Filipinos are an emotional bunch, which may explain why we have so many words to express how we’re feeling. From intense frustration to overwhelming feelings of love, you can bet there’s a word for it in Filipino.
Here are just nine of them.
1. SUKLAM - WHEN YOU’RE WAY TOO DISGUSTED
The closest this word comes to in English is “revolting”, but suklam is even more extreme. It’s when you’re SO disgusted that it makes you kind of angry. You usually apply the word Suklam to actions or behaviours people have done, rather than objects that are themselves gross. Like when your friend tells you they still listen to R Kelly. That would be an appropriate time to use the word suklam.
2. GIGIL - WHEN SOMETHING IS TOO CUTE TO HANDLE
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the word gigil is used to describe when something is so cute you want to hurt it. Like when you see a little baby or puppy, and you have an uncontrollable urge to pinch or squeeze them, hard.
In English, it’s almost like saying “you’re so cute, I could eat you up!” Except that overwhelming emotion is summarized in one word. The next time you come across something that’s too adorable for its own good, just yell “nakakagigil naman!” and Filipinos around you will understand.
The Filipino language has a range of words to express a multitude of different emotions - ranging from extreme disgust to extreme joy. // Photo by Charlein Gracia
3. SAYANG - WHEN YOU’RE JUST. SO. CLOSE.
Picture this: your nanay (mom) is sitting in front of the TV excitedly awaiting the lotto numbers. She needs just one more to win the billion dollar jackpot. Then the last number comes… and it’s the wrong one. “Ay! Sayang!” she screams, throwing down her lotto ticket.
Sayang is that all too-familiar feeling of a missed opportunity, when you come SO close, yet fall flat. Sayang can be called upon during instances as life-altering as a missed billion dollar lotto win, or as trivial as missing the chance to see your celebrity crush when they were in your city. Sayang!
4. BASTA - WHEN YOU DON’T WANT TO EXPLAIN
The word ‘Basta’ originates from the Spanish word for “enough”, but in Filipino, its meaning has become a lot more versatile.
You can call upon ‘basta’ during moments when you’re too lazy or tired to explain yourself. It's an expression that can be loosely translated as, “just because.” Why didn’t you go to the doctor? Basta. Why did you buy another pair of shoes?! Basta.
It’s usually employed when you don’t want to explain, and people should just accept your decision as is. But be warned: Just because that’s what basta means doesn’t mean people will necessarily do it. If only, right?
5. MUHI - WHEN YOU’RE ABOUT TO LOSE YOUR COOL
Have you ever been so angry that all it takes is one more thing to go wrong, no matter how small, before you erupt into a full-blown fury? Muhi is the word for you!
The word muhi refers to when you’re simmering with heat. Your anger is still brimming at the surface and one wrong move will bring it rushing out like an unstoppable flood. When you’re feeling muhi, everyone should steer clear.
In Filipino there is a single word to describe that intense feeling of 'butterflies in your stomach' // Photo by Jessica Hoang
6. NAKS! - WHEN YOU’RE REALLY IMPRESSED
Naks! This is definitely one of our favourite expressions. It’s usually a genuine expression of admiration when someone says or does something that impresses you.
Like when I randomly said something in Tagalog to my mom one day and she looked at me with a surprised, “Naks naman! Marunong ka pala mag tagalog” (Wow! You know how to speak Tagalog!). All I said was “sige” meaning “alright”. Apparently that was enough to impress her.
7. KILIG - WHEN YOU’VE GOT BUTTERFLIES IN YOUR STOMACH
Filipinos are serious romantics, so we’ve got many different ways to express being in love. One of our favourites is the word kilig, loosely translated to ‘having butterflies in your stomach’ in English. This definition comes close, yet it doesn’t fully encompass the electricity and intensity of kilig.
Kilig is about a vibration that dives deep into your bones. When you’re filled with nervous excitement and ecstasy and joy. Filipinos love to be in love, and kilig definitely captures it!
8. ALIMPUNGAT - WHEN YOU’RE HALF ASLEEP AND HALF AWAKE
Alimpungat describes what happens when you’re sound asleep and suddenly interrupted. In English, this could be translated as a ‘rude awakening’ but it doesn’t quite capture that mess of a feeling, when you’re stuck between being half-awake and half-asleep, and you’re not quite sure what’s real.
Next time you’re feeling that way, now you know the word to describe it!
Naks is an expression of surprise and admiration. Like, "Naks! Your bag is gorgeous!"
9. LIHI - WHEN PREGNANCY MAKES YOU WANT THINGS
Pregnancy makes you want the strangest things. Peanut butter and potato chips. Deep fried dumplings and strawberry jam. The whole McDonald’s breakfast menu.
In Filipino, all those irrational cravings during pregnancy can be summed up in one word: lihi. When you’re naglilihi, referring to a state of pregnancy that makes you want things, you can’t help yourself, no matter how illogical it may be.
Oh, and don’t even get us started on the Filipino superstition that the child will end up looking like whatever the mother craved during pregnancy. Hopefully the kid gets lucky and mom craves a celebrity superstar!
Header photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
Do you feel kilig when learning about your Filipino roots?
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