Filipino Words That Don't Translate to English

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Filipino is known to be a funny, strange language. There are words or entire phrases that might be bewildering to the foreign ears, one example is, "Bababa ba?" or even, "Kakabakaba ba?" Trust me, those are complete sentences. Also, due to the uniqueness of this language, there are several words that never translate to English. 

Here are several Filipino words that may send Google Translate to self-destruct:



A comfortable set of clothes usually worn within private spaces and avoided during chichi social events, unless you are from Alabang and you go to the mall wearing this

Example: “Hoy! Magpalit ka ng pambahay. May mga bisita tayo.”

Isn’t it strange that in movies, we see Americans wear this to bed, but a proper term was never coined? ‘Housewear’ does not cut it. Neither do ‘pajamas’ or ‘laundry-day attire’.

Pambahay is something all its own, a word purposed to more tropical climes and societies steeped on modesty.


The act of being discreetly resourceful

Example: “Akong bahala. Diskarte ko na ‘to.”

You may pick related words from "diskarte," such as, strategy, tactic, approach, but neither of those are even close.

But hey, mind you: ‘Tis a handy word to use when your idea of problem-solving requires a little bit of larceny.


An interjection that connotes frustration over a near-miss

Example: “Sayang! Hindi ako umabot sa party mo dahil sa traffic.”

What the Americans use a sentence to describe, we Filipinos can do in one word.

It’s that all-too-familiar, balls-imploding reaction to something almost achieved, like a slowly spinning basketball that slid out of the ring after an eternity of suspense.


A pretend-tantrum one puts upon to elicit apology from another party

Example: “Huwag ka nang magtampo. Sorry na…”

Tampo is perhaps the girliest behavior Pinoys are prone to. This can be physically manifested through pouted lips and crossed arms, or through treating the offending party as invisible until he kneels down and begs for forgiveness. 


A feeling of anger when one gets served a whoppin’ dose of poetic justice

Example: “Natalo ka ngayon; huwag kang pikon!”

Badly put, it’s about being angry at the concept of you being the recipient of vengeance. Pinoys are good at offending, but when the tables are turned on them, they often are spoiled sports.

Pikon’s the word that describes that fuming.


An extreme urge to squeeze someone or something,usually brought about by a cute or irritating object

Example: ‘Nanggigigil ako sa baby! Ang cute-cute niya kasi.

The English expression that closely encapsulates this feeling is: “You’re so adorable, I want to eat you.” Close but no cigar.

Gigil means what it sounds like. It’s dual-purpose too: You can either feel gigil at the Pomeranian that dressed up as Wonder Woman at the pet show, or at your officemate who spilled milk tea on your new iPad.


A feeling of being intoxicated by the idea of love, whether subjectively experienced or through mirror neurons

Example: ‘Kinikilig ako sa romantic comedy na ‘to.”

If snow is to Eskimos, rice to the Japanese,it looks like it’s emotions for Filipinos. If you’ve paid enough attention to the preceeding entries, our mother tongue has heaps of words for emotions—all twenty-one flavors of it, not counting the elusive umami parallel.