List of Tagalog loanwords

List of Tagalog loanwords

The Tagalog language, due to its history of connections with the rest of Asia, and the influence of European colonization, has developed a unique vocabulary since its inception from its Austronesian roots. The influence of the Sanskrit, Arabic, Spanish, Greek, Latin, Arabic, English, Spanish, Malay, Chinese, Japanese, and Indian languages can be seen in the Tagalog language. According to the linguistic expert Jose Villa Panganiban, "of the 30,000 root words in the Tagalog language, there are close to 5,000 from Spanish, 3,200 from Malay, 1,500 from English, 1,500 from both Hokkien (Min Nan) and Yueh Chinese dialects, 300 from Sanskrit, 200 from Arabic, and a few hundred altogether from other languages"[citation needed]. Some linguists claim that borrowings from Malay cannot be ascertained at this time, as words from the Old Austronesian language and those from Malay are still ambiguous and too similar to be distinguished, but some linguists studying the Malay language came to recognize semantic cognates with other Austronesian words, thereby classifying some others to be of Malay provenance[citation needed].



Spanish has bequeathed the most loan words to Tagalog. According to linguists, Spanish (5,000) has even surpassed Malayo–Indonesian (3,500) in terms of loan words borrowed. About 40% of everyday (informal) Tagalog conversation is practically made up of Spanish loanwords. An example is the sentence below, wherein Spanish–derived words are italicized (original in parentheses):

"Puwede (Puede) ba akong umupo sa silya (cilla) sa tabi ng bintana (ventana) habang nasa biyahe (viaje) tayo sa eroplano (aeroplano)?" ("May I sit in the chair nearest the window in the duration of our voyage in the airplane?")

Most have retained at least their original spelling, pronunciation, and definition such as basura', delikadesa, and demokrasya.

Others have morphed like 'ku(ha)nin' (Sp.: 'coja' + Tag. '–nin'), which has inconspicuously developed into another pure Tagalog–sounding word. Another one is maamong kordero (from Sp. amo & cordero). Combined together, it conveys the description of a meek, tame, harmless human with Tagalog adjective prefix and suffix added. The compound word batya't palo–palo, a must word in the laundry business where many Spanish words proliferate. The words were taken from the Spanish batea for "washing tub" and palo for "stick" or "beater", something a typical Filipino might think had no Spanish provenance at all. Others are umpisa (empieza), pulubi (pobre), pader (pared).

Some have totally gained new meaning such as kursonada (corazonada, originally meaning '"hunch", has changed to "object of desire"); sospechoso, the "suspicious person" and not the "suspect" anymore as it originally means in Spanish; imbyerna (invierna), meant 'winter' became a word for 'bummer'; or 'insekto' – 'insect' transformed into a 'pesty clownish person'; or even 'sigue' a Spanish word for 'continue' or 'follow' now widely understood as the second or third to the last word when about to hang up the phone ('O sigue uhm, bye.').

Others use prefixes and/or suffixes, combined from Tagalog or other languages without which the word can not be completed and convey its meaning. For example, 'pakialamero' (from Tag. 'pakialam' and the Sp. suffix '–ero'); same as 'majongero' ('mahjong' an obviously Chinese word and the Sp. suffix '–ero'). 'Daisysiete' becomes a corrupted word from English 'daisy' and the Spanish 'decisiete' combining and overlapping to coin the term to mean a sweet and sexually desirable sounding female who is underaged (below 18 years old). And 'bastusing katawan' (Sp.: 'basto' & Tag.: 'katawan') combined to form a term for a bombshell body.

Even after the Spanish colonists left, Tagalog is still being influenced by Spanish as new words are coined, albeit in its own terms, viz. 'alaskador' ('Alaska' + Sp. suffix '–ador'); 'barkada' (from Sp.: 'barca' or a 'boat' to a 'clique'); 'berde' ('green' nuanced to 'toilet joke'); which are not understood in Spain or any Latin American country. In a strange twist, even if Filipinos have a chance to Tagalized words using foreign words, currently English—their most accessible influence—they coin words in a uniquely Hispanizing way i.e. 'boksingero' (from Eng. 'boxing') instead of using the Spanish 'boxeador't. Or 'basketbolista' (from Eng. 'basketball'), instead of borrowing from Spanish 'baloncesto' to make it say 'baloncestista' or 'baloncestador' (although basketball is "básquetbol" in many Latin American countries).

