s- Western academia wrestled with post-modernism and cultural relativity.

    Unfortunately much Indonesian and Philipines research is unavailable to many Westerners- which is very much rooted in the tradition of evidence-based reasoning- still the dominant discourse of tertiary study.

    Post modernism and such liberal indulgences are soundly rejected as emotive hagiography in Asia

    There is still academic debate- but Iw ould argue as ajva being the most populated- the root is Javanese

    Samoa is known in Javanese as “Sava”.

    Her is a google scholar search on Javanese influence on Samoa:

  10. Purba Negoro says:

    Hallo und Servus Deutchlande!

  11. Kris says:

    Since my bad connection here doesn’t really allow me to get into protracted discussions, so I will end with this statement: linguistics uses the comparative method, which has worked well on the Austronesian family, and from that it is very unlikely that all these words came from Javanese as borrowings (your links on Samoan didn’t provide any insight into any kind of language contact, certain similarities in mythological stories is something completely else, you can even find similarities between Greek and Japanese mythology)….

    Now was far as archaeology and anthropology go, I will have to reserve my judgment to a certain degree since it is not my field, but I do know some archaeologists and anthropologists working in SE Asia, and they are not the ideology-laden fields you make them out to be. They too follow certain academic standards. Right now the accepted archeological theory for the migration path of the Austronesians (and the results gleaned from the comparative method seem to support this, though I caution anyone not to mix archeaological and linguistic evidence) is from their homeland somewhere in present-day Southern China to Taiwan, then on to the Philippines, and from the Southern Philippines three different routes on southward, to Sulawesi and Borneo/Kalimantan (s. works by Adelaar, Robert Blust, Malcolm Ross, and others as far as the linguistic evidence for the migration goes, and of course Peter Bellwood as far as the archaeological record goes, and also the account popularised by Jared Diamond in his book Guns, Germs, and Steel). The latter island is regarded the homeland also for the Malagasy and Malayic peoples (Malayic is a linguistic subgroup encompassing Javanese, Sundanese and Malay, often grouped with Balinese and Sasak, though not by all). As far as your claim for staying in touch through trade or intermarriage, that is not tenable. There is no evidence for this. There is the Lapita network around Melanesia and Polynesia of course roughly around 1000 BC, and the well-known Makassar-Australia trade link, which however occurred much more recently, starting only in the 18th century. As for Intermarriage relations, they are already very complicated at a local level, as the massive amount of anthropological literature available on this topic can attest to. A link to islands thousands of miles away is thus simply out of the question.

  12. Ramli says:

    Very good site indeed. I found one English-Javanese (Kromo Inggil) Dictionary when I was studying in tyhe US way back in 1974. Does such dictionary exust in Indonesia?

    Ramli Abdul Rahim

  13. jaka says:

    Pak PN, panjenengan sanes tiyang jawi nggih?

  14. Rob says:


    Being able to speak the lingo in any country you visit is indeed something that gains the respect of your hosts.

    You have posted elsewhere that you speak some Mandarin. I am sure that this is appreciated and respected by your hosts.

  15. Miguel says:

    Kampangan and other Philippines languages have much stronger influence still. Phillipinos are our very close Austronesian brothers- we have been interacting and trading for centuries.
    When I go to Singapore- where many Filipinos work- they are often surprised when I can follow their conversation or when I ask- what part of Java are you from?!

    In fact, javanese and tagalog people share a lot in common..both people emphasizes respect and proper public conduct. Both people don’t like confrontations and are slow to anger but they can be very strict and very stubborn. they are resilient people and they have a political tendency. they are both natural-born leaders since most of the government officials in indonesia are javanese. in the philippines, most government positions are occupied by people of tagalog culture. I know this because my father is a tagalog. I’m filipino (hey it is not PHilipino) by the way.

  16. Purba Negoro says:

    Pak/Bu Jaka.
    Buset! Memang se tiyang Jawa lan Jawir. Mengapa? Dalem ngulis di basa londo sebab semua wong2-an liya bisa slurup
    /waos. Saya menulis sing mriki di wowor boso ne wiwit/kasual (wus elek, nwn1000y?!) aja sebab mudah mangertos, ya. Nwn1000, ya? Karungan/sanes?

    Indeed. My Mandarin is poor to ludicrous and I am sure my pronunciation is woeful and ear-splittingly horrible- but the thought and effort is very appreciated- whatever nation, race etc.
    The “cold-shoulder” of a native just melts away as soon as they hear manners in their own tongue- whether it be London, Munchen, Dalian, Kirabati (not been yet unfortunately!), wherever.
    It’s amazing how some people just refuse to learn even the may I, please, excuse me and thank-you. Are four words too hard to bother or is it too hard too be bothered?

    Manners are indeed the may be considered to some a bourgeois affectation- but they are in the real world non-post-modernists dwell in the grease of society- without it needless friction occurs.

  17. jawa asli says:

    mas jaka,

    I think PN isnt orang jawa. He may be able to speak bahasa jawa but I bet he is a foreigner. Some of the mistakes that he made are so obvious that if he was from jogja he wouldnt have done it. I am really flattered though that someone actually really make an effort to learn krama inggil.

  18. Purba Negoro says:

    Hidup Rakyat Filipino!
    Sorry ya- paumanhin, ya Bapak?

    Tagalog: manipis ang mukha- shy person
    Indonesian: muka yang tipis- shy person

    matalas ang mata?
    Mata-nya jelas yang mata?

