11 Filipino Words With Definition As Interesting As Their Intent

What are these words?

Words are closer to the heart, more impactful even, when spoken in native language. This cannot be more honest regardless of time, for it is always more romantic to hear “mahal kita” instead of “I love you.”

In the same way, the kilig strikes differently just when you receive a cheesy “magandang umaga” from your sinisinta.

Filipino Words

Indeed, the Philippine languages are worthy of higher respect, with words equally beautiful as their meanings. But our regular conversations tongued in a combination of both English and Filipino have somehow brought erosion to their denotations, unconsciously enabling them to get lost in translations. 

However true, none will ever come close to our language should English fall short in concretizing our emotions. So here are some of the words with meanings just as significant and interesting as their intent.


Uswag is a Cebuano term that translates to “develop” in English. This word holds no direct translation in Tagalog—only its nearest denotation, pagpapaunlad (progress) and pagpapalago (to further an enterprise). 


This word stands for the uncontrolled emotional outburst triggered by the most mundane happenstance. 

To feel and react from a point of rage or hurt best defined this feeling; an experience both beautiful and frightening. One defining trait of humans is their responsiveness to stimuli, which then validates how alive and capable we are to feel. 


Gunita is a Tagalog word that means a recollection of something or a memory of someone deeply embedded in our minds. Anything that sits far and deep within a memory makes up for a keepsake, which then serves as a life guide from here forward. 

Things that bring fondness or have drastic impact on one’s psyche have heavy retention, making them critical parts of humans’ life script. And usually, people hold these memories close to their hearts in hopes of remembering the tiny details when lips fail to verbalize.


Kinaadman is a Cebuano word that simply means knowledge or wisdom. Just as there is a word for stupidity in the native tongue, kinaadman, on the other hand, describes an accumulated knowledge that then turns into wisdom as we age.

Similar to a fine wine brewed by changes in seasons and the weather, human intelligence progresses when there is new information, experience, and awakening presented.


FreebieMNL was able to track bardagulan and its early use in popular culture. According to University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication Professor Jonalou Labor, the word, with root word bardagul, has been around since the ‘80s. 

The professor says that the term refers to two contradicting opinions, which may or may not lead to an actual fistfight. And so, to engage in bardagulan means to spur fast and witty retorts just like how it is done in the streets. 


Probably one of the saddest words in our language is pahimakas, which means “farewell.” Be it from necessity, force, or just fate’s forbiddance, saying goodbyes is one thing that always leaves scratches and dents within us. 

Tipping your hat comes more hurtful if it is accompanied by distant memories of closeness and attachment, which hits differently every time.


Not to romanticize Filipino resiliency, but it is always a story of victory that Filipinos find the best comfort and consolation even in the most difficult times. And in hopelessness, we may use the word puhon, which means god-willing or hopefully. 

Just when we wish to get through or achieve something out of desperation, we bow our heads lower and utter a simple “puhon.”


Many might have heard of this word particularly from the elders who would nudge to close the windows to block the smell of a slowly wetting soil during rainpour. And of course, most people know this smell as a pleasant indication that rain is finally coming. 

That particular smell of soil is called alimuom— which translates to petrichor in English. 


One of the more interesting words in central Luzon is bulaos, which according to Dr. Marvin Reyes of the Deparment of Language and Literature at San Beda University refers to  a narrow path or walkway leading to a particular destination. 

Widely used in Bulacan to denote such, Google on the other hand, suggests that the term is of broader use in Filipino, which means to roar. 


Pagbuburo, or fermentation in English, is a chemical processing of food usually enabled by just sugar, salt, and water. It comes from the root word buro—one of the usual ways to process fish with the help of red yeast rice. 


Making up the list is the word urong, which some people may know as an act of retreating. However, its second widely used definition is to wash dishes, glassware, and utensils that’s only used commonly by older generations of Tagalog speakers. 

For the love of Filipino words

The impressive language of the Philippines never runs out of beauty, with stories, both told and untold, articulated even more vividly with our own words. In moments when there feels like something needs to be said in conversations, take the more inviting way of saying it in Filipino.

READ ALSO: Ano Daw?: 8 Filipino Slang Words You Need To Be Familiar With

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