35 Important Family Vocabulary In Malay

In language learning, you must master all the basic words and phrases in your target language. If you’re learning Bahasa Malaysia, you must know one of its most important vocabulary – family words. Still, you need to acquire Malay basic phrases, greetings, and pronouns as well.

In today’s lesson, we’ll learn what are the family words you must know in the Malay language.

Basic Malay Vocabulary For Family

This lesson is generally important for everyone learning Malay and especially significant to those who are intending to stay in Malaysia, either for a short-term or long-term visit. Let’s see what are the Malay words related to the subject matter; family.

1) Bapa – Father

In Bahasa Melayu, bapa is the standard word for its English equivalent, father. This word is used in a rather formal context, usually found in textbooks, newspapers, and slogans. In the Malay spoken context, the Malays often call or regard their fathers with titles such as ayah, abah, abi and walid. The first two originated while the latter is from Arabic. These words all point to the one exact meaning; father.

2) Ibu – Mother

You’ll come across the word “Ibu” a lot if you watch Malay dramas and films. In Malay, both formal and spoken contexts use the word to signify their mother; ibu. You can find the word ibu both in news reports and songs. Still, there are other words Malaysians use to call their mothers, which are mak, mama, and ummi. The first two are from Bahasa Malaysia and the last one is borrowed from Arabic.

3) Anak lelaki – Son

Generally, anak in Malay means child. Adding the word lelaki afterward results in a whole new meaning, which is a son; anak lelaki. Yes, in Malay, lelaki means male.

4) Anak perempuan – Daughter

As the example before, when lelaki is put after the word anak, it equates to a son. Using the same process, if you add the word perempuan, which means female, right after anak, you’ll get the Malay word for a daughter; anak perempuan.

5) Abang – Brother

One’s brother is called abang by Malay native speakers. Usually, abang is used to regard an older brother – you don’t call your brother abang if he’s younger than you. Instead, you call him adik lelaki. Adik general means a younger sibling, so you need to add the genders at the back, perempuan (female) or lelaki (male) to be more specific.

Also, this word abang is used as a term of endearment by Malay wives. Typically, the local wives use the word abang to call their husbands because the term bears a degree of respect and a sense of affection.

Some pro tip for you – If you want to visit Malaysia and stop by the street markets to buy some local street food, surprise the hawkers by calling them abang. Who knows, you might get a cheaper price!

6) Kakak – Sister

Similar to abang, if a woman is older than you, you can call them kakak. Commonly, it’s shortened to kak. If your female sibling is younger, you call her your adik perempuan. You may hear this term is extensively used among family members, friends, and colleagues.

7) Ibubapa – Parents

The equivalent word for parents in Malay is ibubapa. Yes, it’s the combination of ibu (mother) and bapa (father), forming a whole new word and meaning.

8) Anak – Child

As mentioned earlier, the word anak in Malay means a child. The plural version which is children in English is anak-anak in Bahasa Melayu.

9) Keluarga – Family

In Malay, the word for family is keluarga. The plural form is keluarga-keluarga.

10) Ibu saudara – Aunt

Aunt in Malay is ibu saudara. To break the term down, the word ibu, as you know, means mother while saudara means siblings. Literally, it figuratively refers to a female sibling of your parents. However, in Malaysia, this term is normally used in a standard, formal context. When speaking, people usually regard ibu saudara as makcik. In Malaysia, it has been a culture for the locals to call an elderly woman makcik, even though she’s not your kin. It’s a way of conveying one’s respect to somebody older than one’s own age.

11) Bapa saudara – Uncle

Similar to ibu saudara, the Malay term for uncle is bapa saudara, which literally means a male sibling of either your father or mother. Don’t be surprised if a girl calls you pakcik if you’re in Malaysia; it’s the local norm. Man who appears to be older than one’s age is often regarded as pakcik, though without blood relations. So, if you’re around Malaysia and want to ask if an elderly is doing okay, feel free to say “Pakcik, are you OK?”

12) Anak saudara perempuan – Niece

The translation for your siblings’ girl in Bahasa Melayu is anak saudara perempuan. Let’s break down this term:

Anak = Child

Saudara = Siblings

Perempuan = Female

Usually, people will just say “he is my anak saudara“. In Malay, some words aren’t gendered and this one is a particular example. So, if you want to refer to your niece in Malay, add the word perempuan at the back so that people understand you’re referring to a girl.

