Idioms in Tagalog

It used to be that the only people interested in knowing idioms in Tagalog were Filipino or at least living in the Philippines. These days, things have changed considerably. The U.S. State Department reports that there are about four million Americans of Philippine ancestry in the United States. Most of these American speak English as well as their native Filipino dialect, which, in most cases is Tagalog. Learning a few idioms in Tagalog, is as great way to share some fun conversation with a Filipino.

Making Friends with Idioms in Tagalog

Whether you're trying to connect with co-workers, get along with your fellow students, or find a common thread with your new neighbors, familiarizing yourself with some idioms in Tagalog can break the tension.

Here are some Tagalog idioms to get you started winning hearts and minds in your Filipino community.

  • Magaan ang dugo, literally meaning "light blood," is someone who is easy to get along with. If you tell someone you're a magaan ang dugo, they'll know you're a good person.

  • May magandang hinaharap is a person with a bright future. It's commonly used with children and young adults, understandably. If someone says this about you, you're well on your way to being taken out to dinner.

  • Makalaglag-matsing is what you give your dining companion: an enchanting look.

  • Ilaw ng tahanan is who you'll meet when you're taken home. Literally, it means "light of the home," which is a really nice way to refer to the spouse. The Tagalog language is filled with terms of endearment, particularly surrounding the family unit.

  • Nagbukas ng dibdib is what you'll be when you're really serious; it means "man who has opened his heart." Loosely translated, this refers to "the guy who proposed marriage."

These are just a few of the Tagalog idioms. A broader review of many of the most popular Filipino idioms is available here on YourDictionary. If you're interested in further expanding your vocabulary, many of the educational websites such as the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University also provide listings of Tagalog idioms.

Beware of These Idioms

Unlike the more positive idioms listed above, these are some of the more popular idioms for casting a negative impression about someone:

  • Mahina ang loob is literally "weak-willed." It means that someone is a coward.

  • Balik-harapis is a Benedict Arnold, or a "two-faced betrayer."

  • Bantay-salakayis describes a person who pretends to be good for personal gain. You might say that he or she is an opportunist.

  • Halang ang bituka literally means "someone with a horizontal intestine." That is a colorful way of saying a person has no moral compunction.

Insist that you're a magaan ang dugo when you hear these idioms and you might stand a better chance of making it through these slanderous idioms on a positive note.

Have Good Luck With a Good Heart

If you keep an open mind, you'll find that people will meet your slight knowledge of Tagalog idioms with smiles. Everyone finds it charming when a non-native speaker knows a few idioms in their language. It could be the beginning of a beautiful lifelong friendship.

Idioms in TagalogIdioms in Tagalog

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