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Reduplicated Filipino Words and Their Meaning

Precy loves reading about Filipino folklore. She also enjoys helping others speak and appreciate the Filipino and Ilocano language.

Reduplicated Filipino words. Which ones are you familiar with?

Reduplicated Filipino words. Which ones are you familiar with?

What adds uniqueness to Filipino language is the reduplication of words which is quite noticeable with nicknames often taken from the name, sometimes even created from the person's character. An-An for example as my cousin's nickname from her name Lourdes Anne. Junjun is common and had been my brother's nickname from childhood. Nicknames like these are often created from name combinations often with John or Jun in it — Luis Jhon, John Patrick, Jun Maynard.

As for the girls, Tintin goes for someone with the name of Christine. And don't forget Ningning for Luningning. Let's step back from the names and have other examples of Filipino reduplicated words. For someone who got a lot to say and talks non-stop, the word is dakdak. Imitate someone and the word fit for that is gaya-gaya (which is number 5 on the list).

There are a lot more Filipino/Tagalog words that are reduplicated. It may sound weird but reduplication of these words help deliver the meaning, otherwise it's just a puzzle with a missing piece and is incomplete. Is there a Filipino or Tagalog reduplicated word you've came across? Read on and it's probably on this list.

1. Bilo-bilo

A mouth watering Filipino dessert made from tapioca pearls, yam, sweet rice flour made into balls, taro and ripe jackfruit cooked in coconut milk. Some prefers sugar while some prefers evaporated milk for that sweetness.

Bilo-bilo is served hot, a perfect dessert during the colder months but preferably eaten chilled by some. Making bilo-bilo dessert colorful is also a choice. Bite-sized purple yams, yellow corn and green colored sweet rice balls are perfect choice.



2. Alang-alang

Alang on its own is used as contraction of the word walang or none but when reduplicated, it means for the sake of, considering someone's sake in making up decision.

3. Bako-bako

Have you been to a bumpy road? That is exactly what this word means and is either spelled with both o's or spelled as baku-bako. Put this word up your sleeve and make it one of your first reduplicated Filipino words to put in use for that next bumpy ride.


Talisman is the English translation for this reduplicated Filipino word. Sometimes some will just say anting, and although it is acceptable and understandable, it is still preferably said reduplicated by most - anting-anting.

5. Gaya-gaya

The word gaya means similar, like or imitate. When repeated the word becomes an adjective - gaya-gaya. A word you'll likely hear from someone being imitated or being copied.

6. Uto-uto

Do you know people who can be easily persuaded to believe in about anything they were told? Well, this is your Tagalog word for those who are easy to deceive - uto-uto. An English equivalent for this reduplicated word is gullible.

7. Haka-haka

A word that has to be repeated, otherwise it won't convey the meaning. Haka-haka means assumption, speculation or suspicion.

8. Araw-araw

The word when not repeated could either mean sun or day - araw. When repeated it creates a new meaning. Araw-araw means everyday.

10. Liko-liko

Been on a ride that takes too many curves? From the Filipino word liko which means turn, liko-liko is the perfect word to describe the road below. Liko-liko is often associated with a path or way that alternately veer to left and right. Zigzag!

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11. Guni-guni

You think you saw something but it's more likely a pigment of your imagination, it isn't real and your Filipino word for that is guni-guni.

12. Krung-krung

One of the many ways to say crazy in Filipino is through this slang word - krung-krung.

Another word synonymous that is reduplicated is loka-loka. But reduplicated or not, it conveys the meaning unlike krung-krung which has to be repeated.

13. Waling-waling

A beauty considered rare in the orchids family that grows in the Philippine rain forests. Waling-waling as it is known in Filipino is no other than Sanda vanderiana also known as The Queen of Philippine Orchids.



14. Ukay-ukay

A to-go-to place for shoppers on a budget or if you want to squeeze in some new outfit without draining your wallet. No worries, ukay-ukay is the right place to be, the Filipino/Tagalog word for thrift store.

Ukay-ukay shop.

Ukay-ukay shop.

15. Bilong-bilong

A word you will most likely spot in in the fish aisle. Yes, it is a fish. Bilong-bilong is no other than moonfish.