Here are the examples of Spanish–derived Tagalog words in the following format: Word (Etymology – Original Definition/s if different from Nuanced Definition. = Derivative Definition if Compound Words) – Nuanced Definition. Shared Definition precedes Nuanced Definition if both exist.

Tagalog Spanish Meaning
Abante Avante Ahead, Forward
Ahensiya Agéncia Agency
Ambisyoso Ambicioso Ambitious
Bodega Bodega Warehouse
Colegio/Kolehiyo Colegio College
Diyos Dios God
Edukasyon Educación Education
Eskwela Escuela School
Guerra/Giyera Guerra War
Hustisya Justicia Justice
Hapon Japón Japan
Ingles Inglés English
Kalye Calle Street
Kapasidad Capacídad Capacity
Kultura Cultura Culture
Luho Lujo Luxury
Monarkiya Monarquía Monarchy
Mundo Mundo World
Nasyonalista Nacionalista Nationalist
Numero Número Number
Operasyon Operación Operation
Ordinansa Ordinanza Ordinance
Oras Horas Time
Pamilya Familia Family
Pilipinas Filipinas Philippines
Probinsya Provincia Province
Realidad Realidad Reality
Republika República Republic
Reyna Reina Queen
Sabon Jabón Soap
Tableta Tableta Tablet
Teknolohiya Tecnología Technology
Yelo Hielo Ice


English has been used in everyday Tagalog conversation. This kind of conversation is called Taglish. English words borrowed by Tagalog are mostly modern and technical terms, but English words are also used for short usage (many Tagalog words translated from English are very long) or to avoid literal translation and repetition of the same particular Tagalog word. English makes the second largest vocabulary of Tagalog after Spanish. In written language, English words in a Tagalog sentence are written as they are, but they are sometimes written in Tagalog phonetic spelling. Here are some examples:

Here are some examples:

Tagalog English
Basketbol Basketball
Biskwit Biscuit
Byu View
Direk Director
Ekonomiks Economics
Interbyu Interview
Iskor Score
Iskrin Screen
Ispiker Speaker
Isports Sports
Istampid Stampede
Catsup/Kechap Ketchup
Keyk Cake
Perpyum Perfume
Websayt Website

Cognates with Malay

Tagalog is an Austronesian language and a close cousin of both Malay varieties in Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. Because of this close relationship, there are many cognates between the two languages stretching back many millennia. Many cognates were re-borrowed into in the language when Old Malay became the official language of trade and documentation during the pre-Hispanic era of Philippine history, as evidenced by the Laguna Copperplate Inscription of 900 AD and accounts of Pigafetta at the time of the Spanish arrival in the country 5 centuries later. This is a small sample of the thousands of cognates present between Tagalog and Malay.

Tagalog Malay Meaning
Ako Aku I (first person)
Balik Balik Return
Bansà Bangsa Country
Daán Jalan Street,
Hangin Angin Wind
Itik Itik Duck
Itim Hitam Black
Kalapatî Merpati Pigeon
Lalaki Lelaki,
Langit Langit Sky,
Sakit Sakit Ill
Mura Murah Cheap
Pangulo Penghulu President
Pulà Merah Red
Putî Putih White
Saksi Saksi Witness
Sarap Sedap Delicious
Sulat Surat Letter
Tamis Manis Sweet
Taon Tahun Year
Utak Otak Brain
Mahal Mahal Expensive
Sintá Cinta Love (Possessive)
Anak Anak Child
Kanan Kanan Right
Guntíng Gunting Scissor
Lima Lima Five
Ikaw Kau You
Durián Durian Durian
Tulong Tolong Help
Pulò Pulau Island
Rambután Rambutan Rambutan
Batík Batik Spot,
Batò Batu Stone
Lahat Lalat All
Mulâ Mula From
Radyo Radio Radio
Medya Media Media
Sanggol Sanggul Infant
Dagat Darat Sea
Payong Payung Umbrella
Kita Kita We (1st person dual, i.e. "you and I")
Kami Kami We (excludes addresee)
Dingding Dinding Wall
Mangga Mangga Mango
Halagâ Harga Price
Babae Bibi Female
Timog Timur South
Ulan Hujan Rain
Buwaya Buaya Crocodile
Bawang Bawang Garlic
Apat Empat Four
Ánim Enam Six
Salitá Cerita Word
Balitá Berita News
Kambing Kambing Goat
Tahanan Tahanan House
Halaman Halaman Plant
Kapag Kapan When
Ulat Ulat Report
Bakit Bukit Why
Buwan Bulan Month
Laban Lawan Oppose (v.),
Opposition (n.)
Langka Nangka Jackfruit
Balimbing Belimbing Starfruit
Aprikot Aprikot Apricot
Lemon Lemon Lemon
Papaya Pepaya Papaya
Bunga Bunga Fruit
Lawa Rawa Lake
Helikopter Helikopter Helicopter
Balakáng Belakang Hip
Libo Ribu Thousand
Utang Utang Debt


