A TEMUAN GLOSSARY
This is by no means an exhaustive list, which would easily run into thousands of words (especially those naming specific trees, fruits, edible or medicinal roots, animals and insects). Temuan and Malay grew from the same linguistic roots, hence the similarity of common everyday terms like makan, jalan, lari, pusing, balik, and so on - differentiated only by regional variations in pronunciation. Since Temuan has never been a written tongue, a workable method of recording the phonetic vagaries of speech had to be found - one that favoured the ear above formal dictates of spelling. In many instances, this has led to my bending the “new Bahasa spelling rules” prescribed by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (the national authority on Language and Literature) in the interest of aural accuracy. For example, with words like cendawan or celincir I have observed the modern Malay usage of “c” in place of “ch”- but ch’ngkaung and choi-choi would have presented difficulties spelt as c’ngkaung or coi-coi. Similarly I have opted for the archaic “o” in words like ambong, buloh, and tanong (where the new spelling would render them as ambung, buluh, and tanung, thereby distorting their actual pronunciation). The Temuan have a marked tendency to slur certain consonants like “d” and “l” and “n” and “r” (especially when they occur at the end of a word, so that m’id can also be m’in). Names of people and places are particularly tricky to pin down: ”Kelek” can turn into “Kenek,” “Halus” devolves into “Hanos,” and “Sudin” is sometimes heard as “Surin”; “Lata Chehek” could easily become “Lata Cheheng”- depending on the individual idiosyncrasies of one’s informant. Far from being a moribund language, Temuan has continued to develop - at least until recent decades when formal education in modern Malay was introduced to the Orang Asli and the young were encouraged to shed their dialectic peculiarities. Indeed, I was amused to discover that the Temuan vocabulary includes a number of words borrowed from Chinese dialects (especially Cantonese) stemming from their close contact with the towkays (entrepreneur bosses) to whom they sell their bamboo, durians, and labour. I offer this brief glossary merely as a starting point for further philological research and documentation.
agak - woven rattan basket; also ambong or jas.
ajih - you, as in awak.
alas - in Malay, basic or fundamental; orang alas, "primitives" who never had contact with
outsiders or who “don’t eat salt” (i.e., have returned to the wild).
aliu - ferret or stoat.
ambong - rattan basket worn like rucksack; see agak and jas.
ampu - to carry, as a child, in one's arms.
anai - termite; anai-anai in Malay.
anak - offspring, whether human, animal, or plant; anak buah, those enjoying the spiritual patronage
or protection of a Batin, i.e., extended family members of a village.
angin - literally, breeze or wind; metaphorically, inspiration, the Muses (ceremonial singer Mak Minah
says she can can only sing well when her wind rises, angin naik.)
angin puting beliong - cyclone.
ano - expression of vagueness or uncertainty; often, ano tih.
anyam - to weave, as in mats or baskets.
atap - roof; roofing thatch from woven palm leaves (see bertam); often pronounced hatap.
ayah - father; also abah or pak (from bapak).
a'yong - species of cicada; see also kenolong, kutu pulai, ng-eh, and toi.
bageh - ubi hutan, species of edible jungle root.
bahabah - spider.
baju - generally means clothes, apparel; metaphor for physical body, e.g., baju letih, "my body
is weary and worn."
balai - sheltered platform used for gatherings and ceremonies; tanjung balai, poetic reference to
to Temuan cemetery; in modern usage, a community hall or office.
balau - to peel a fruit; also koloi't.
bangat - hurry up, quickly.
bangkang - argumentative, hostile.
bangsa - race, species (refers also to genus or family, as in botanical species).
baning - medium-sized tortoise found only in deep jungle.
baring - to lie down.
basih, basik - in Malay, basi, mouldy, rotten, stale, “gone off,” as in foodstuff.
batin - traditionally the shaman or spiritual head of a village; nowadays, the government-
appointed headman; in modern Malay usage, batin means “core feelings” or “the secret
heart of being.” (I was told the Temuan once had Rajas - true monarchs who ruled over
external affairs of state - and priestlike Batins who presided over the internal or esoteric
domain. Invaders displaced their royal lineages, leaving the Orang Asli only their Batins.)
baung - species of freshwater catfish with sharp fins.
bebek - edible fungus growing out of rotting wood.
berchelengko - in Malay, berteleku, to rest chin on one's arms, elbows, or knees; moody or pensive.
