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Popular Filipino Expressions and What They Mean

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Precy enjoys helping others learn to speak and appreciate the Filipino and Ilocano language. She also writes about Filipino culture.

Filipino expressions

Filipino expressions

Learning a foreign language could be a challenging endeavor and Filipino isn't an exception. But learning a new language could be fun and exciting as well specially when one is starting with something that can be handy or something that interests the learner. Some will choose to start with words that can be useful in regards of career or work. And some takes the first step by learning Filipino expressions in addition to phrases which can be used not only for work but in engaging in day to day conversations with native speakers.

For non-Tagalog speakers, learning even just some of these expressions is a great conversation starter. To top it off, it is nice to be able to mingle and join in conversations next time your peers gather to catch up on things. It is also a good way to warm up and immerse yourself in the language with the locals while learning to speak Filipino or Tagalog. For Filipino language learners, listed here are examples of popular expressions used to express surprise, shock, disbelief and admiration that you can learn and use to strike a conversation and blend in.

1. Ganern?

From the Filipino standard word 'ganun'? Ganern is the hip way youngsters or millineal these days colloquially used. Ganern is the cool way to say 'Is that so?'

Example: Rex smiled at me. He's extra nice as well when I'm around. I think he likes me. Your friends responded, 'Ganern?'

Is that so?

Is that so?

2. Ano daw?

With the Filipino word 'ano' for what and 'daw' used when repeating what someone said or when asking what was previously said, this Filipino expression taking the second spot literally means 'What did he/she say?' But aside from the literal meaning, this is also an expression used to show disbelief.

Example: A friend just said she'll find the owner of the $100,000 cash she found. You, in disbelief looked at another friend and exclaimed 'Ano daw?'

What did she/he say?

What did she/he say?

3. Hala!

Give someone a little scare when they've done something wrong that can get them in trouble with this third Filipino expression. 'Hala' or 'Hala ka' means 'You're in trouble' or 'You're a dead meat.' Saying 'Oh my!' is also another English counterpart.

Hala is often said with the gesture of moving the index finger back and forth while speaking. Either doing just the hand gesture or just saying the word conveys the same meaning.

Example: You're on your way back home from doing the grocery with a friend when you remembered you forgot to pick up your parents medicine refill in the store's pharmacy department. Hala!

Oh my!

Oh my!

4. Ayos!

Either said with a gesture of a thumbs up or not, this Filipino expression means 'Alright!' It can also mean something is fine, ok or is used to give approval over something.

Example: 'Time for dinner!' Kito's mom greeted him when he got home. Kito's face lit up and exclaimed 'Ayos!' He's already starving and is looking forward for his mom's home cooked meal after seeing the dining table ready for dinner when he arrived home after his basketball game.

Alright!

Alright!

5. Ay Ewan!

'Ay ewan' or 'Ewan' means 'I don't know.' But it isn't only used to respond and say you don't know, but it is also the Filipino way of saying 'Whatever.' It is one Filipino expression I always catch myself saying when I'm pissed being clumsy at times.

Example: Pen keeps dropping on the floor. Irritated, after picking it up for the third time, I finally gave up uttering 'Ay ewan.' Whatever.

Whatever!

Whatever!

6. Ano Ba Yan!

This can be easily confused as a question. 'Ano ba yan!' literally means 'What is that?' Hearing this doesn't always mean you're being asked a question but is used by the speaker to express irritation, annoyance or disbelief.

Example: Woman told her husband how the change oil took over an 1 hour long and how unfortunate the rest of her day was. The husband after listening said 'Ano ba 'yan!'

What the.......

What the.......

7. Yehey!

Express joy and victory the Filipino way - Yehey! An expression of happiness specially observed amongst young kids. 'Yehey' is the Filipino counterpart for the English 'Hurray!'

Example: The parents announced that weekend will be a family day spent with malling, swimming, and dining at their favorite restaurant. Dad also won the lottery so it's all on him. The kids exclaimed 'Yehey!'

Hurray!

Hurray!