Tagalog Sanskrit Meaning
Alak Arak Wine
Bahala Bahala Fate
Bathala Bathala Almighty
Bahagi Bhag Part
Budhî Bodhi Conscience
Diwa Jiwa Spirit,
Diwata Devanta Fairy/
Dukha Dukkha Destitute
Guro Guru Teacher,
Karma Karma Karma
Kathâ Katha Creation
Mahárlika Mahardhikka Nobility
Mukhâ Mukha Face
Sutlâ Sutra Silk
Visayas Vijaya Major islands group in central Philippines. Main islands are: Samar, Leyte, Cebu, Bohol, Negros, and Panay.


Tagalog Hindi Meaning
Achara Achar Pickled
Tsaa Chai Tea
Beranda Veranda Roofed open gallery
Mahal Mahal Beloved
Sabón Saboon Soap
Syampu Champo Shampoo


  • Bumbay (Gujarati: Bombay) – Term used for people of South Asian descent.


  • Alam (Arabic: Alham) – Knowledge, understanding.
  • Hiyâ (Arabic: Hayaa) - to feel shame, blush.
  • Hukum(Arabic: Hukum) - Judge

Min Nan (Hokkien), Yueh (Cantonese), and Mandarin Chinese

During the time when several Kingdoms existed in the area of what is now Luzon(in reference to the Luzon Empire or Kingdom of Tondo), diplomatic ties were established with the Ming dynasty. Contact also reached as far as the Sultan of Sulu. As a result, many Chinese loanwords were gained, some examples are:

  • Apo (Hokkien: 阿公/A–kong) – Grandfather (the word 'apo' means grandchild/ren in Tagalog).
  • Ate (Hokkien: 阿姊/A–chí) – Eldest sister.
  • Bakya (Hokkien: 木屐/ba̍k-kia̍h) – Native wooden sandals.
  • Batchoy (Hokkien: 肉水/bah-chúi) – Pork in soup.
  • Bihon (Hokkien: 米粉/bí-hún) – Rice vermicelli
  • Bitsin (Hokkien: 味精/bī-cheng) – monosodium glutamate.
  • Chekwa (Slang/corruption for Intsik, see ‘intsik’.)
  • Daw/Raw (Mandarin: Tao, Originally meant "God", "Way", or "God's Way") – He said/she said/they said/it was said/reportedly/supposedly.
  • Ditse (Hokkien: 二姊/Dī–chí) – Second eldest sister.
  • Hikaw (Hokkien: 耳鉤/hī–kau) – Earrings.
  • Jusi (Hokkien: 富絲/hù-si) – Cloth made from pineapple fibers.
  • Impo (Hokkien: 阿媽/A–má) – Grandmother.
  • Ingkong (Hokkien: 阿公/A–kong) – Grandfather.
  • Intsík (Hokkien: Din Tiak) – Chino.
  • Kuya (哥哥; Cantonese: ko–ko; Hokkien: keh–ya) – Eldest brother.
  • Lumpia (Hokkien: 潤餅/jūn-piáⁿ) – lumpia/spring rolls.
  • Mami (Hokkien: 肉麵/bah-mī) – Meat and noodles in soup.
  • Pati (Hokkien: ) – Including.
  • Pancit (Hokkien: 便ê食/piān-ê-si̍t) – Noodles with sauce.
  • Petsay (Hokkien: 白菜/pe̍h-chhài) – Chinese cabbage.
  • Pesa (Hokkien: 白sa̍h) – Plain boiled.
  • Santse (Hokkien: 三姊/San–chí) – Third eldest sister.
  • Sitsit (Hokkien: ) – Pssst...
  • Siyansi (Hokkien: 煎匙/chian-sî) – Spoon-like kitchen turner/spatula.
  • Siyopaw/siopao (Hokkien: 燒包/sio-pau) – Dough ball filled with pork/beef/carabao meat.
  • Sotanghon (Hokkien: 苏冬粉/so-tang-hun) – Cellophane noodles
  • Suki (Hokkien: 主客/chu–khe) – Regular Customer.
  • Sungki (Hokkien: 伸齒/chhun-khí) – Malocclusion.
  • Susi (Hokkien: 鎖匙/só–sî) – Key.
  • Tikoy (Hokkien: 甜粿/Tih–ke) – Chinese New Year's cake Nian gao.
  • Tingi (Hokkien:) – Selling at retail.
  • Tokwa (Hokkien: 豆干/tāu-koaⁿ) – Soybean curd
  • Totso (Hokkien: 豆油醋魚/tāu–iû-chhò͘-hî) – Sauteed fish.
  • Toyo (Hokkien: 豆油/tāu–iû) – Soy sauce.
  • Tausi (Hokkien: 豆豉/tāu-si; 'beans fermented/in brine') – Fermented black beans.


