14 Common Tagalog Idioms Guaranteed To Impress Your Friends

Idioms are powerful words, and it would be fantastic if that person could showcase the mastery of their native language. The Filipino language contains one of the most mind-baffling Tagalog idiomatic expressions. Most people think you need to have a deeper knowledge of your target language to understand what idioms are. However, even a foreign language learner can harness the power of the Filipino language with common Filipino idioms. Impress your friends with these 10+ common Tagalog idioms!

Have you ever heard your Filipino friend say mababaw ang luha or sa kasamaang palad whenever your friend teases you? These words will make you scratch your head if you try to understand the literal meaning. These are just some common Tagalog idioms you’ll hear Filipinos say almost daily.

Many of these Tagalog idioms have an English counterpart. You’ll find cognates extra helpful as someone who wants to master the Tagalog language. Yet, there are unique Tagalog idioms that can’t be understood by many or only have a literal translation. Mainly, those idioms convey an inner Filipino culture or history in how it is spoken.

So if you are a beginner Filipino language learner, why not include learning a Filipino idiom during your learning process? Sometimes, learning complex words through context clues will help you understand what the words mean faster.

Check out these Tagalog idioms to impress your Filipino friends and even strike conversations with a new language partner.

Why Should Language Enthusiasts Learn Idioms?

There’s a hidden message waiting for every idiom you’ll encounter, no matter which language you learn. When appropriately used, idioms make languages fruitful because they prompt people to think about these words closely. Idioms are usually figures of speech like metaphor, simile, irony, and onomatopoeia.

An idiom is a word, phrase, or expression that figuratively communicates what one’s feelings are. It has a hidden meaning and is difficult to understand without context clues as it doesn’t mean what it literally translates.

We’re familiar with an English idiom with examples like born with a silver spoon, against impossible odds, shoot the moon, and more. Many Filipino idioms also have origins in other languages like English, Japanese, Chinese, Hindi, and even Arabic. Hence, learning Filipino idioms is easy peasy. Hold on tight as we uncover more profound layers of a Tagalog idiomatic expression for the rest of this article.

Commonly Used Filipino Idioms

Filipino Idioms started as a creative way to express ourselves through senses, emotions, objects, and situations. Additionally, most Filipino idioms pertain to body parts, and it’s one of the linguistic and cultural attributes we’ve inherited from Spain. Did you know? Most Romance languages like Spanish, Italian, and French have idiomatic expressions that involve different body parts too. So, if your mother tongue is any of these languages, you’ll understand the context easily!

Another characteristic of Filipino idioms is expressing many negative emotions or feelings that most Filipinos can’t express freely. Most of you might not know that Filipinos are respectful and wouldn’t want to offend their peers.

Of course, there are many other examples we would love to show you. Remember the two Tagalog idioms we mentioned earlier? They’re included in this list of commonly used Filipino idioms. Are you learning Tagalog for the first time? Take note of the Tagalog word used in each example sentence if you want to sound like native speakers.

Mababaw Ang Luha

Literal Translation In English: Shallow tears

If you try translating this phrase, you’ll have an entirely different meaning. Someone that exhibits a trait of mababaw ang luha is someone that is too emotional or is a sensitive person. Its English translation is someone with shallow tears, often associated with Filipinos that love watching dramas o a cute puppy rescued on a random YouTube video.

Tagalog Idiom In A SentenceEnglish ContextSound
Masyado namang mababaw ang luha mo!You cry too easily!

Sa Kasamaang Palad

Literal Translation In English: In wrong hands/palms

This Tagalog idiom means everything went downhill or things are not going well. You can use this idiom whenever you’re disappointed with a situation, a friend, or anything that didn’t go according to your plans.

Tagalog Idiom In A SentenceEnglish ContextSound
Sa kasamaang palad, hindi ako makakasama sa parti.Unfortunately, I can’t attend the party.

Maitim Ang Budhi

Literal Translation In English: Dark conscience

Similar to the Tagalog idiom maitim ang dugo, this idiom means someone is evil or bad person.

Similarly, people with this characteristic are combined with another Filipino idiom, matamis ang dila (literally translates to sweet tongue), or someone that can sway you with their promises or words.


Tagalog Idiom In A SentenceEnglish ContextSound
Maitim ang budhi ng kanyang kasama sa trabaho.Her coworker has evil intentions.

Butas Ang Bulsa

Literal Translation In English: Hole In The Pocket

Yes, you’ve read that right, butas ang bulsa literally means hole in your pockets and as you might have expected, it’s related to financial problems. So if you want to express having no money after a night out or experiencing petsa de peligro (week/day before your payday), use this idiom generously!

Tagalog Idiom In A SentenceEnglish ContextSound
Butas ang bulsa ko pagkauwi namin galing sa mall.My pockets are empty after returning home from the mall.

Namamangka Sa Dalawang Ilog

Literal Translation In English: Rowing in two rivers

This Filipino idiom isn’t often used anymore nowadays. However, it has quite a deeper meaning in relationships. It’s a person that is unfaithful to their partner or spouse. Growing as a religious community, Filipinos only date one person, marry only one person, and only love one person.

Even today, many Filipinos are monogamous with their partners and would love to have the same commitment given to them. So if you’re going to date a Filipino or a Filipina, be sure to commit yourself fully!

