I wrote this list of 250 most useful Indonesian words to complement my article How I Learned to Speak Indonesian in 1 Month.

I recommend you to memorize all them by heart. It's a boring process, yet it won't take so much time. Spend 10 minutes on the list every day and you'll know all of them in two weeks. Once you're done, I guarantee you will be able to get by in 90% of daily life situation.

A smart and fun way to learn more words is to use the website IndonesianPod101. They have hundreds of exercises and games (flashcards for instance) with the Indonesian pronunciation. Have a look, a large part of the website is free to use. If you choose a paid plan, use this link IndonesianPod101 - 20 Free Videos to get an extra 20 videos for free!
Learn Indonesian with IndonesianPod101.com

Personal Pronouns
These are essential as you will use them in all sentences.

I, Me or Mine = Aku (informal) or Saya (formal)
You, Your or Yours = Kamu (informal) or Anda (formal). Plural you (Kalian) is rarely used.
He, She, Him, Her or His = Dia
It or Its = Ini (for something your hand can reach) or Itu (for something further away)
We, Our or Ours = Kita or Kami (if the person you are talking to is not included)
They, Their or Theirs = Mereka

Unless you are speaking to a kid/teenager or a close friend, it is better to address someone with a formal pronoun.

Another way to be formal is to replace the personal pronouns with the title and the name of the person you are addressing. For instance, instead of asking me "How old are you?" (Kamu umur berapa?), you could say "How old is Mr Frederic?" (Umur Berapa Bapak Frederic?).

Since adverbs can modify the meaning of a verb or adjective, they'll help you express more complicated ideas and feelings without the need to learn too much additional vocabulary.

Maybe = Mungkin
A lot = Banyak
A little = Sedikit
All = Semua
About = Kira-kira
Enough = Cukup
Really = Emang
Already = Sudah
Also = Juga
Ever = Pernah
Never = Tidak Pernah
Often = Sering
Here = Sini (nearby) or Sana (far away)
Later = Nanti
Before = Dulu (when speaking about time, not distance)
More = Lebih
More... than = Lebih.... dari
Less = Kurang
Less... than = Kurang... dari
Same = Sama
Same as = Sama dengan
Very = Sekali or Banget (informal)
Just, Only = Saja or Aja (informal)

Interrogative Pronouns
Why = Kenapa or Kok (informal)
Who = Siapa
How many/How much = Berapa
What = Apa
How = Bagaimana/Gimana (informal)
When = Kapan
Where = Mana (often used with Di, Ke or Dari, see below)

Other Pronouns
Other/Others = Lain/Yang lain
Many/Much = Banyak
Each = Setiap
Most = Paling

Preposition & Conjunction
Until = Sampai (also means "to arrive")
With = Sama
Without = Tanpa
But = Tetapi or Tapi (informal)
And = Dan
If/When = Kalau or Kalo (informal)
Because = Karena
Therefore/So = Jadi
For = Untuk

Small = Kecil
Big = Besar
Old = Tua (for the age of a person, a building, etc) or Lama (for a law, a rule, a tariff, etc). Lama also means "Long time".
New = Baru
Young = Muda
Hard = Keras
Strong = Kuat
Far = Jauh
Near = Dekat
Beautiful = Cantik (for women), Ganteng (for men), Indah (for a landscape or an object)
Hot = Panas
Cold = Dingin
Sure = Yakin
Good = Bagus
Bad = Jelek (also means "ugly")
Cheap = Murah
Expensive = Mahal
Shy = Malu
Heavy = Berat
Angry = Marah
Happy = Senang
Sad = Sedih
Well = Baik
Tired = Capek
Smart = Pintar
Difficult = Susah/Sulit
Easy = Mudah
Alone = Sendiri
Sick = Sakit
Different = Beda
To be confused = Bingung

To speak a language = Bahasa
To say = Bilang
To talk = Bicara
To want = Mau
To take = Ambil
To help = Bantu
To read = Baca
To go = Pergi
To live = Tinggal
To eat = Makan
To drink = Minum
To meet = Bertemu
To sleep = Tidur
To see = Lihat
To buy = Beli
To like = Suka
To love = Cinta
To hate = Benci
To sit = Duduk
To look = Liat
To watch = Nonton
To kiss = Cium
To start = Mulai
To work = Kerja
To understand = Mengerti
To need = Perlu
To use = Pakai
To possess = Punya
To agree = Setuju
To send = Kirim
To play (a game) = Main
To get, to obtain or to receive = Dapat
To walk = Jalan kaki (literally "to go by foot)
To feel or to taste = (Me)Rasa
Can = Bisa
May = Boleh
Should/Must = Harus

Greetings and Introducing Yourself
Selamat = Safe (It is the equivalent of "Good" in English)
Selamat pagi = Good morning
Selamat siang = Good day (from 11AM to 2PM)
Selamat sore = Good afternoon (from 2PM until sunset)
Selamat malam = Good evening/Good night (after sunset)
Apa Kabar = How are you?
Thank you = Terima Kasih (often said "Makasih")
Name = Nama
Age = Umur

For starting, just learn your own. In my case: French = Orang Perancis.