During the era of the several Kingdoms in the Luzon area, and even in the Visayas, trade was established between them and South East and East Asia(especially Japan and China). Word borrowings from Japanese were most likely from trade, some examples are:

  • Dahan–dahan (Nihongo: だんだん dandan) – Slowly, gradually.
  • Haba (Nihongo: 幅 haba) – Width or Breadth.
  • Kaban (Nihongo: 鞄 kaban – Bag, satchel.) – Sack of rice.
  • Kampay (Nihongo: 乾杯 kanpai) - Cheers!
  • Katol (Nihongo: 蚊取線香 katori-senkou) – Mosquito coil.
  • Jack-en-poy (NIhongo: じゃんけんぽん jankenpon) - Rock-paper-scissors
  • Tamang-tama (Nihongo: 偶々 tama-tama) - coincidentally
  • Karaoke (Nihongo: カラオケ karaoke) – A form of musical entertainment, usually social in nature where one sings from a selection of songs with the aid of an audio–video guide that provides the instrumental accompaniment and flashes the scripts of the lyrics for the player to read.

Nahuatl (Aztec Mexican)

Tagalog gained Nahuatl words through Spanish and with the galleon trade with Mexico during the Hispanic era.

  • Akuwete (Nahuatl: Achiotl via Mex. Sp.: Achiote) – Annatto seeds.
  • Kamatsile/Kamatsili/Camachile (Nahuatl: Cuanhmochitl via Mex. Sp.: Guamáchili) – Sweet tamarind or Manila tamarind.
  • Kamote (Nahuatl: Camotli via Mex. Sp.: Camote) – Sweet potato.
  • Pitaka (Nahuatl: Petlacalli via Mex. Sp.: Petaca) – Suitcase) – Coin purse.
  • Sayote (Nahuatl: Chayotli via Mex. Sp.: Chayote) – A Mexican squash.
  • Singkamas (Nahuatl: Xicamatl via Mex. Sp.: Jicama) – A sweet root crop (water chestnut).
  • Sukil (Nahuatl: Xochitl via Mex. Sp.: Suchil) – A flower.
  • Tatay (Nahuatl: Tatl) – Father.
  • Tiangge/Tiyangge (Nahuatl: Tianquiztli via Mex. Sp.: Tianguis) – Seasonal markets.
  • Tsokolate (Nahuatl: Xocolatl or Chocolatl via Mex. Sp.: Chocolate) – Chocolate.
  • Tsonggo (Nahuatl via Mex. Sp.: Chango) – Monkey.
  • Sapote (Nahuatl: Tzapotl via Mex. Sp.: Chico sapote) – Sapodilla, now called Chico or Tsiko. However the word Zapote remained in the minds of Filipinos as a place i.e. Zapote, Cavite.

Arawak–Taíno–Caribbean/Central American

  • Bayabas (Always Plu.) (Arawak: Guayabo via Mex. Sp.: Guayaba) – Guava.
  • Kasikwe/Cacique (Arawak via Mex. Sp.: Cacique) – Chief, boss.
  • Kaimito/Caimito (Unknown but somewhere in Caribbean/Central American via Mex. Sp.: Caimito) – Star fruit.
  • Mani (Always Sing.) Taíno: Maní via Mex. Sp.: Maní) – Peanut. Slang for clitoris.
  • Mais (Taíno: Maíz via Mex. Sp.: Maíz) – Maiz.
  • Papaya (Arawak: Papáia via Mex. Sp. Papaya) – Papaya.
  • Patatas (Always plu.) (Taíno: Batata via Mex. Sp.: Patata) – Potato.


Additional readings

See also

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