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What kind of job is “tukang …”? Posted by on Aug 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

When you learn Indonesian the first time, you notice that there are job titles that begin with “tukang” (pronounced “two-kung”). While at the time you also learn that there are professions and occupations equivalent to English, you also learn that it is not easy to find similar jobs of “tukang…”  For example, “tukang parkir” is “parking ranger,” and “tukang sayur” is “vegetable vendor.” How about “tukang makan”? If you search on Google, Google will give you “eater” as a translation. “Tukang makan” describes someone who has a habit of eating often, and it refers to someone who is obese.

In everyday conversation, sometimes “tukang” plus a verb has two meanings: either to describe a profession or a character. For example, “tukang pukul” means a bouncer by trade, but it is also used to describe someone’s bad character. An example of a bad character is a man who hits his wife or children.

“Tukang” plus a noun or a verb means a profession, a skilled laborer, or a craftsman.

  1. Tukang masak – can be a cook or a chef; it depends on the context.
  2. Tukang tagih – debt collector
  3. Tukang gigi – teeth maker
  4. Tukang sapu – (street) sweeper
  5. Tukang kayu – carpenter
  6. Tukang ledeng – plumber
  7. Tukang emas – goldsmith
  8. Tukang kebun – gardener
  9. Tukang sayur – vegetable vendor
  10. Tukang becak – pedicab driver
  11. Tukang ojek – motorcycle or bike taxi driver
  12. Tukang tagih – debt collector
  13. Tukang lelang – auctioneer
  14. Tukang sulap – wizard
  15. Tukang bakso – meatball seller
Image credit: Flickr/creativecommons/Karol Franks

Image credit: Flickr/creativecommons/Karol Franks

image credit: flickr/creativecommons/Tri Mustika Dwi Wiyoto

image credit: flickr/creativecommons/Tri Mustika Dwi Wiyoto

Image credit: flickr/creativecommons/Stephanus Riosetiawan

Image credit: flickr/creativecommons/Stephanus Riosetiawan

Image credit: Flickr/creativecommons/Phillips Brookes

Image credit: Flickr/creativecommons/Phillips Brookes

When “tukang” is added to a verb, it describes an undesirable habit or a character.

  1. Tukang gosip – gossipmonger or a gossiper
  2. Tukang nangis – whiner
  3. Tukang marah – short-tempered person
  4. Tukang bohong – someone who lies as her/his characteristic or habit
  5. Tukang tipu (colloquial; penipu formal), someone who has a job deceiving others for his/her financial gain
  6. Tukang ngambek (colloquial) – someone who is getting upset easily

So, how can you decide which word to use?

  1. If you want to describe a seller’s profession, add a word related to what the person is selling, such as “daging” which means “meat.” However, as Indonesia is a country with a majority Muslim population, this would imply that the seller is selling beef. So, we call the seller a “tukang daging,”  a “butcher” or “beef-seller.”
  2. If you want to describe someone’s character, add another word after “tukang” that represents a habit that person has that you find annoying or disturbing. You can also create a “tukang plus a word” that describes a friend’s silly character trait, as a joke.

 Let’s try the following exercise.

English Clue Indonesian
1.     locksmith key
2.     barber cutting men’s hair
3.     tailor making cloths
4.     postman mail
5.     milkman milk
6.     masseur massage
7.     bread seller bread
8.     satay seller satay
9.     hair stylist cutting hair at a hair salon
10.electrician electricity



English Clue Indonesian
1.     locksmith key (kunci) tukang kunci
2.     barber Cutting men’s hair (cukur) tukang cukur
3.     tailor making cloths tukang jahit
4.     postman mail (surat; post) tukang pos
5.     milkman milk (susu) tukang susu
6.     masseur massage (pijat) tukang pijat
7.     bread seller bread (roti) tukang roti
8.     satay seller satay (sate) tukang sate
9.     hair stylist cutting hair at a hair salon tukang potong rambut
10.electrician Electricity (listrik) tukang listrik


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About the Author: asimonoff

I’m an Indonesian language instructor, instructional material developer, reading test developer, and interpreter. I have been teaching Indonesian to adult students for 15 years, and have been teaching students from many backgrounds, such as private, military and diplomatic service employees. I’m Indonesian, but am living in the US now; my exposure to different cultures in my home country and in the US has enriched my knowledge in teaching Indonesian as a second language. I approach the teaching of the Indonesian language by developing students’ critical cultural awareness and competence. This method of teaching has been proven to be a key to the success of my students. Students become conscious of the essential role culture plays in the language.


  1. Kiki:

    Terima kasih banyak. Infonya sangat berguna.

    • asimonoff:

      @Kiki Terima kasih kembali, Kiki. Senang bisa membantu. Sering-sering mampir ke blog kami.