The word "Bule" is also often used to refer to white people even though it is pejorative.

People (Orang)
Dad = Ayah
Mother = Ibu
Kid = Anak
Friend = Teman
Mister = Bapak (or Pak)
Madam = Ibu
Woman = Wanita
Man = Laki-laki
Girl = Cewek
Boy = Cowok

Food (Makanan) and Drinks (Minuman)
Water = Air
Rice = Nasi
Chicken = Ayam
Fish = Ikan
Egg = Telur
Fried = Goreng
Grilled = Bakar
Sweet = Manis
Delicious = Enak

Directions and Transport
Left = Kiri
Right = Kanan
Straight = Lurus or Terus
Through = Lewat
Before = Sebelum
After = Setelah
Up = Atas
Down = Bawah
In front = Depan
Behind = Belakang
Inside = Dalam
Outside = Luar
Next to = Sebelah
Between = Antara
To Turn = Belok
To Ride = Naik
Car = Mobil
Motorbike = Motor
Traffic jam = Macet
Jalan = Street

Ke / Di / Dari
Ke means "to" or "in the direction of".
Di means "at" 
Dari means "from"

Those pronouns can be used without a verb. For instance, "dia ke Jakarta", which literally translates as "He - in the direction of - Jakarta" means "He went to Jakarta" or "He is going to Jakarta" (depending on the context).

They are also often used with "Mana" (Where): Kamu ke mana? (Where are you going?), Kamu di mana? (Where are you?), Kamu dari mana? (Where are you from?).

Tree = Pohon
Dog = Anjing
Cat = Kucing

Location (Tempat)
Beach = Pantai
Mountain = Gunung
House = Rumah
City = Kota
Restaurant = Restoran or Warung (low class)
Mosque = Mesjid
Shop = Toko
Office = Kantor
Country = Negara
School = Sekolah
Village = Desa

Colour (Warna)
Green = Hijau
Red = Merah
Blue = Biru
Yellow = Kuning
Black = Hitam
White = Putih

Time (Waktu)
Date = Tanggal
Second = Detik
Minute = Menit
Hour = Jam
Day = Hari
Week = Minggu
Month = Bulan
Year = Tahun
Tomorrow = Besok (also means after tomorrow)
Yesterday = Kemarin (also means before today)

Money = Uang
Age = Umur
0 = Kosong/Nol
First = Pertama
1 = Satu
2 = Dua
3 = Tiga
4 = Empat
5 = Lima
6 = Enam
7 = Tujuh
8 = Delapan
9 = Sembilan
10 = Sepuluh
11 = Sebelas

12 to 19  = N + Belas such as "Dua Belas" (12), "Tiga Belas" (13), etc....
20 to 99 = N + Puluh such as "Dua Puluh" (20, "Tiga Puluh" (30), Empat Puluh Dua (42)
100 = Seratus
200 to 999 = N + Ratus such as "Dua Ratus" (200), "Dua Ratus Lima Puluh Tiga" (253)
1000 = Seribu
After 2000 = N + Ribu such as "Dua Ribu" (2000), "Dua Ribu Enam Ratus Empat Puluh Delapan" (2648)

Days (Hari) and Months (Bulan)
Monday = Senin
Tuesday = Selasa
Wednesday = Rabu
Thursday = Kamis
Friday = Jumat
Saturday = Sabtu
Sunday = Minggu

January = Januari
February = Februari
March = Maret
April = April
May = Mei
June = Juni
July = Juli
August = Agustus
September = September
October = Oktober
November = November
December = Desember

Next = Depan
→ Ex: Next Monday = Senin depan. Next week = Minggu depan.

Previous = Kemarin
→ Ex: Previous Monday = Senin kemarin. Last week = Minggu kemarin

Body (Badan) and Clothes (Baju)
Leg or Foot = Kaki
Arm or Hand = Tangan
Finger = Jari
Face = Muka
Eye = Mata
Mouth = Mulut
Pants = Celana
T-Shirt = Kaos
Shirt = Kemeja
Shoes = Sepatu

Important words that need an explanation:

I use this word a lot. Depending on the context, it could be translated as "the one", "that is", "which is", "those", "which", "whom", "whose", "who".

→ Aku suka mobil yang di depan rumahnya  = I like the car which is in front of his house.
→ Kamu suka yang mana?  = Which one do you like?

