English used to be the language of the foreign tongues, but as time went by unnoticed, such tongues have become the very tune that is melody to many of us. Yes, it used to be the language of our colonizers but now it seems that we have learned to dance with it gracefully like it is our own. As a matter of fact, English has now become part of the Filipino grit. True indeed as non-English speaking foreigners flock to Philippine educational platforms to learn the language.

Consequently, Filipino words have flourished in this new era as some of them have been accepted as English words. There are at least 40 Filipino words already found in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). This is because when we danced with the foreign tune, we have injected our own into it. Identity sure thing is one of the traits that we cannot hide as Filipinos. Hence, OED acknowledges that; it recognizes Filipinos as part of the English speaking community.

Here are some of the Filipino words already accepted in English and how to use them. These are the 10 I find most interesting. (The following definitions are taken from

1. BAON (noun) Refers to money, food or other provisions taken to school, work, or to a journey. “Little children who start going to school should be given healthy and delicious baon, other than vitamins.” Baon in the sentence refers to the food provided to school children usually for lunch or for snacks. This personal provision is intended for your personal consumption to help you survive the day or a particular time.

2. BONGGA (adjective) Flambouyant or extravagant; excellent or great. “Fashionistas always wow everybody with their exquisite taste of bongga attires making them look stunning and dashing every time.” Bonnga here refers to the extravagant ensemble worn by fashionistas thus making them look incredible. Hence, making them bongga themselves. Now, that it is already an English word, we can use it as an interjection. I mean, why not! We can use it to replace “wow” and say “Bongga!”

3. KIKAY Noun: a flirtatious girl or woman “Teenage girls love to adorn themselves with nice clothes and accessories; these kikays flaunt their styles in social media.” Adjective: a girl or woman interested in beauty products and fashion “Women must have undergone kikay moments before they become who they at present.” Kikay as a noun in the first sentence refers to girls who usually post their OOTD’s (outfit of the day) on social media. However, they may not be flirtatious as the definition denotes. The second sentence on the other hand, refers to the moments when girls become beauty conscious but not necessarily flirtatious.

4. KILIG Adjective: Causing or characterized by a feeling of exhilaration or elation “Couples must keep that kilig sensation between them to keep their relationship burning.” Noun: A feeling of exhilaration or elation caused by an exciting or romantic experience “Ladies may not be able to contain their kilig once a men pursue them persistently coupled with daily doses of sweet nothings.” Kilig as an adjective in the first sentence refers to the elating feeling between couples. The same feeling is also implied in the second sentence, however used in a different manner, as it is a noun. When a man woes a woman, the latter feels this inexplicable thrill that usually leads to blushing. That is kilig.

5. KUYA (noun) An elder brother; a polite title or form of address for elder men “Young boys and girls often look up to their kuya.” The sentence refers to the eldest brother in the family girls and boys look up to. Furthermore, kuya is not just any elder brother, it is also used to address men whom you may not even have an affiliation with. Thus, you can call strangers kuya since you do not know their names. Filipino culture also considers younger siblings who do not call their older brother “kuya” to be impolite.

6. PASALUBONG (noun) A gift or souvenir given to a friend or relative by a person who has returned from a trip or arrived for a visit. “During his numerous trips, he never misses out on the remarkable pasalubong he brings home to us.” Pasalubong has become a must-have among people Filipinos who have gone to travel. It is true that travelers usually get souvenirs to remind them of their travels, however pasalubong is meant to be a gift.

7. PULUTAN (noun) Food or snacks provided as an accompaniment to alcoholic drinks “Family gatherings are not only enlivened by karaoke and food but also drinking; such becomes more exciting with my mom’s delectable pulutan.” Pulutan is staple among Filipino get-togethers that usually involve drinking. The most famous is sisig. Pulutan enlivens the moment of intervals between drinks that is usually accompanied with boisterous laughter and merry-making.

8. SUKI (noun) A buyer or seller involved in an arrangement whereby a customer regularly purchases products or services from the same provider in exchange for favourable treatment. “Going to the market is always made easy when you have a suki to go to.” The statement refers to a particular vendor a marget-goer usually buy from because of certain discounts he/she gets for being a regular customer.

9. HOLDUPPER (noun) A person who commits a robbery using threats or violence. “While walking down the dark alley, the old man was held at gunpoint by a robust holdupper.” Holdupper plainly refers to a robber. Here in the Philippines, robbers are not alike; robbers who hold you at gunpoint are the holduppers; those who nab your belongings are snatchers; therefore, the word robber is used for that specific purpose as robber becomes broad.

10. YAYA (noun) A woman employed by a family to look after a child, or a sick or elderly person. “Children of busy parents mostly grow-up raised by their yayas.” A yaya is equivalent to that of a nanny in European culture. The statement above denotes that yayas become part of the family who goes beyond just doing a job of care-taking to taking the part of the parents’ job of raising the children they take care of in the absence of the parents but not necessarily replacing them.

These Filipino words now are officially found in the modern dictionaries, particularly Oxford English dictionaries’ latest editions. However, you may not be able to see these in your old edition dictionaries; hence, when you use the online dictionaries, you find them there. So the next time someone corrects you and forces you to translate the word into English, you can always insist that it is already English. Filipino but English.

It is about time that these words go beyond local color to official English. So use the words but use them correctly.


Ancla, M. B. (28 June 2019). Bongga! What having Philippine English words in the Oxford English Dictionary means. philstar. Retrieved from

LOOK: Filipino words in the Oxford English Dictionary. (21 August 2017). ABS-CBN NEWS. Retrieved from

Quismondo, T. (26 June 2015). LIST: 40 Filipino-coined words added in Oxford dictionary.INQUIRER.NET. Retrieved from

UK Dictionary. (2020). Retrieved from

Salazar, D. (October, 2018). Philippine English in the October 2018 update. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

Tan, A. (26 June 2015). 26 Filipino Words Now Officially Part Of The English Language. BuzzFeed. Retrieved from

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About me

I taught Language for 5 years; 11 years for English; 2 years for dressmaking. I've been a school paper adviser for 9 years.