Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Javanese from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

(1704) 1 : a member of an Indonesian people inhabiting the island of Java 2 : an Austronesian language of the Javanese people

Javanese adj


Summary Article: Javanese
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

The largest ethnic group in the Republic of Indonesia. There are more than 50 million speakers of Javanese, which belongs to the western branch of the Austronesian family. Although the Javanese have a Hindu-Buddhist heritage, they are today predominantly Muslim, practising a branch of Islam known as Islam Jawa, which contains many Sufi features.

Arts and products The Javanese are known for their performing arts, especially their shadow theatre and gamelan orchestras, their high-quality metalwork, and batik resist-dyed cloth. In pre-independence Indonesia, Javanese society was divided into hierarchical classes ruled by sultans, and differences in status were reflected by strict codes of dress. Arts and crafts flourished at the court. Although the majority of Javanese depend on the cultivation of rice in irrigated fields, there are many large urban centres with developing industries. To relieve the pressure on the land, farmers have been moved under Indonesia's controversial transmigration scheme to less populated islands such as Sulawesi (Celebes) and Irian Jaya (western New Guinea).

Language and literature There are over 20 million speakers of Sundanese in the west of the island, more than 50 million speakers of Javanese, and approximately 7 million speakers of Madurese on neighbouring Madura. The Badui, an isolated group in western Java, speak a version of Sundanese, while the Tenggerese of the east speak a form of Javanese. Depending on the relative status of speaker and listener, different levels of speech are used. From the 5th century AD onwards, Hinduism and Buddhism were introduced from India, along with a wide range of skills, most notably the art of writing. The zenith of the Hindu-Buddhist era was reached under the Majapahit Empire (1293–c. 1520), when the Javanese held sway over much of the Indonesian archipelago. Islam, which was introduced by southern Arabian and Muslim Indian traders in the 13th century, eventually gained predominance. Javanese who combine Hindu-Buddhist and traditional beliefs with Islam are known as abangan, while more orthodox Muslims are called santri.

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

Related Articles


Full text Article JAVANESE
Dictionary of Languages

75,000,000 SPEAKERS Indonesia Three AUSTRONESIAN LANGUAGES are commonly spoken on the heavily populated island of Java. Malay is the...

Full text Article JAVANESE
Cassell's Peoples, Nations and Cultures

An AUSTRONESIAN people who are the largest ethnic group of the Republic of Indonesia. There are over 76 million Javanese, the vast majority of...

See more from Credo