How to pronounce that E?

Maybe one of the hardest part in learning Indonesian is to correctly pronounce the vowel 'e' as there is no specific rule for its pronunciation; you have to learn it by memorizing word by word. So here, we give you a list of Indonesian words and how to pronounce the 'e' for each word.

Oh before that, let's take a look on how to read the 'e' first.

Basically, there are three ways to pronounce 'e'. Take a look at the table! We also provide words that match (or similar with) the sounds in different language. wink

IPA English French Dutch Russian Korean
/e/

date
(IE)

bed
(AU)

play
(CA, US)

chez, pied beet
(roughly similar but shorter)
шея
/ə/

about
(AU, CA, GB, IE, US)

winner
(NZ)

le, reposer hemel солнце

어 or 으
(both roughly similar)

/ɛ/

bed
(CA, GB, IE, US)

cat, bad
(NZ)

mettre, crème bed это

Most of Indonesian word is using the sound /ə/. But, let's say you don't know how the correct sounds of 'e' in a word, your safest bet is to pronounce it as /e/ or /ɛ/. This sounds very counterintuitive, but really... word with /e/ or /ɛ/ sound will sound very weird and may even unrecognizable if you pronounce it as /ə/. Word like bebek (/bɛbɛʔ/) or tempe (/tempe/) will sound totally strange and unfamiliar if pronounced as /bəbək/ and /təmpə/ respectively. In the other hand words like semangat (/səmaŋat/) can be pronounced as /semaŋat/ or /sɛmaŋat/ safely—you just sound like using Indonesian with Batak accent.

TL;DR if you don't know the correct pronunciation, just use /e/ or /ɛ/, or... come back here to check the correct one. angel

Notes:

  • We know most of you may not understand IPA well. But don't worry about that! We give a color for each 'e' sound so you can just take a look at the colors in the IPA column and compare it again with how it's pronounced in the table above. wink
  • We just list the roots and omit affixes in the table below. Then how about inflected words like mengerti, pembelajaran, or seratus? Well... There is this ultimate law that says that the 'e' in prefixes is always pronounced as /ə/ winkwink
    • be- (/bə/) including bel-, ber-, berpel-, berpeng-
    • ke (/kə/) 
    • me- (/mə/) including mem-, mempel-, memper-, men-, meng-
    • pe- (/pə/) including pem-, pembel-, pel-, per-
    • se- (/sə/)
    • ter- (/tər/) including terpel-
  • You can also search the page (ctrl+f) to find your word quickly. winkwinkwink

Without further ado, here comes the list!

