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10 Filipino words you can try to translate into English (but probs can’t)

Maligayang Buwan ng Wika! With more than 7,000 islands making up our home, there are numerous languages and dialects that the Philippines has to offer. Thanks to a plethora of islands, combined with our colorful culture, our way of speaking is just as vibrant as well.

There are some words that just hit deeper in Filipino. Maybe these words can be directly translated but these are usually literal translations that don’t encapsulate the same depth and meaning that it has in Filipino.

What might make these words hard to translate is how deeply ingrained they are in our culture and daily use of language, that it just doesn’t sound right any other way.

So, to celebrate Buwan ng Wika here are 10 Filipino words that are untranslatable into English.


This word finds its origins in the Spanish expression “¡Basta ya!” which translates into English as “Enough already!” While it can mean “enough”, that doesn’t quite capture its Filipino use.

Mostly used in discussions and arguments, basta is usually the final blow to close a point. If someone doesn’t have any more to say or they don’t want to (or don’t know how to) expound on their point, then they will finish with basta or basta ganun which may be translated as “that’s the way it is”.

This may also be a refrain that younger children are used to hearing when asking their parents questions (usually along the lines of why they should follow their rules). Basta in this context may be closer to “because I said so”.


This may be an example of a word that’s deeply rooted in our culture. Since we Filipinos are fond of eating rice with our meals with the main dish (ulam), papak comes from the action of eating ulam without any rice.

You could say that papak is just eating a meal without rice but… that’s just not quite it!


Another food-related word, umay is the feeling of oversaturation. Maybe you ate the same food for one month or maybe you ate one month’s worth of that food in one sitting, umay means that you cannot take another bite of that food, no matter how small the bite is.

Though applicable in terms of eating and food, umay can also be used to describe the feeling of being tired of doing the same thing over and over again – or even seeing the same people too much.


Have you ever had your sleep so rudely interrupted that when you woke up you couldn’t tell if you were actually awake or not? Then you’ve experienced being alimpungatan.

More than just waking up from a nap, it’s the discombobulated feeling you get from getting up abruptly (either on your own or because of someone/something else) from one of those intensely deep periods of sleep. You know the feeling like you have to take another nap to recover from being woken up from your previous nap. This can either make or break your day in terms of both your mood and your productivity.


Commonly known as the intense feeling of wanting to pinch or squeeze something so adorable, gigil can also be applied to an intense feeling of wanting to beat up someone who is so annoying.

In extreme cases, people may use gigil to express violence over something cute—like being gigil over something so cute that you just want to bite or punch it (which only sometimes has any follow through).

This may be characterized by clenching your fists, gritting your teeth, and maybe even playfully hitting whoever is closest to you because of your intense feeling of gigil.


If physical touch is one of your love languages, then you probably like to make lambing a lot. Lambing may describe the action of cuddling or caressing someone to show deep affection, fondness, and/or sweetness. Lambing isn’t something strictly romantic. It can happen when kids want to cuddle up to you or when you try to get brownie points to ease someone’s anger at you.

Lambing isn’t necessarily just physical either. It can also describe being increasingly attentive to someone and their wants and needs. Or it can even be a combination of the two—hugging while asking someone how their day was and what they want to eat for dinner, for example.


Diskarte could be associated with the words “resourceful”, “ingenuity”, and maybe even “street smart”. It may refer to someone being quick on their toes, and effective in responding to situations where things go awry. It can also refer to someone’s smart and creative planning skills. Diskarte may sometimes be seen as something that cannot be taught.

While the English words mentioned may come close to diskarte, the word may also have a negative connotation that associates it with someone doing something sketchy to gain an advantage in a situation.


Probably one of the most known untranslatable Filipino words. The direct translation of kilig is a shudder or thrill one experiences, but that’s just not enough. Kilig proves how unique it is to Filipinos by being included in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2016. It is officially recognized as an adjective and noun.

As an adjective, it is defined as “Of a person: exhilarated by an exciting or romantic experience; thrilled, elated, or gratified,” also “Causing or expressing a rush of excitement or exhilaration; thrilling, enthralling, captivating.”

As a noun kilig is defined as “Exhilaration or elation caused by an exciting or romantic experience; an instance of this, a thrill.”

Phrases like “kilig to the bones”, “kilig factor”, and “kilig moment” have also been included in the Oxford Dictionary’s entry of kilig.

Kilig is the overwhelming full-body rush that you get from interactions with your crush or when watching/reading something deeply romantic. This can usually lead to you getting gigil and even wanting to make lambing.


Tampo can be seen as the act of avoiding someone because of something they did or something that they didn’t do. Because of this sense of disappointment, you might stop being lambing to that person, stop talking to them, or even refuse to look them in the eye.

While this may sound intense, tampo is a slightly lighter version of “angry”. It isn’t a serious enough fight, but you still feel annoyed or hurt. You may be giving someone the silent treatment but maybe you’re still lowkey acknowledging them. Tampo can be seen as the start of a serious fight, but it can also be used in a joking way/in lighter situations.

Utang na loob

This means so much more than just gratitude or thankfulness, it goes deeper than these terms combined. More than being thankful for someone that has done you good, utang na loob is the deep feeling of wanting to reciprocate their kindness.

Because of the kindness that you were shown (usually an immense generosity), there is almost a contract of obligation for you to return this kindness in any way that you can– usually at the same level of generosity that you were shown.


The Philippines has a colorful language scene. These are only some of the many untranslatable Filipino words coming from our country, not to mention all the slang and colloquialisms that pop up from our creative use of the language.

There are so many other words that hit different in Filipino, which ones are your favorites?

Maligayang Buwan ng Wika!


Other POP! stories you might like:

Listen to these translated English songs before Buwan ng Wika ends

Fans translate and dub songs from ‘Encanto’ into Tagalog

Hot take: We shouldn’t be making fun of Tagalog dubbed TV shows

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