beladok - woodpecker.
berbuai - to rock child gently to sleep in hammock, usually sarong suspended on spring.
berko't - stinky, unwashed.
bertam - thorny jungle palm with long fronds ideal for weaving into roof thatching or atap;
the leathery bark of the bertam is sometimes used for partitioning hut interiors,
and the palm also produces an edible fruit.
beruk - long-tailed macaque monkey.
bibik - lips, in Malay, bibir.
bi'hiang - invisible, unseen.
bisan - brother- or sister-in-law.
buai - baby sling or hammock on spring.
bubuh - to place, to put in or on, to add or attach.
budosa - from “bulldozer” - a word acquired since the 1960s.
bukit - hill or mountain or rise; prominent rocky outcrops are referred to as Batu; the word
Gunung is used to evoke a sense of awe and reverence, e.g., Batu Pelului (final resting
place of the Divine Family) is also called Bukit Pelului or Gunung Pelului, depending on
the context in which the hill is discussed.
buloh picap - split and flattened bamboo used for floors and walls in Orang Asli huts.
bumbung - rafter.
busut - anthill; cendawan busut, an anthill-shaped edible fungus.
butoh hantu - literally, "ghoulish prick"; species of jungle mushroom.
cangkih - full-grown bamboo rat (dekan or tikus buloh); its archetypal form is called
kukang and is said to possess magical powers.
celango, shlangor - dangling, not firmly attached; an archaic word which might have inspired
the naming of Selangor state. (Acccording to Temuan legend, Mamak
Bongsu was hunting a rogue gajah keramat or spirit elephant which he
wounded with an arrow, but the beast made off with the projectile dangling
from its side, whereupon Mamak Bongsu decided to call the area “Shlangor.”)
celincir - dialectic variant of Malay gelincir, to slip or almost fall.
cemperai - edible tree leaf.
cenceng - porcupine’s quill (its poison, marked by a dark band, is supposedly lethal).
cendawan - generic name for fungi, mushrooms and toadstools.
chanong - name of Mamak Bongsu’s magical sword or parang; the spot where he lost it
is known as Lata Chanong.
chenso - derived from “chainsaw” (a recent addition to the Temuan vocabulary).
chetong - small wild mango.
chinchai - from the Cantonese, meaning: "simply" or "any old how" or "don't be fussy!"
ch'ngkaung - newt or skink; bengkarung in Malay.
choi-choi - tikus; domestic rat.
cuit, cuit-cuit - to pull or suck or tug or draw (as milk from a breast); according to legend,
Sungai Luit (originally Sungai Cuit) was sucked out from Sungai Renting by a
. very thirsty gajah keramat (the same magical rogue elephant Mamak Bongsu
had pursued all the way from Pahang to Selangor).
dawai - electrical or steel wire.
degil - stubborn, recalcitrant, troublesome.
degin - puerile variant of ngan aku or “no thanks!”
degoh - wild boar; babi hutan.
dekan - bamboo rat; tikus buloh; called kukang in Temuan magical lore.
demam - fever; term commonly used to denote being "under the weather" or "out of sorts."
depong - horsefly.
dosa - moral offence, sin; contravening the unwritten laws of Tuhan (God).
ek - to show off or behave ostentatiously; probably derived from Manglish "action."
ee'ngkung - toad.
encih - to cut or slice vegetables or fruits into smaller pieces.
enget - midge.
engkim - "cheers!" or "bottoms up!"; generic term for alcoholic drinks.
englim - complexion darkened by the sun; tanning oneself.
entah, tah, untah - usually means "I don't know"; interjection of surprise or bewilderment.
gadung - gigantic yam-like edible root prized for its magical properties; see majun.
gajah - elephant, the most honoured animal after the rimau or tiger; also politely referred to
as nenek (grandparent).
gajik, gajih - handsaw.
garam - salt, regarded as a “civilizing” substance, often used to domesticate animals;
not eating salt (“niam makan garam”) indicates a feral disposition.
gasak - to gobble up, wolf down, pig out on food; or to do something in a hurry and therefore
carelessly; also used in the same sense as chinchai, Cantonese for "any old how" or
gatal - itchy; also used jocularly to indicate female concupiscence.
gejel - ubi gejel, blue-hued species of edible root related to tapioca or yam.
genting - narrow pass through mountains; also peretak or pertak.
genui - grandmother (see nenek).
