‘Bau’ or ‘Wangi’

In Indonesian, there are a number of words that mean smell but the most popular ones are ‘bau’ and ‘wangi’. They can be used as both adjective and noun.

How are they different?


When ‘bau’ is used to describe an object, it means that the object smells bad or stinks.

Example 1:

Rambut saya bau… 🙁

My hair smells bad/stinks

Example 2:

Durian itu bau sekali!

That durian smells really bad.

On the other hand, if ‘wangi’ is used to describe an object, it means that the object smells good or fragrant.

Example 3:

Wah, kamar kamu wangi sekali!

Wow, your room smells really good.

Example 4:

Rotinya wangiSaya mau

The bread smells good… I want (it)…



As a noun, both ‘bau’ and ‘wangi’ means smell. Hence they can be used interchangeably.

Example 5:

Wah, durian ini baunya enak


Wah, durian ini wanginya enak

Wow, the smell of this durian is good.

If you wonder why the word ‘enak’ is used in the sentence above, read our previous explanation on using the word ‘enak’.

Final Note

‘Bau’ and ‘wangi’, as a noun, are often associated with particular nouns that already have a distinct smell.

Example 6:

Parfum ini wanginya tidak enak.

This perfume does not smell good.

‘Parfum’ is often associated with ‘wangi’. Although using ‘bau’ is totally fine too.

Example 7:

Ada banyak sampah yang belum dibuang di rumah. Baunya mengganggu saya.

There is a lot of garbage that has not been thrown away at home. The smell disturbs me.

Sampah’, which means garbage, is often associated with ‘bau’. Using ‘wangi’ to describe its smell will be a bit unusual.

Interestingly, for things such as ‘durian’, which is famous for its smell being relative (different people have different feeling towards the smell that it releases), both ‘bau’ and ‘wangi’ can be used to describe it and one can even get a hint of the speaker’s feeling towards ‘durian’ from the word that they choose to describe its smell. If the speaker uses ‘bau’, he/she might not really like durian’s smell. If the speaker uses ‘wangi’, he/she might actually like durian’s smell.

I hope you find the explanation above useful.

Have a question regarding this topic? Post your question below!

Difference between ‘Bau’ and ‘Wangi’

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