20+ Loan Words In Malay To Enjoy Learning Today


Loan words are proof languages are living organisms that evolve over time, shaped by cultural interactions, trade, and other global influences, and loan words in Malay are particularly important. The Malay language, spoken by millions across Southeast Asia, has been molded by centuries of interactions with a bunch of other cultures and civilizations. As a result, the Malay language is stuffed with loan words – words borrowed from other languages and integrated into its lexicon.

Historical Context And Early Borrowings

The history of loan words in Malay can be traced back to the maritime trade and cultural exchanges that flourished in the region. Early Malay kingdoms, such as Srivijaya and Majapahit, engaged in trade with Indian, Chinese, and Arab merchants, leading to the assimilation of Sanskrit, Tamil, Arabic, and Chinese words into the Malay language.

Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, contributed extensively to Malay vocabulary. Words such as “purnama” (moon), “pura” (Hindu temple), “raja” (king), and “asmara” (love) have Sanskrit Hindu origins. Arabic loan words like “salam” (peace) and “abjad” (alphabet) were adopted through Islamic influence during the spread of Islam in the archipelago. Modern Malay loanwords now mainly come from English (the language of technology and trade), Arabic (the language of religion), and Javanese.

More Malay Loan Words From Arabic

NewsAkhbarأخبار / akhbār
RabbitArnabأرنب / ʻarnab
WorldDuniaدنيا / dunyā / dünya
PhilosophyFalsafahفلسفة / falsafah
ArithmeticHisabحساب / ḥisāb
KnowledgeIlmuعلم / ʻilm
DictionaryKamusقاموس / qāmūs / kamus

And Sanskrit…

TeacherGuruगुरु / guru
GreatMahaमहा / mahā
LibraryPerpustakaanपुस्तक base word “pustaka”
WomanWanitaवनिता / vanitā
Loan Words In Malay-ling-app-chinese characters

Chinese Influence

Chinese immigrants settled in the Malay Archipelago for centuries, bringing along their culture, language, and traditions. As a result, Chinese loan words found their way into Malay, especially within the Peranakan communities. Words like “tanglung” (lantern), “lancia” (rickshaw), and “mi” (noodles) are examples of Chinese loan words deeply integrated into everyday Malay usage.

More Chinese Loan Words In Malay

CarrotLobak萝卜,蘿蔔 / lo baak
Steamed bunPao包 / bāo
GangsterSamseng三牲 / sam-sing
TeapotTeko茶壺,茶壶 / tê-ko
ScalesDacing台秤 / táichèng

Colonial Influences And European Contributions

The Malay Archipelago witnessed the arrival of European colonizers, such as the Portuguese, Dutch, and British, who left an indelible mark on the region’s linguistic landscape. Portuguese introduced words like “kereta” (carriage/car) and “bendera” (flag), while Dutch contributed words such as “rokok” (cigarette) and “gratis” (for free). Dutch also supplied the word “cokelat” (chocolate), which interestingly made its way from “xocolatl” in Nahuatl (the main language of the Aztecs and Toltecs) through the Spanish word “chocolate” to the Dutch word “chocolade” to finally becoming the Malay word “cokolat.”

Colloquial English, spoken as the global lingua franca, significantly impacted the Malay language, especially during British colonial rule. English language loan words pervaded various domains like technology (“komputer” for computer), communication (“mesej” for message), and travel (“taksi” for taxi). Due to its widespread usage, these loan words have become an integral part of modern Malay vocabulary.

More English Loan Words In Malay

BiscuitBiskuit / biskut
Cartoon (animated movie)Kartun
ParachuteParacut / parasut
Television Televisyen

Indonesian And Malay: A Linguistic Dichotomy

The Malay language is spoken across Southeast Asia, and its standard form is known as Bahasa Melayu in Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia in Indonesia. Despite sharing the same root, variations exist in vocabulary due to differing historical, cultural, and political developments in each country.

In Indonesia, the language experienced extensive simplification and purification efforts to remove foreign influences from Indonesian usage and to enhance its indigenous character. Even so, the modern Indonesian language is still heavily made up of loanwords and a vocabulary that shows a strong influence from Dutch words. In contrast, the Malaysian version preserved more loan words from diverse sources, including Arabic, Sanskrit, Chinese, and English. This divergence showcases the dynamic nature of language, reflecting the distinct historical paths taken by both nations.

Loan Words In Malay

Modernization And The Digital Age

As technology advances and globalization brings cultures closer, the Malay language continues to adapt and absorb loan words from various languages, particularly English. Terms like “internet” and “telefon” are widely used in their original form, while others are adapted, such as “mesej” (message) and “tren” (trend).

The influence of loanwords in Malay extends beyond technology into various fields like fashion, music, and cuisine. Malay speakers readily adopt foreign terms to describe new concepts, trends, and cultural phenomena, adding vibrancy and dynamism to the language.

The Malay language exemplifies the remarkable resilience of a language influenced by a myriad of cultures, making it a linguistic mosaic. Loan words have provided Malay speakers with a vast lexical repertoire reflecting the country’s interactions with the wider world.

From its early Sanskrit and Arabic borrowings to European colonial influences and the contemporary digital age, the Malay language has continued to evolve, adapting to changing times while preserving its cultural identity. So, the next time you converse in Malay, take a moment to ponder the fascinating journey of each word, a testament to the shared history and cultural exchanges that have shaped this beautiful language for centuries.

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