Useful Iban words

I haven’t posted anything for a while on the count of not living in Kuching for four years now :). But I have decided to start building up a list of useful words one one page here. This is for a few reasons; firstly to keep my Iban fresh, and secondly because there is no Iban google translate option and when I was learning there really was very few good options out there. Keep in mind though this will be a very brief list of words, good enough for tourists or for someone who want’s to spend a week in a longhouse visiting friends. Not a language lesson.

Ok, here is Version 1, there will be some mistakes, not so much in meaning but in some cases the spelling of the Iban words may be off. Also Iban and Malay languages have an overlap these days. They were always related languages but these days it get’s more difficult to tell what is what, there are about 600 Iban words adopted into the national Bahasa Malaysia dictionaries. Many more Iban words are used in the Sarawakian Malay. An in the opposite direction Malay influences Iban through school, tv etc. Anyway here is the list:

English word Iban word Comments
Ant Semut many different names for specific species of ants
Arm Lengan
Back Belakang
Bamboo shoots Tubu
Banana Pisang
Beard Ragum
Bed Katil
Bee Singut
Beef Capi Not often eaten in longhouses
Bird Burung
Body Tubuh
Boy Budak/laki
Burn/smoke Tunu
Buttocks Burit
Chair Kerusi
Chicken Manuk The poor cousin of the pork
Child Anak
Coconut Nyur
Coffee Kopi
Cook Berapi
Crab Ketam
Cup Cawan
Cattle fish Suntung
Door Pintu
Downstairs Baruh
Dragon Naga
Drink Ngirup
Dry Fermented shrimp paste Belacan You get used to it
Durian Durian Nope, it does NOT taste any better than it smells
Eat Makai
Egg Telur
Eggplant Terung
Eye Mata
Fat Gemuk
Father Apai
Father/Mother in law Mentua
Fire Api
Fish Ikan
Flood Bah
Fork Hmm, used to remember, oh who cares, they aren’t used all that much anyway
Friend/fiancee Pangan
Fruit Buah
Galangal Lengkuas
Gecko Ticak The Malay word “Cicak” is often used instead
Ginger Lia
Ginger flower Bunga kecala
Girl Indu
Grandfather Aki
Grandmother Ini
Hair Rambut
Hallway Ruai
Hand Jari
Head Kepala
Headman Tuai Rumah
Heat/full sun Panas
Horse Kuda
Horseshoe crab Belangkas
Hot Angat
House Rumah
Hungry Lapar
Kitchen Dapur The center of Iban life
Knife Duku
Lay down Gali
Leg Kaki
Little dried fish (anchovies) Pusu Goes into every dish out there apart from the rice pot
Longhouse Rumah Panjai
Mats Tikai Often used on the floors
Meat Daging
Men/Husband Laki
Monkey Kra
Mother Indai
Mouse deer Juoi
Mouth Mulut
My/myself/I aku
Noodle Mee
Nose Hidung
Orangutan Maias
Palm heart Upa
Pineapple Ananas You see? Same word in every f…. language out there apart from English
Plate Capah
Pork/Pig Babi The B and C of Iban food ABC
Prawns/shrimps Undang
Preserved Durian Tempoyak No polite comment could be made at this time…
Preserved Pork Babi Kasam
Python Sawa
Rain Ujan
Relative Kaban
Rice (cooked) Asi The A of Iban food ABC
Rice (unhusked) Padi
Rice distillate Langkau (also the word for a small gardening house, a long story)
Rice wine Tuak
Room/apartment Bilik
Run Belanda
Run (away) Lari
Sago worm Tindoh
Salt Garam
Scorpion Kala
Short Pandak
Sit Duduk
Skinny Kurus
Slug (edible) Lita
Snake Ular
Son/Daughter in Law Menantu
Soup Kuah
Soy sauce Kicap
Spider Empelawa Try shouting that in a panic 🙂
Spoon Sudu
Stairs Tangga
Stomach Perut Word also used for intestines
Sugar Gula
Sun Matapanas
Sunbear Beruang
Table Meja
Tall Tinggi
Tattoo Kelinga
Tea Teh
Teeth Gigi
Thirsty Aus
Tiger Ramaung
Toilet Agu/bilik mandi
Tokay Gecko Kuga Large gecko thought to be a good omen, unfortunately also collected for Chinese medicine.
Tumeric Kunyit
Turtle Lelabi
Upstairs/above Atas
Us Kitai inclusive of the person spoken to
Us Kami Excluding person spoken to
Walk/road Jalai
Wash (dishes,hands etc) Cuci
Wash (self) Mandi
Water/liquid Ai Used for almost any drink: Ai Bir, Ai Teh, Ai kopi
Wet fermented shrimps Cincalok You leave the table
Wife Bini
Wild pig Babi babas
Wind Ribut
Yeast Ragi
You nuan to one person
You kita to multiple people

Enjoy, please feel free to ask for other words or even small lists of words, I wrote down everything that came to mind immediately when thinking of a longhouse but this is less than 150 words so the list is limited.


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