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15 Confusing Ilocano Words That You Need to Know

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Precy enjoys helping others learn to speak and appreciate the Filipino language. She also speaks Ilocano.

Learn these Ilocano words that also exist in Filipino/Tagalog and what they actually mean.

Learn these Ilocano words that also exist in Filipino/Tagalog and what they actually mean.

15 Confusing Ilocano Words and Their Meanings

Ilocano is the third most spoken native Philippine language or dialect (some prefer to refer to Ilocano and other regional languages as dialects). There are eight major languages in the Philippines, so it isn't uncommon for the same words to exist in two or more of these regional languages.

While the words may sound exactly alike, and most are spelled the same, they have completely different meanings. Learning what these different words mean can be a nice icebreaker to turn a dull moment into a lively, fun conversation, but be aware that it can also turn a good conversation into a confusing one.

I speak both Filipino/Tagalog and Ilocano at home, and I can tell you that it does indeed get confusing at times. Through experience and jotting down these words, I have come up with 15 words that exist both in Ilocano and Tagalog, most of which share the same pronunciation. And yes, these Ilocano words can confuse Filipino/Tagalog speakers. Let's jump right in and find out what these words mean in Ilocano!

Utong (long beans)

Utong (long beans)

1. Utong

Utong is the Ilocano word for long beans, a common vegetable in Filipino dishes and often one of the ingredients on the Ilocano dish dinengdeng as well as pinakbet.

But with Filipino speakers, utong doesn't mean long beans but it is part of the body—utong ("nipple").

Tawa (window)

Tawa (window)

2. Tawa

Tawa doesn't mean "laughter" in Filipino if that's what you have in mind. If you hear an Ilocano speaker mentioning or saying the word, chances are they are referring to a window.

Umay (come; to move closer)

Umay (come; to move closer)

3. Umay

Umay has something to do with going from one place to another or coming closer.

It shares the same spelling with the Tagalog word umay, which means getting tired of eating the same food. Think of the word umay as the counterpart of the Filipino word punta.

Bigat (tomorrow; morning)

Bigat (tomorrow; morning)

4. Bigat

This word may deceive Filipino/Tagalog speakers who assume bigat has something to do with weight. Well, it doesn't; this means "the day after today" (tomorrow). It is also used to mean "morning." Naimbag nga bigat. ("Good morning").

Saka (feet)

Saka (feet)

5. Saka

If you just read this Ilocano word, there's no doubt you'll be confused about what the word saka means. In Ilocano, saka means exactly what's in the photo—feet. Pronunciation differs, though, from the Filipino word saka, which means "and," so hearing that is a good clue that the word means something else.

Sabong (flower)

Sabong (flower)

6. Sabong

You may be imagining roosters if you hear the word sabong, but it doesn't mean "cockfight" in Ilocano. In Filipino, yes, but sabong here refers to something delicate and lovely growing in your garden—flowers. Sabong is an Ilocano word that means "flower." So the next time a co-worker says 'Napintas dagitoy sabong,' you'll know she's referring to the beautiful flowers and not to a cockfight.

Saan (no/not)

Saan (no/not)

7. Saan

If you feel confused after hearing someone mention this word where it somehow doesn't make sense, that is most likely because it is being used to give a negative response. Saan in Ilocano means "no"—a word that can easily be confused with the Filipino word saan, which means "where." A variant of this you probably already know or have heard as well, or maybe you would prefer using, is haan.

Utut (rat)

Utut (rat)

8. Utut

Utut is an Ilocano word that might make you chuckle if you hear or are told how big an utut is. But it isn't the intestinal gas you're thinking of. Although this word may share the same pronunciation as the Filipino word utot, which means "fart," utut here means something else—"rat."

Bayag (taking a large amount of time; taking too long)

Bayag (taking a large amount of time; taking too long)

9. Bayag

Bayag is a word that refers to male genitalia in Filipino, and unsuspecting non-Ilocano speakers may think that's what it means. This Ilocano word is often used with intensifiers that you've probably heard. Nagbayag means "taking too long"—something that will come in handy when you want to tell someone they're taking too long.

Apa (brawl or quarrel)

Apa (brawl or quarrel)

10. Apa

No, this doesn't refer to the sweet, cone-shaped wafer you put ice cream in called apa in Filipino/Tagalog. This Ilocano word means "quarrel," "brawl," or "fight." The Filipino word for this is away, in case you're wondering.

Sala (dance)

Sala (dance)

11. Sala

Sala is an important Ilocano word to remember if you're into dancing, as this will come in handy. Kayat mo nga agsala? ("Do you want to dance?")

Torpe (rude)

Torpe (rude)

12. Torpe

This word doesn't refer to a guy who can't express his feelings for the girl he likes, the Filipino word torpe. Torpe means something else in Ilocano—"rude."

Ayan (where)

Ayan (where)

13. Ayan

Another addition to this list of confusing Ilocano words is the word ayan. Hearing someone say "ayan na" could be easily taken to mean "there it is" or "here she/he comes," as it is easy to assume this is Tagalog. Ayan is an Ilocano word that means "where."

Manang (older sister)

Manang (older sister)

14. Manang

Be polite by addressing an older sister or female cousin with the title in Ilocano reserved for an older sibling, manang. Manang is the Ilocano counterpart of the Filipino ate, which is a title of respect given to an older sister.

Are you curious as to what Filipino word this shares pronunciation with? That would be manang, which refers to a woman who dresses up the old-fashioned way.

Upa (hen)

Upa (hen)

15. Upa

This word has nothing to do with renting or leasing but is something you might be familiar with, especially if you're into raising chickens. Upa is the Ilocano word for "hen."

Tagalog/Filipino vs. Ilocano Words: A Quick Summary

WordMeaning in Tagalog/FilipinoMeaning in Ilocano

1. Utong

Nipple

Long beans

2. Tawa

Laughter

Window

3. Umay

Getting tired of eating the same food

Going from one place to another, to come closer

4. Bigat

Weight, mass

Tomorrow; morning

5. Saka

And

Feet

6. Sabong

Cockfight

Flower

7. Saan

Where

No

8. Utut

Fart

Rat

9. Bayag

Male genitalia

Taking too long

10. Apa

Ice cream cone

Quarrel, brawl, fight

11. Sala

Living room; error, blame, guilt

Dance

12. Torpe

Clumsy

Rude

13. Ayan

There, there it is

Where

14. Manang

A woman with old-fashioned style

Older sister

15. Upa

Rent

Hen

Learn More Ilocano

Comments

Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on September 04, 2018:

It confuses some people when I try to explain that Filipino is considered by some people to be a dialect of Tagalog. I haven't tried to learn Ilocano yet. Maybe I should. :)

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