Some of the Funniest Indonesian Expressions

Two women with blue head coverings are laughing while cooking on a skillet outside

Masuk angin

This is one of the most well-known Indonesian phrases. People who are not feeling well will say they are suffering from “masuk angin.” Though it literally translates to “enter wind,” the phrase describes getting sick after sleeping underneath a cold fan or air-conditioning or being caught in the rain. The ailment is somewhere between a cold and the flu. To relieve symptoms, Indonesians drink warm jamu, a traditional herbal drink which is known to boost one’s immune system.

Cuci mata

“Cuci mata” or “wash eyes” is a phrase that’s used to describe the act of refreshing yourself by looking at things you like, window shopping, or looking at a cute girl or guy.

Lapar mata

Another Indonesian saying about the eyes is “laper mata” or “hungry eyes,” which translates to biting off more than you can chew. For example, craving a food that someone else is eating and then regretting that you bought it once you realize you’re not as hungry as your eyes thought you were.


If you’re trying to describe that feeling you get when you love or miss someone so much that you just want to hug them tightly, “gemes” is the perfect word. The term is also a way to describe a cute baby or pet that’s overwhelmingly cute.


Have you ever heard a joke that’s so bad you have to laugh? “Jayus” captures that experience perfectly.

Polisi tidur

The Indonesian phrase for a speed bump, “polisi tidur,” literally means “sleeping police.”


“Tededeh” is a word from Bahasa Palembang in Sumatra. It describes when you eat so much that you feel too full to even stand up. So, you have to lean back on your chair.