16. Pichi-pichi

Grated cassava, milk or water, sugar and grated coconut for toppings and you have a delightful, loved Filipino snack which is pichi-pichi.

Adding color to your pichi-pichi is a choice of course. Make it more tempting to try for curious first timers by making purple colored pichi pichi or green. Whatever color you might have in mind would do.



17. Tiba-tiba

A bounty or gaining an excessive amount of something, often this word is of monetary gain - tiba-tiba.

18. Dahan-dahan

Don't walk too fast but walk slowly. Your Filipino word for slowly is this reduplicated word - dahan-dahan.

19. Gabi-gabi

When not reduplicated, gabi could either mean night or the taro plant. Repeat the word and you'll get gabi-gabi, the opposite of number 8 on the list. Gabi-gabi means every night.

But wait, a beautiful plant bears this name. Caladium. This plant is also called gabi-gabi.



20. Halo-halo

From the word halo which means mix. Halo-halo could mean a mixture or different kinds (of something).

Also a word very much familiar to those who loves this known Filipino dessert which is shaved ice with a mixture of different goodies from corn, leche flan, beans with either evaporated or condensed milk and sometimes topped with ube ice cream making every spoonful an explosion of yumminess - halo-halo.



21. Tawi-tawi

A beautiful island in the southernmost part of the Philippines and considered a home to its friendliest and peace-loving residents.

Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.

Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.

22. Ika-ika

Another Filipino word that has to be reduplicated or it won't convey the meaning. Ika-ika means limping or walking with difficulty, walking lamely.

23. Ngala-ngala

No need to explain further what ngala-ngala means, this repeated word has its exact English equivalent. Ngala-ngala is your reduplicated Filipino word for palate, the top or upper part of your mouth.

Fun time, quiz time!

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Araw when not reduplicated means
    • Sun and day.
    • Sun.
    • Everyday.
  2. Bilong-bilong
    • Catfish.
    • Milkfish.
    • Moonfish.
  3. Your to-go-to shop for that affordable outfit
    • Ukay-ukay.
    • Fish aisle.
    • Mall when they have 70% off.
  4. The Queen of Philippine Orchids
    • Halo-halo.
    • Pito-pito.
    • Waling-waling.
  5. Grated cassava and grated coconut and you'll have this
    • Pichi-pichi.
    • Halo-halo.
    • Bilo-bilo.

Answer Key

  1. Sun and day.
  2. Moonfish.
  3. Ukay-ukay.
  4. Waling-waling.
  5. Pichi-pichi.

24. Kili-kili

A word that may sound a bit ticklish for some. Kili-kili is your repeated Filipino word for armpit.

25. Watak-watak

A word which means all over the place, scattered or being in different area or place. Watak-watak.

26. Mano-mano

A task done by hand? This is a word that fits. Mano-mano means doing something by hand. That recipe that calls for chopped onions but you didn't use a chopper and did it by hand.

Mano, without repetition however is the gesture of asking for a blessing or giving a blessing done by taking the back of the right hand of an older person against your forehead.

Mano is different from mano-mano.

Mano is different from mano-mano.

27. Isa-isa

Numbers are usually repeated as well to mean two at a time or three at a time. Isa-isa isn't an exemption and is one of the numbers repeated to mean so. Isa means one but when repeated, isa-isa means one at a time.

Few other good examples are tatlo-tatlo and lima-lima. Tatlo-tatlo means three at a time or by threes and lima-lima to mean five at a time or by fives.

28. Barong-barong

Barong-barong means hut. Another Filipino word to keep in mind that you might want to use rather than 'kubo' which means exactly the same - hut.



29. Patong-patong

Imagine a sack of rice, or anything that are piled up one after another. A perfect example of using this reduplicated Filipino word, patong-patong. Another perfect example is a stack of boxes, patong-patong. This word is even used when referring to pile of debts.

30. Pusa-pusa

Pusa-pusa is just one of few other names telosma cordata is known for in the Philippines. The clusters of flowers of this twining vine is a favorite in some Filipino dishes. Two common names the plant is known for in English are tonkin jasmine and cowslip creeper.



Have some more reduplicated Filipino words in mind? Share it on the comment section. Or share this 22 on the list.


Bertie Lim on November 08, 2019:

My favorites are:

Agam-agam - misgiving; foreboding

Muni-muni - reflection

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