Indonesian IPA
aneh /anɛh/
antre /antre/
apel /apɛl/ (n. roll call)
/apəl/ (n. apple)
apotek /apotek/ rarely /apoteʔ/
becak /becaʔ/
bebas /bebas/
bebek /bɛbɛʔ/
bela /bela/
belai /bəlai/ sometimes /bəlaɪ/
belakang /bəlakaŋ/
belang /bəlaŋ/
belas /bəlas/
beli /bəli/
belok /belɔʔ/ sometimes /bɛlɔʔ/
belum /bəlʊm/
benang /bənaŋ/
benar /bənar/
benda /bənda
bengong /bəŋɔŋ/
berapa /bərapa/
beras /bəras/
berat /bərat/
beri /bəri/
berkas /bərkas/
berlian /bərlian/
besar /bəsar/
besok /besoʔ/
besuk /bəsuʔ/
betul /bətʊl/
celana /t͡ʃəlana/
cepat /t͡ʃəpat/
cewek /t͡ʃɛwɛʔ/
dekat /dəkat/
dekret /dəkret/
delapan /dəlapan/
denah /denah/
dengan /dəŋan/
depan /dəpan/
deras /dəras/
Desember /dɛsɛmbər/ sometimes /desɛmbər/
ekor /ekɔr/
emas /əmas/
empat /əmpat/
enak /enaʔ/ sometimes /ɛnaʔ/
enam /ənam/
enteng /ɛntɛŋ/
erang /əraŋ/
erti /ərti/
es /ɛs/
esok /esoʔ/ sometimes /esɔʔ/
gelap /gəlap/
gelas /gəlas/
gemas /gəmas/
gembira /gəmbira/
genap /gənap/
genting /gəntiŋ/ (n. emergency; used as an adjective in Indonesian)
/gəntɪŋ/ (n. roof tiles)
gerah /gərah/
gerak /gəraʔ/
geram /gəram/
gerbong /gərbɔŋ/
gereja /gəred͡ʒa/
gersang /gərsaŋ/
goreng /gorɛŋ/ sometimes /gɔrɛŋ/
hebat /hebat/
heboh /hebɔh/ rarely /hɛbɔh/ (Wimcycle, anyone?)
hening /həniŋ/
ide /ide/
ideal /ideal/
Indonesia /indonesia/
jelas /d͡ʒəlas/
jembatan /d͡ʒəmbatan/
jenis /d͡ʒənis/
jepret /d͡ʒəprɛt/
kabel /kabəl/
karena /karəna/
karet /karɛt/
ke /kə/
kecil /kət͡ʃil/
kejang /kəd͡ʒaŋ/
kelas /kəlas/
keluh /kəluh/ sometimes /kəlʊh/
keluk /kəlʊʔ/
kembali /kəmbali/
kemeja /kəmed͡ʒa/
kepala /kəmpala/
keras /kəras/
kereta /kəreta/
kerja /kərd͡ʒa/
kernet /kərnɛt/
kertas /kərtas/
keruh /kərʊh/
komet /komɛt/
komitmen /komitmən/ sometimes /kɔmitmən/
komputer /kɔmputər/ sometimes /komputər/
lebih /ləbih/
lekuk /ləkʊʔ/
lelah /ləlah/
lemah /ləmah/
lemas /ləmas/
lembap /ləmbap/
lepas /ləpas/
Maret /marət/
Mei /mɛi/ or /mei/
meja /med͡ʒa/
merah /merah/
mereka /məreka/
negara /nəgara/
negatif /negatif/
negeri /nəgeri/
nekat /nekat/
ngeri əri/
November /novɛmbər/
nyeri əri/
ojek /od͡ʒɛk/ rarely /od͡ʒɛʔ/
Oktober /oktobər/
oleh /oleh/
pedang /pədaŋ/
pedih /pədih/
pejam /pəd͡ʒam/
peka /pəka/
pelan /pəlan/
pelangi /pəlaŋi/
peluk /pəlʊʔ/ sometimes /pəluʔ/
peluru /pəluru/
pendek /pɛndɛʔ/
penis /penɪs/
perak /peraʔ/
perang /pəraŋ/
perempuan /pərəmpuan/
pergi /pərgi/
perih /pərih/
perlu /pərlu/
permata /pərmata/
perut /pərʊt/
pesan /pəsan/
pesawat /pəsawat/
pesta /pesta/
petang /pətaŋ/
petir /pətir/ rarely /pətɪr/
rebah /rəbah/
remaja /rəmad͡ʒa/
remang /rəmaŋ/
remas /rəmas/
renang /rənaŋ/
rendah /rəndah/
rentan /rəntan/
rentang /rəntaŋ/
sebab əbab/
sedih /sədih/
sehat /sehat/
sekretaris /sekrətaris/
selamat əlamat/
Selasa əlaθa/
Selatan /səlatan/
semangat /səmaŋat/
sembilan /səmbilan/
senang /sənaŋ/
Senin ənɪn/
September /sɛptɛmbər/
serang /səraŋ/
seri /səri/ (n. draw, tie, beauty, shine; used as an adjective in Indonesian)
/sɛri/ (n. series) sometimes /səri/
sistem /sistem/ or /sistəm/
sore /sore/
spesies /spesiɛs/
tante /tantə/
tegang /təgaŋ/
teh /tɛh/
teko /teko/
tekuk /təkʊʔ/
telah /təlah/
telepon /telepon/
teman /təman/
tempat /təmpat/
tempe /tempe/
tepat /təpat/
terang /təraŋ/
terbang /tərbaŋ/
terima /tərima/
tipe /tipə/
vektor /vɛktɔr/

We try to make the pronunciation as accurate as possible. But if you find an error or two—or maybe a request for a new word—don't hesitate to tell us in the comment section below. angel