8. Push mo 'yan!

Literally means 'Push that!' This Filipino expression is yours when you need to give your peers or anyone a push. Not literally push them but giving them that encouragement needed to continuously aim for whatever they're aiming for to achieve. Go for it!

Example: A sibling who loves to draw bought sketch pads and pencils saying he wants to hone his skills and be an illustrator one day. With that you said, 'Push mo 'yan!'

Go for it!

Go for it!

9. Hanep

Express surprise and admiration with zest. Say something is cool and admirable with this one word. Hanep!

Example: You caught such a big fish! Hanep!

Cool!

Cool!

10. Nosebleed

Nosebleed. An English word that can easily be mistaken for the literal meaning. 'Nosebleed' or 'Nakakanosebleed' means having the difficulty of understanding, communicating, and expressing one's self speaking the English language to an English speaker.

Example: 'Nosebleed' is what Anna managed to say jokingly after she had a talk with her Filipino-American cousin who's vacationing. Her cousin doesn't speak Tagalog and although Anna knows how to speak English, it's not her everyday thing.

I'm having a hard time communicating/explaining.

I'm having a hard time communicating/explaining.

11. Ikaw na!

'Ikaw na!' is another hip Filipino expression used to congratulate peers, or anyone. It literally means 'You already.' A close English counterpart is 'You're the man!' Diction and facial expression says as much when saying 'Ikaw na!' as it is usually used as well to tease someone who seems to be the 'Know it all' kind of gal. Saying this when you really didn't mean to congratulate but letting the person know he or she's being some 'know it all' guy.

Example: Larry, the guy, is trying to impress a girl he likes helping her out moving in the neighborhood, bringing along his other guy friend. Whenever he tries doing something to help the lady out, his friend would butt in, doing it instead. Annoyed, all Larry could say is, 'Ikaw na!'

You're the man!

You're the man!

12. Ikaw pa!

Express the confidence you have in your friends or anyone in their endeavors by saying this - 'Ikaw pa!' It's a two word, in style way of saying 'I know you can do it, you have it in you.'

Saying this can also mean another thing. 'Ikaw pa!' is a usual response amongst close friends when one did a favor and the other person said thank you and expressing how grateful he/she is. Responding with 'Ikaw pa!' after saying 'Walang anuman' or 'You're welcome,' means that you did such favor because of all people, it is him/her you did the favor for. Specially if this person is a close friend you've known for years.

Example: A friend decided to give it a go being an online language instructor. The following day would be her first time teaching a language learner online and she is anxious. You know she can do it, all she need is just a little bit more confidence, you said, 'You can do it. Ikaw pa!' But she still is a bit anxious and asked you to help her get comfortable with video call and to give her tips as well. You agreed to help her with anything you can do. She thanked you and you responded, 'You're welcome. Of course I'll help you. Ikaw pa!'

I know you can do it!

I know you can do it!

13. Astig

Say something is in style or cool by saying this expression. Astig is another favorite way to show your admiration. Astig and hanep means just as the same.

Example: Ang astig ng kotse! (The car is so cool!)

Cool!

Cool!

14. Yun Naman Pala!

Last from this list is 'Yun naman pala!' If asked what this means, it is probably one that will make me pause and think. Have you ever had a conversation where later on as the conversation continues, things were cleared out and you finally understand it the way the speaker exactly wants the message to be perceived? This is the most fitting Filipino expression to use and most likely you'll get a chance to hear. Translating it to English, it will be somewhere along the lines of 'There you go. That isn't something to worry about then,' or 'There you go. That's why.' Refer to the example below for this. It could also mean 'Oh! I see. That's why.'

Example: Gene was invited for a festivity and is somehow reluctant. It's almost a 2 hour drive and he just isn't comfortable with the idea of getting lost on the road. Talking about this with his family over dinner, his son said he could drive Gene. Gene's wife said, 'Yun naman pala,' since it turned out Gene's son could drive him and it isn't really something to worry about then.

There you go, that's why.

There you go, that's why.

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