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17 Must-Know Tagalog Words With No English Translations

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

Read on to discover 17 weird, quirky Tagalog words that are difficult to translate into English!

Read on to discover 17 weird, quirky Tagalog words that are difficult to translate into English!

Learn Quirky, Weird Words in Tagalog

With over 7,000 islands waiting to be explored, beaches hoping to be discovered, and new friendships longing to be developed, the Philippines is indeed a wonderful place with a beautiful culture in which language plays a critical role. Learning the language adds to the adventure.

Basic words and phrases might not be hard to learn, but what about those unusual and intriguing words that don't have an exact English translation? Below is a list of common weird Filipino or Tagalog words with no English translation that you'll likely encounter.

Here, you'll uncover 17 weird Filipino words and find out what each means. Most of the words on this list have not yet been mentioned in other articles about weird Tagalog words you'll find online, although it's fairly likely you've heard a few of these if you're in the Philippines.

17 Weird Filipino Words Without an English Translation

  1. Namamahay
  2. Bagong salta
  3. Lilinga linga
  4. Tangay
  5. Basta
  6. Papak
  7. Puwing
  8. Abirya
  9. Kalumbaba
  10. Amos
  11. Panghi
  12. Anghit
  13. Hirin
  14. Pasalubong
  15. Laylay
  16. Gigil
  17. Tinga
"Lilinga linga"—when you're looking for someone but having a hard time finding them

"Lilinga linga"—when you're looking for someone but having a hard time finding them

1. Namamahay

Do you know the feeling you get when you spend the night at someone else's home, or when it's your first night in your new home, and you're having a hard time falling asleep? Perhaps you're in a comfortable place, but you just don't have that feeling of being in the home you're used to. "Miss" isn't quite the right word. And no, it is not "insomnia."

From the word bahay, or home, namamahay is that feeling of not being used to a new or different home.

2. Bagong salta

This is a word used to describe someone who is new to a place or town. Bagong salta means "new to the area" or "new on the block."

3. Lilinga linga

Lilinga linga is when you're looking for someone but having a hard time finding them, so you keep looking around, scanning your surroundings, hoping you'll find them.

4. Tangay

This is a word for pet owners—it's when your pet carries stuff and walks or runs away with it. This term isn't only used for pets but also for a person who runs away with something that is not theirs.

"Basta"—don't ask questions; just do as I say

"Basta"—don't ask questions; just do as I say

5. Basta

"Don't ask why; it is what it is. No questions asked; just do as I say"—basta. This word can also mean that whatever was mentioned is final, and no explanation should be given as to why the decision was made. It is also used when one simply can't explain or doesn't want to spend the energy answering questions about what they said or what decision they made.

Angel: I've made up my mind; I'm going to culinary school.

Friends: Why is that?

Angel: Basta.

6. Papak

Most Filipinos eat rice with a main dish, called ulam; eating only the main dish without rice is called papak.

7. Puwing

This is a sensation we've all experienced. It's when you get teary-eyed when trying to remove debris from your eye—puwing.

"Kalumbaba"—when you rest your face or chin on one or both palms

"Kalumbaba"—when you rest your face or chin on one or both palms

8. Abirya

Have you heard this word? It doesn't have an exact English translation, but it has to do with something that happened unexpectedly; it's a problem or setback resulting in a delay or cancellation of what was planned.

A: I thought you were going to visit your friend in the next town with Albert.

B: Yes. We're already on our way there but—nagkaabirya. We got a flat tire.

B: We'll just go tomorrow instead.

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9. Kalumbaba

Are you having a bad day, or are you just in deep thought? Or maybe you just woke up, and you're trying to gather your thoughts, so you're doing this—kalumbaba is when you rest your face or chin on either or both palms.

10. Amos

It's not the exact word equivalent for "dirt." It's that piece of food or whatever you're eating that got stuck on your face. Have you seen a baby's face while she's eating, with food particles stuck all over her cute, little face? That's amos.

"Pasalubong"—souvenirs from a vacation; casual gifts

"Pasalubong"—souvenirs from a vacation; casual gifts

11. Panghi

The word "stink" isn't the exact English translation for this; "stink" has its own exact Tagalog equivalent—baho. Have you ever used a restroom that smells bad because it isn't always flushed immediately after being used, so the smell of urine lingers? Panghi is the word for that.

12. Anghit

This is another word that has something to do with unwanted smell. Don't forget to apply deodorant, or else you'll get this unwanted body odor from your underarm. Yes, you got it—anghit.

13. Hirin

Don't eat too fast; otherwise, you'll find yourself reaching for a glass of water to help push down the food in your throat because you're dealing with hirin.

14. Pasalubong

This one is very common, and even non-Filipinos do this a lot. Have you been away for a few days on a trip or vacation and brought snacks, souvenirs, and other items back with you for family and friends? Those are your pasalubong for them.

Pasalubong doesn't always have to be an item from your vacation; it could also be something you brought for someone at home from a simple trip to the grocery store.

15. Laylay

Are your clothes so big that when you sit down, they hang on the floor? Laylay is the word for that.

Another example I witnessed just today was my four-legged nephew sleeping on the couch with his head hanging off the edge—laylay.

16. Gigil

This is one of the most used among these weird Tagalog words with no English translation. Gigil is that unexplainable feeling of wanting to squeeze someone's adorably cute cheeks, prompting you to squeeze their chubby cheeks or nose or give them tight hugs or a kiss on the cheek.

17. Tinga

You need to floss and practice good dental hygiene to get rid of these food particles stuck between your teeth, called tinga.

More About Tagalog and Filipino

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  • 10 Filipino Gestures and Their Meanings
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  • 34 Tagalog Slang Words for Everyday Use
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Comments

Dipali Ingle from Nandura on February 11, 2020:

What is the word there for souvenir???

Thelma Alberts from Germany on March 21, 2017:

Number 2, 6, 9, 10 and 13 are new words to me. Maybe because I am Bisayan. Thanks for the heads up.

JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on March 21, 2017:

I use a lot of these words on a daily basis. Language is very dynamic and like other language ours captures part of our culture. And it continuously morph.

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