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Simple greetings and introductions in Malay language

Updated on June 1, 2013

Malay culture

Traditional woman dancer
Traditional woman dancer | Source

Addressing other people in Malay

Unlike in English, Malays may use multiple ways to express "I" depending on the level of familiarity with the other parties. Both the terms "saya" and "aku" can be used to mean "I"; yet "aku" is more informal and implies more familiarity with the party spoken to. Similarly, both "awak" and "engkau" can be used to mean "You", with "awak" being the more formal term than "engkau"

For the start, beginners just need to learn "saya" as "I" and "awak" as "You".

Common personal nouns in Malay

saya, aku
awak, engkau
He. She
Include both the speaker and the party spoken to
Exclude the party spoken to
Basic ways to address people in Malay

Greetings in Malay

Most greetings start with "Selamat" which can basically be translated to "Safe"

Examples of common greetings

Literal translation
Selamat pagi
Good morning
Safe morning
Selamat tengah hari
Good afternoon
Safe afternoon
Selamat petang
Good evening
Safe evening
Selamat malam
Good night
Safe night
Selamat jalan
Good bye
Safe journey
Selamat tinggal
Good bye
Safe stay
Selamat datang
Welcome (to my home)
Safe come
Common greetings and its literal translation

Explanations on greetings

Note that for "Good bye", choosing the greetings to use, either "selamat tinggal" or "selamat jalan", depends on whether the speaker is the first person to make the move. In Malay, "tinggal" means "stay" and "jalan" means "walk". Thus, if the speaker is the first one to leave, he should say "selamat tinggal" which implies that he wishes the other person to have a "safe stay". If he is the one who stays behind, he should use "selamat jalan" , which means he wishes the other party a "safe journey".

Appreciating the subtle differences between these terms help learners to use the terms appropriately.

A little "thank you" goes a long way

Malay culture greatly values politeness. To learn how to say "thank you", or "terima kasih" will surprise and impress the locals, who will then reply to you "sama-sama" which means "you're welcome".


"terima kasih" : pronounced as "ter-ree-mer kah-say"

Test your understanding

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