13) Anak saudara lelaki – Nephew

Same as anak saudara perempuan, anak saudara lelaki is the translation of nephew in Bahasa Malaysia.

14) Nenek – Grandmother

Nenek is the standard Malay word for grandmother, used in both formal and casual settings.

15) Datuk – Grandfather

Datuk is the word that indicates grandfather. This is the standard form but the locals typically shortened it to atuk or tok.

16) Cucu – Grandchild(ren)

The translation of grandchild in Malay is cucu. The plural form grandchildren are translated as cucu-cicit.

17) Sepupu – Cousin

In Malaysia, we call a cousin of ours sepupu. Here’s an example; “Hi everyone, meet Alan. He’s my sepupu (cousin).”

18) Suami – Husband

There’s one common word used to indicate husband; suami. Sometimes, on a casual note, one’s husband is translated as lelaki orang.

19) Isteri – Wife

Identical to the previous example, there’s a standard term for referring to a wife; isteri. In the Malay spoken context, isteri is used extensively but at times, it’s interchangeable with another term; orang rumah.

20) Bapa mertua – Father in-law

If you don’t know how to say ‘father in-law’ in Bahasa Malaysia, here’s the way to do it. However, a local most often calls his or her father-in-law ayah mertua as bapa is only used in formal contexts.

21) Ibu mertua – Mother in-law

This is the term to regard your mother-in-law in Bahasa Malaysia. If you’ve been a fan of Malaysia’s TV programs, you’ll come across this term a lot!

22) Kakak ipar – Sister in-law

Your sister-in-law, if older than you, is called kakak ipar. If she’s younger, you should regard her as adik ipar.

23) Abang ipar – Brother in-law

Brother in-law in Bahasa Melayu is abang ipar. If you in-laws are younger, call them adik ipar.

24) Sulung – Eldest

The first sibling is often regarded as anak sulung, which translates to the eldest child. So, if you’re making references to the eldest sister or brother, include the word sulung in the terms; kakak sulung and abang sulung.

25) Bongsu – Youngest

On the contrary, the youngest one is called bongsu. So, the youngest child is known as anak bongsu.

26) Pasangan – Spouse

The word for spouse in Bahasa Melayu is pasangan. Let’s see how this word is used.

Dia ialah pasangan saya = He is my spouse.

27) Adik-beradik – Siblings

Adik-beradik is the Malay word for siblings. It’s commonly used in Malay self-introduction, where the locals would say “Saya ada dua orang adik-beradik“, which means I have two siblings.

Other Family-Related Phrases In Malay

Here’s a list of a few more words to add to your Malay family vocabulary:-

1 Keluarga bahagia Happy family
2 Ahli-ahli keluarga Family members
3 Keluarga saya My family
4 Keluarga kamu Your family
5 Salasilah keluarga Family tree
6 Saudara-mara/Sanak-saudara Kin/Relatives
7 Keluarga tiri Stepfamily
8 Keluarga angkat Foster family

Family Words In Malay – How To Use It Like A Local

Though these vocabulary are mainly used to indicate and address your own family, in Malaysia, that’s not entirely the case. If you’ve been actively scouring through how to speak Malay similar to a local, you’ll find out that once you’re in Malaysia, it’s as if you’re all connected.

Coming to Malaysia, you’ll realize that people call others using family names all around, even on the streets, in restaurants, or in stores. Pakcik, makcik, abang, kakak, and adik are frequently used by a local to address another person, which most of the time, are strangers.

This is one of the beauties of this nation’s culture – as you walk on the streets of Malaysia, everyone is treated with respect. You don’t go around calling people you barely know by saying ‘hey you’, instead, you address them with the family words. Why Malaysians do it? Because family words such as pakcik, makcik, abang, kakak, and adik have connotations of respectfulness, closeness, and understanding. It creates a bond between the locals and that gives rise to the country’s harmony and peace.

Learn More About Malay

Learn Malay today if you want to find out what are the other words and basic phrases in Malay. Ling App provides free learning resources for you to discover new information and acquire multiple languages in the most fun, interactive way. Get Ling installed in your smartphones and learn Bahasa Melayu today!

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