geriang - species of monitor lizard, found in swamps or near streams.
geronggok - millipede.
gigi gerpau - broken teeth, snaggle-toothed.
giling - to roll into a ball or tube.
gobek - mischievous imp or sprite; also toyol.
goleh - to disturb, provoke, tease, as in usik.
gunung - used interchangeably with bukit for hill or mountain; however Gunung implies
a spiritual dimension beyond the purely topographical.
habat - as you like; whatever; anything will do.
halau - to evict, chase off, or drive away; kena halau, forced off ancestral lands by hostile
invaders (unfortunately a very real worry even in recent times).
halus - fine, subtle; orang halus, elven folk.
hangat - hot, as in panas; hot to the touch, scalding or blistering.
hantu - generic term for ghosts and spirits (usually malevolent or mischievous).
hantu beruk - moth.
hantu sugu - sex fiend.
hujan panas - literally, hot rain; rain with sunshine, believed to cause demam (fever).
isau - slurring of pisau, knife or machete, parang.
jampi - to invoke magical force, to heal or effect spiritual cure.
jangkang - species of tropical hardwood.
jas - small woven reed basket, often used to carry home caught fish; also agak or ambong.
jawak - biawak, monitor lizard.
jelebau - riverine turtle.
jerat - snare for trapping varieties of fauna.
jun - to sell, as in jual.
kai'k - flying squirrel.
kai'l - fishhook; bait and line.
kaki lang - species of mushroom (resembling eagle’s claw).
kaki tiung - species of mushroom (named for mynah’s feet).
kalong a’yan - root of the sireh plant used in magical potions.
kamin - formal, polite reference to self, as in the royal "we"; archaic form of kami.
kanchong - praying mantis, in Malay, gancong.
kelahi - to quarrel or fight; also berkelahi.
kelamai - corn gruel, bubur jagung in Malay.
kelak - reference to the future, usually used playfully as in ajih kelak!: "watch out!"
or "just you wait!"
kelim - to hem, as in a sarung or dress.
kelobok - butterfly.
kelompah, kelompang - hardwood found especially around Bukit Kutu.
kelo'uh - to suffer a miscarriage or induce an abortion (which is viewed as berdosa, sinful).
kelulut - species of honey bee.
kemahang - an inedible yam growing along rivers that may have given Pahang state its name.
kemas - chest discomfort, breathlessness.
kemundang - beetle (in Malay, kumbang).
keneip - cricket.
kengtih - pig's tick.
kening - forehead.
keniling - pangolin, a scaly ant-eater (in Malay, tenggiling).
keniung - species of slim-bodied beetle.
kenolong - a large cicada; see also a’yong, kutu pulai, ng-eh, and toi.
kenondong - wild olive.
kenunung - wild starfruit.
kepang - original Temuan name for gaharu, sandalwood.
kepayang - bitter-tasting edible nut from a large-leafed jungle tree of the same name (usually
sliced, boiled, and then fried with salt).
kesing - hard, as in keras.
ketulak - dialectic variant of ketola; loofah, a species of edible gourd.
kokot - fingernails or toenails, a dialectic variant of kuku.
koloi't - to peel a fruit with a sharp knife.
kriau-kriau - to cry or yell.
ku'ak - various terrapin species found in streams; ku'ak mahang, painted terrapin;
ku'ak t'angkong, helmet-shaped terrapin.
ku - giant land tortoise.
kuang - argus pheasant.
kudis - skin infection, rash.
kulim - juicy, tangy, jambu-like jungle fruit.
kunukun - glowbug or firefly.
kutu - bug, flea, louse, or tick; kutu pulai, a cicada-like bug; (Bukit Kutu, according to legend,
was where Inak Bongsu initiated her brother-husband Mamak Bongsu into sexual
knowledge, inspired by a pair of copulating kutu, thereby engendering the human race.)
landak - spiny porcupine, a favoured dietary supplement.
lang - eagle, hawk; in Malay, helang.
lang sui, sui - jungle siren or harpy; fairy maiden, succubus.
lapok - rotten, overripe, decaying, dilapidated.
lata - waterfall or rapids.
lauk - any kind of game, including fish, to supplement the staple diet of rice; generic name
for all animals considered edible, often used to avoid psychic problems with the
l’gor, legor - to gad about, gallivant, roam around.