    Tag: anak-dalita- poor person
    Jav: anak dhalita- child of the dhalit

    I have some very old and crumbling Dutch dictionaries of Javanese I am trying to scan before they disintegrate.
    I have not yet come across either a Jawi or a specific Kromo Inggil dictyionary yet- but I shall ask my great aunt- she is a Javanese linguist former professor in UI

    Filipino, Malaysians, Indonesians and Javanese- best of friends- one royal blood ties us all!

  19. Purba Negoro says:

    Lucky’s dictionary was a great start.
    However the numbers are all in very vulgar ngoko pasaran- market speech portmanteaus

    You cannot speak these figures aloud to anyone aside from very low status person- even still it may cause offense.

    Lucky’s translations into Javanese are very rude- it has the connotation of slave-level servitude. Only use these numbers among very close same-age friends for gossip only.

    puluh should read “puloh”

    11- se welas
    12- loro-welas: rolas is portmanteau market vulgar speech
    13: telu welas no telas
    14- papat welas not patlas
    Indonesian “belas” is from Javanese “welas”

    20 is not correct

    You can use these numbers ok:
    seket= 50 good
    selawe= 25 good

    200- rong atus- you cannot say this- this is just rubbish gutter speech
    better use dua ratus and not cause offence.

  20. Mat Salleh says:

    Aluang Anak Bayang, at least you are honest. In 1928, only 5 per cent of people in Indonesia spoke Malay, which was to become known as ‘Bahasa Indonesia’. Now Javanese is just another ‘bahasa daerah’ in Indonesia, a vernacular language.

  21. fullmoonflower says:

    20 = kalih dasa (kromo) = rong puloh (ngoko)

    “puluh” in Bahasa Indonesia = “dasa” in Javanese kromo = “puloh” in Javanese ngoko

    kangmas jawa asli, dalem ugi sumelang dateng piyambakipun PN, amargi kathah ingkang tasih dereng leres…
    namung nggih sampun, mboten usah dipun penggalih…
    langkung sae, kita dukung kemawon semangatipun… lha wong dalem piyambak nggih sok klentu kok… nggih maklum, sampun dangu mboten ngendikan basa jawi ingkang leres…

  22. Pakmantri says:

    If you really interested in learning about Javanese these sites might help:

    These two are in Javanese:

    Ki Demang site

    Griya Maya Kabudayaan Jawa

    This is a Javanese-Indonesian dictionary, it might not be complete yet but it is much better than the Javanese dictionaries made by the Malaysian( interestingly when you Google learning bahasa Jawa, most sites were made by Malaysian and they are Jawa pasaran πŸ˜€ ):

    Kamus Jawa-Indonesia

    This one is in English:

    Joglosemar Online

    If you are interested in what is Kejawen then visit these sites:

    Javanese Mysticism

    Sumarah Meditation

    World Subud Association

    Pangestu website

    Have fun. πŸ˜€

    Monggo pinarak.

  23. fullmoonflower says:

    Matur Nuwun, Pak Mantri..

    Lha niki, piyayi Yogya asli, saking Mantrijeron je.. saking nJeron Beteng… πŸ™‚

    (So, he [pak mantri] is a real Yogya man, from Mantrijeron, a kampung inside of the Kraton Ngayogyakartahadiningrat Fort)

    inggih to? leres to?

    sugeng rawuh…..

  24. Pakmantri says:

    Sak wangsulipun , denAyu Sekar πŸ™‚

    Wah, dalem menika tiyang Jawi engkang sampun radi kesupen Jawi nipun, ngisin isini waris kemawon.

    ( Oh, I am just a Javanese who almost forget how to be a real Javanese, a disgrace to my ancestors ).

    Monggo …………

  25. Lairedion says:

    Pakmantri said:

    ( Oh, I am just a Javanese who almost forget how to be a real Javanese, a disgrace to my ancestors ).

    Reading your sensible answers I believe you are a true Javanese, unlike other posers here at IM.

  26. Pakmantri says:


    Ulah sok kitu lah kang, jadi era kuring euy. πŸ˜€

    But thanks anyway.

  27. fullmoonflower says:

    inggih Pak Mantri,

    kita sedanten kadose kedah kathah sinau malih…

    sok prihatin, menawi presa bocah-bocah dateng Yogya, sedaya mawi ngendikan ngagem basa Indonesia, nanging logatipun tasih logat Yogya ingkang medhok…
    rayi-rayi nggih sampun mboten saged ngendikan kromo hinggil… πŸ™

  28. ET says:

    As much as I admire all efforts to preserve regional languages – I myself am an eager student of high or Ida Balinese, very difficult due to the lack of grammar courses – I have suspicions that the promotion of Javanese and the growing trend in the media of random insertion of Javanese words and expressions serves a different purpose i.e. the slinky replacement of the neutral and unifying bahasa Indonesia by the idiom of the ruling and colonizing ethnic majority. Soft imperialism it is called.

    These last weeks even IM doesn’t seem to escape the trend, and not only in this tread.

  29. fullmoonflower says:


    even “banget” is Javanese…

    “banget” means “very”, whereas Bahasa Indonesia already has “sangat”… but people prefer to use “banget” than “sangat”..

    don’t know why… πŸ™‚

  30. Sen says:


    I wish the Java Script & Bali should be preserved and used.

    The Central Java People should learn Java Script and Indonesian Bahasa.

    Bali People should use Balinese script

    I speak Tamil and i have read that Tamil ( TAM ) , Java script ( JAV ) came from Brahmi….We can see the similarity in the SCRIPT.

    Letters Na ,na , Pa , Ya ,Va, Ha

    Tamil is spoken in South India state ( TAMIL Nadu ), Srilanka, Malaysia and Singapore.



    unicode :


    Senthil Durai

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