12 Important Indonesian Words That Originate From Hokkien

Indonesia’s rich history as a trading center has moulded the language of the region. Many words in Bahasa come from the Hokkien language’s role as the Lingua Franca for the Dutch East Indies, and the old British Malaya.

It is proof of the immense impact that Chinese heritage has had on the development of the modern Indonesian culture.

Here are 12 words in Modern Bahasa that originate from the Hokkien language.


Beca/Becak

drinkteatravel.com

drinkteatravel.com

A Becak is the culturally famous means of transport, similar to a rickshaw, that is pulled by humans rather than horses.

These have evolved as motors have developed, but Hokkien is where the name originates from.

Comes from Be-Chia. Be: horse, Chia: Cart.

Kongsi

scmp.com

scmp.com

Interestingly, the word Kongsi stems from when Chinese decendents living overseas would develop  a community togther in their adopted country. It is still used today to mean co-operation.

Kong-Si: To share/ to work together.

Topi

liputan6.com

liputan6.com

This is an interesting one, as Topi (a hat), may have a number of origins, including the French “Toupee.” It also contains Indian origins in relation to the Turban.

Tau: head, Phi/Phe: Cover, Tau-Phe: Turban.

Topeng

loc.gov

loc.gov

Topeng refers to the masked performances that exploded into Indonesian culture when trade around the Dutch East Indies began to boom.

Kolong

wikimedia.org

wikimedia.org

The straights of water that have been around Indonesia long before the concept of language even existed, also derives from Hokkien.

Ko: Wallow Long: Ditch.

Kecap

fussfreecooking.com

fussfreecooking.com

Kecap. Everyones favorite kind of condement.

Keh/Kwi: Chicken/Salmon Cap: Essence.

Rantang

jenggala.com

jenggala.com

Rantang is the best a lunch box can get.

Lang: carry, T’ng: Meal

Its funny how many culinary words in Bahasa originate from Hokkien. What a way to bring people together!

Bakso/Bakmi/Bakpia/Bakpau

foodtravel.com

foodtravel.com

The above foods are the staple diet of any Indonesian food lover.

Bak-Cho, Bak means meat and Bak-Cho simply means minced meat.
Bak-Mi: Noodle with meat.
Bak-Pia: Pastry with meat.
Bak-Pau: Meat in a (dough) wrap

Pangsit

offbeathome.com

offbeathome.com

It should be no surprise that dumplings originated from the Chinese Straights.

Pian-Sit, which means wonton dumplings. Popular etymology translates it to ‘ready-made food’/fast food.

Lumpia

wikihow.com

wikihow.com

Again, what a surprise.

Lun: to roll, Pia: pastry.
Also similar to Popiah. Pok: thin, Pia: pastry.

Capcai

sifu.unileversolutions.com

sifu.unileversolutions.com

Even our famous vegetable dish derives from Hokkien.

Chap: Mix. Chai: Vegetables. Some people believe that it must have ten varieties of vegetables, so that it sounds like Cap (Ten).

Kue

wikimedia.org

wikimedia.org

Kue refers to the cakes that are as colourful as they are savory.

Nowadays pronounced Ku-E in Indonesian, the Hokkien pronunciation was Kwe as a single syllable.

Conclusion

Chinese decedents have had an important impact on the trajectory of Indonesian history and none more lasting than on the language itself.

It is essential that we appreciate the Hokkien language's impact on Bahasa. It is a fantastic example of Indonesia's inclusiveness and openness. Indonesia's diversity is one of it's strongest qualities, and the Chinese role in this diversity cannot be understated.