There is another use that can't really be translated into English. When you talk about something that has specific characteristics, you should use the structure "Noun + Yang + Adjective" instead of "Adjective + Noun". For instance, to translate "He has a red car", it is better to say " Dia punya mobil yang merah" instead of "dia punya mobil merah".

Finally, it is sometimes placed after a pronoun to emphasize the latter. For instance, "apa yang kamu mau" (literally: What is it that you want?) can be asked instead of "kamu mau apa?" (What do you want?).

There is not an exact translation for the words brother and sister in Indonesian. Instead, you may use one of these:
→ Saudara means both brothers and sisters (the children of your parents)
→ Adik means younger brother and younger sister
→ Kakak means older brother and older sister
→ Adik/kakak perempuan means younger/older sister
→ Adik/kakak laki-laki means younger /older brother

All these words are used to express negation:
→ Bukan, placed before a noun or pronoun, means "not": "Kamu bukan orang Perancis" (You are not French)
→ Tidak, placed before a verb, an adjective or alone, means "no" "do not" or "not": "Aku tidak suka" (I do not like). "Dia tidak baik" (He is not good).
→ Tak, Ngak, Gak are informal, yet popular ways to say "Tidak": "Aku gak bisa" (I cannot).
→ Jangan means "Do not" in imperative sentences: "Jangan bicara!" (Don't talk!).
→ Belum: If they can, Indonesians will avoid using "Tidak" or "Bukan", preferring the softer "Belum" (not yet) or "Kurang" (less). For instance, you never say "Aku tidak nikah" (I'm not married) but "Aku belum nikah" (I'm not married yet). Instead of answering "Aku tidak suka cowok ini" (I don't like this guy), it is better to say "Aku kurang suka cowok ini" (I like this guy less [than the others]).

Ada indicates the presence of something and it could be translated as "there is" or "there are": Ada 5 orang di rumah ini (There are 5 people in this house). You can use it to ask questions: Ada ... ? means "Is there ... ?" or "Are there ....?"

The first meaning of sama is "With", but it can also mean "the same" (in that case, you can add "Dengan" to express "As").
→ Mereka sama teman = they are with friends
→ Umur kamu sama dengan umur aku = Your age is the same as my age

Jadi has two meanings:
→ "To become", for instance in the sentence: Dia jadi marah = He became angry
→ Placed at the beginning of a sentence, it corresponds to the adverb "So". For instance in the sentence: Jadi, kamu marah? = So you are angry?

→ Placed after a verb, lagi means "again", "once more". For instance: "Aku sakit lagi" = "I'm sick, again".
→ Placed before a verb, it is used to express a current state or action. "Aku lagi makan" = "I'm eating now". It is often an answer to the informal idiom "Lagi ngapain?" or "Lagi apa" = "What are you doing?"

"Mau" has two meanings:
→ "Want": "Aku mau pergi sama kamu" = "I want to go with you"
→ "Will" (future tense): "Mau hujan" = "It will rain".

To do and to make
There are several ways to say "to do" in Indonesian:
→ "Lakukan", which means to do something in general. It is often used in interrogations: "Apa yang dia lakukan?" (What is he doing?)
→ "Bikin", which means to do something or make something that results in a tangible product. Ex: "Saya bikin pasta" = "I'm making pasta"
→ "Buat", which is a more informal way to say "Bikin". It can also mean "For". Ex: "Ini buat kamu" = "This is for you" (literally: This made for you).

"Habis" has two meanings:
→ "To finish" or "finished". For instance, "Aku habis makan" = "I'm done eating"; "Airnya sudah habis" = "The water is finished". "Selesai" is a synonym.
→ "After". For instance, "Habis makan, aku mau ke kantor" = "After eating, I will go to office". "Setelah" is a synonym.

There are many suffixes and prefixes in Bahasa, but none is more useful than -nya. Added at the end of a noun, it indicated possession and could be translated as "his", "her", "its".

→ Ini rumahnya = This is his house

Words You Don't Need to Learn
Some words have an Indonesian translation but you can pronounce them in English and everyone will understand:

Yes (Ya)
Handphone or HP (Hapé)
Sim Card

Whenever you are missing an Indonesian word in a conversation, just try the English one. It works more often than you'd think.

5 comments to '' 250 Essential Indonesian Words You Should Learn "

  1. This is quite comprehensive and really helpful. Well done Tibo.

    I started to write articles about learning Indonesian on your own, mostly aimed towards intermediate speakers. I think that it could be a nice add to this article, check it out : http://thespicerouteend.com/category/learn-indonesian/lessons/

  2. as far as I know -nya also can be placed instead of ''it'' after the verbs like aku menggunakanya=''I use it'' or the sentence can be written as aku menggunakan itu.

  3. Bikin is the informal way of buat,not the other way