lembing - spear traditionally used to pierce heart of trapped boar (“The animal must be killed
with the first strike. Never let the spearhead touch water or it won’t be sharp.”)
lemik - lembik, weak, flexible, soft.
lempat - white reed used for mat weaving.
lemu - ilmu, knowledge, especially esoteric or spiritual.
lemut - lembut, soft.
lengen - forearm.
lipan - centipede.
lipas - species of cockroach, smaller in size than the selondoh.
longkim - betelnut, sireh leaves, kapur (lime); generic name for paraphernalia surrounding
the betelnut-chewing ritual.
l'or-oi - "don't bluff!" or "you must be joking!"; as in "jangan tipu!"
lubang - cave or tunnel; lubang teliang, recently excavated; lubang siam, ancient mine shaft.
majun - large variety of ubi, edible root, said to have magical properties; see gadung.
ma'i - "come here!", as in "mari!"
mak - mother; also mui.
Mamak/Inak Bongsu (Pancu Bunga Tuan Kecik) - the Manu of Manusia, humankind;
collective name of Progenitor God, depicted as Father/Mother with Seven Offspring
(perhaps the Sun, Moon, and the Pleiades); ancestral archetypes: Mamak, father; Inak,
mother; Bongsu, the youngest child; Pancu Bunga, source of infinite abundance; Tuan
Kecik, literally "tiny god" or "god-within-all-beings"; tutelary spirits of Gunung Raja.
manao - much sought-after species of jungle cane or rotan.
mengada - literally, "too much!"; usually rendered mengada lah, an expression of affectionate
scolding, as in: "Oh, you're too much!"
merang - otter.
mepet - to speed.
mersiak - tropical wild apple.
mi'ah - merah, red.
miang - fine fuzz found on bamboo and certain other plants which causes itching.
mi'd, mi'n - tiny.
mo'r - "let's go!"
moyang - grandmother(s); the moon or the sun.
mui - mother; also mak.
n'ang - want, as in nak or hendak.
nantu - menantu, son- or daughter-in-law.
nenek - grandmother (see genui) or grandfather.
ng'ail - mengail, to go fishing with hook and line.
ngan, ngan aku - literally, "don't want" or "not for me!"; see also degin.
ng-eh - species of cicada; also a’yong, kenolong, kutu pulai, or toi.
ngr'ik - goosebumpy, spooky feeling from proximity of hantu (ghost or spirit).
ni - this, in Malay, ini.
niak - not available, not around, gone; "ain't got nothin'..."
niam - none, no more, not; generally used in place of tidak.
nun-nun - mischievous, naughty, as in nakal.
nyawa - life, spirit, vitality, soul.
nyeh-nyeh - children's tease word; perhaps equivalent of "Simon says."
pades - local pronunciation of pedas, spicy hot.
pak'era - puerile expression of defiance, as in "get stuffed!"; probably derived from tak kira,
"never mind!" or "don't bother!"
palu lutut - knee.
pantang - taboo, belief based on ancestral admonition.
pantim - leaf monkey, considered a delicacy at ritual feasts.
patih - look; to see, as in tengok.
pa'ung - extremely sour tropical version of the crab-apple , used for cooking and as a pickle.
paya - marsh, swamp or wetlands.
payah, payah-payah - bothersome, difficult, not worth the effort; tak payah, no real need,
pekek, pekeng - to strangle or throttle, often used as a playful threat.
pening - dizziness, headache, or vertigo; a very common complaint.
peraga - daun pegaga, Gotu Kola, a green creeper (Centella asiatica) noted for its tonic properties..
perah - species of ‘Brazil’ nut, traditionally used for making cooking oil; the perah tree is
regarded as especially sacred.
peretak, pertak - literally, a breach or gap (from retak, crack); natural gateway through the
Main Range linking peninsular east and west coasts; name of Temuan village
located a few miles from Gunung Raja (the Majestic Mountain); also genting.
petai - a fetid jungle bean (the size and shape of a butter bean) that features prominently in
Malay cuisine; the beans come in long, flat pods and are harvested by pluckers who
shinny up the bare trunks of tall petai trees - risky but rewarding work.
pi'ak - perak, silver.
picap - to split and flatten green bamboo for walls and floors: buloh picap.
pipik - pipi, cheek.
poon'toon - jocular for fat, obese, or merely plump.
punan - symbolic food sharing rite, based on the belief that it's bad luck for someone present
at a meal not to at least touch the food.
puntong - blowpipe; also sumpit.
pusat - navel, belly-button; (in Malay, pusat means centre or headquarters).
rakit - bamboo raft usually shunted along rivers.
rasun - poisonous watersnake.
ruan - the most fragrant of scented woods found in the rainforest.
sampan - generic name for a canoe, dug-out or skiff.
samun - to steal; penyamun, thief.
sangolotong - huge red-skinned rambutan.
sawa - python, ular sawa.
sawai - sacred ceremony held annually to bless the land; also sewang.
sebak - calm, as in waters.
selimang - species of common river fish.
selondoh - foul-smelling species of cockroach.
semangat - anima, spirit, vitality.
semomok - variety of leafy vegetable.
semperu - dialectic variant of Malay hempedu, bile or gall bladder; especially of ular sawa
(python), valued for its magical or tonic properties.
sepina - edible jungle creeper.
sewang - communal feast and ritual singing with bamboo accompaniment; sawai.
sewel - crazy, lunatic, as in gila.
siamang - gibbon; see tembok.
sikit jong/siku - sikit, sedikit; a wee bit, just a pinch.
sikuh - elbow.
sinin - here, in Malay, sini.
sokan - harvest festival, sometimes in conjunction with sawai.
songkorong - hardwood tree characterised by numerous knot holes.
sui - see lang sui.
sumpit - blowpipe; also puntong.
sungai - river or stream; very small creeks and rivulets are simply called air, water. (The
Temuan say all rivers begin from Gunung Raja: the sacred mountain is the breast
of Inak Bongsu and the life-sustaining waters are her milk.)
surut - to fasten a weave.
tah'ir - cigarette; originally, a "rollie."
tali enchoong - strap for carrying basket.
tampui - yellow or orange-skinned variety of wild mangosteen; see tegau.
tanong - dragonfly; colloquially, helicopter.
tayau - drunk, as in mabuk (etymology uncertain, probably from the Cantonese "ta-yau"
("fill up your tank" as with petrol).
tebul - small, round, freshwater fish.
tegau - species of tampui.
tembok - gibbon-like primate, cousin of siamang.
temerang - sea lion.
tempi'ang - tortoise commonly found near rivers, identified by black and yellow striped head.
temuan - convergence (of roads, rivers, cultures); plateau (where the faces of a mountain meet;
from temu, bertemu, to confront or converge; menemui, to discover, find, call upon,
conjoin, unite; Temuan, a fusion of aboriginal and migrant tribes that occurred
around Gunung Raja,"the navel of the nation"; one of 18 tribes indigenous to
te’ngas - freshwater fish related to perch; travels miles upstream to spawn; the Temuan regard
the te’ngas as sacred (ada Tuhan).
tilak - sweet potato, keledek.
toi - species of cicada; see also kenolong, kutu pulai, ng-eh, and a’yong.
toyok - pork bought from the market, derived from the Cantonese chu'ee-yoke.
toyol - goblin or gremlin, mischievous sprite; sometimes pronounced tolol.
tu - that, in Malay, itu.
Tuan Lengkeng - Cecil Ranking, first magistrate and revenue collector of Kuala Kubu, circa
1880; protected the Temuan from slave traders; died at 26 in an 1883 flash
flood after shooting at the penunggu (guardian spirit) of Sungai Selangor,
which showed itself as a white crocodile.
tukul - hammer or mallet.
ubi galah - the common cassava, manioc, or tapioca; in Malay, ubi kayu.
ubi gejel - variety of blue-hued tapioca or yam; also gejel.
ular sawa - python.
ular senduk - cobra.
Ungku Sohor - local rendering of Syed Mashor, legendary knight errant, hero of 19th century
territorial wars between Selangor and Pahang Malays; greatly admired by the
Temuan and honoured as their deliverer, his tomb is located in Kerling, Ulu
Selangor, and some claim direct descent from him.
wahyu - dream, revelation, vision.
wak - eldest aunt or uncle.
wali - guardian; master of ceremonies at nuptial and funerary rites.
wan - honorific name for a grandmother or noble family.
wangi - fragrant, illustrious.
zaman - epoch, era, age; zaman dahulu or zaman nenek-moyang implies great antiquity
COMPILED BY ANTARES (with the help of Rasid Aus, Minah Anggong,
Indah Merkol, and Utat Merkol of Pertak Village, Ulu Selangor).
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