Tagalog Idiom In A SentenceEnglish ContextSound
Nasan ang asawa niyang lalaki? Ayun, namamangka sa dalawang ilog!Where is her husband? He’s cheating on his wife!

Matalas Ang Dila

Literal Translation In English: Sharp tongue

This Tagalog idiom has an English counterpart with the same literal translation in English. I know what you’re thinking; yes it’s definitely the same! Having a sharp tongue or matalas ang dila means someone’s words are too harsh or discouraging. This Filipino idiom is also attributed to a personality trait. It may sound discouraging to say words as sharp as a knife but it sometimes.

Tagalog Idiom In A SentenceEnglish ContextSound
Matalas ang dila ng tatay niya kaya siya ay lumayas.He left the house because his mother talked offensively.

Mabigat Ang Kamay

Literal Translation In English: Heavy hands

As mentioned earlier, Tagalog is complex, and frequently, many Tagalog idiomatic expressions have two meanings. Such as the case of mabigat ang kamay, which may either mean a lazy person or they’re easily angered.

Tagalog Idiom In A SentenceEnglish ContextSound
Mabigat ang kamay ni Carding kaya wala siyang trabaho ngayon.He’s too lazy that’s why he doesn’t have a job now.

Itaga Sa Bato

Tagalog Idioms Itaga Mo Sa Bato

Literal Translation In English: Cast in stone

Are you sure of something, and you firmly believe what it is about or that it will indeed happen? You can say “itaga sa bato” on something you will bet your life upon. It can also be used if you want to fulfill your promises or make a deal with your friend. Be careful when using this Filipino idiom, as it’s often used with someone you’re close with. Its English counterpart is mark my word.

Tagalog Idiom In A SentenceEnglish ContextSound
Yayaman rin ako kahit itaga sa bato!I’ll get rich even if you bet on it!

Ilaw Ng Tahanan

Literal Translation In English: Light of the house

Literal Translation In English: Light of the house
Literally, in Tagalog, this Filipino idiom talks about mothers. Filipino moms are often the person that gives warmth in the house. A literal light, Filipino moms, brighten their loved one’s day with their smiles, sacrificial love, and efforts to make their children happy. In modern times, you can use this term for your father, sister, grandparents, or even your significant other.

Tagalog Idiom In A SentenceEnglish ContextSound
Ang nanay ay ang ilaw ng tahanan namin.Our mother is our life source.

Daga Sa Dibdib

Literal Translation In English: A rat on your chest

If you can’t express what’s bothering you, it may be daga sa dibdib in Filipino. It’s a feeling when you can’t stay still over something you’re worrying or fearing about. Rats are often speedy, fearing that their lives are in danger from a predator. Hence, when you express this Filipino idiom, you’re unsure of what lies ahead.

Tagalog Idiom In A SentenceEnglish ContextSound
Ako na ang susunod na sasayaw, may daga sa dibdib ko.I’m the next dancer, I can’t stay still.

Lumalaki Ang Ulo

Literal Translation In English: A head getting bigger

Do you have a friend who loves fishing for compliments and seems like nothing is stopping them? Even though the literal meaning of lumalaki ang ulo sounds appealing intellectually, it’s actually quite contrasting.

If you tell someone lumalaki ang ulo mo (your head is getting bigger), it means they are becoming more arrogant, greedy, or too proud.

Tagalog Idiom In A SentenceEnglish ContextSound
Nanalo lang sa lotto, lumaki na ang ulo niya!He only won the lotto, but he feels like he’s the most important person in the world!

Makati Ang Palad

Literal Translation In English: Itchy Palms

Having itchy palms may sound weird and concerning since you might think it literally means something related to a health issue. In the Filipino idiom, makati ang palad is a saying that blessings will come later. It’s usually related to money but is connected to luck in any aspect.

Tagalog Idiom In A SentenceEnglish ContextSound
Makati ang palad ko, baka swertehin ako sa business ko!I feel lucky with my business!

Other Sayings And Common Phrases Used By Younger Filipinos

Although, some of these phrases may also be coined as a Tagalog idiom. Learn what the Filipino Millenials and Gen Zs are saying with these Tagalog modern sayings and words.

Here are just some of the two famous sayings you can hear from Filipino youth today.

Bahala Na Si Batman

Literal Translation In English: It’s up to Batman!

What’s with Batman in a Tagalog saying all of a sudden? Modern Filipinos love incorporating words from other languages, and it’s frequently in English.

Bahala na si Batman means it’s up to whatever the circumstances or the fate of your actions will be. In common Filipino culture, this idiom emerges from the happy-go-lucky trait. 

It’s pretty similar to its English counterpart, ‘whatever will be, will be.’ Or in a religious connotation, if God wills it.

Tagalog Idiom In A SentenceEnglish ContextSound
May pagsusulit ako bukas, bahala na si Batman!I have an exam tomorrow, whatever will be will be!

Push ‘Mo Yan!

Literal Translation In English: Push it! / You push it!

It’s prevalent to have exaggerations in many Filipino idioms, similar to how English idioms are. Hence, when someone says push mo ‘yan, it’s really a strong emotion related to determination. Many Filipinos attribute pushing to something you’re exerting effort into.

Come to think of it; it’s the opposite of what Bahala na Si Batman means. It means your friend is encouraging you to go for the gold.

Tagalog Idiom In A SentenceEnglish ContextSound
Para sayo yung promotion! Push ‘mo yan!You deserve the promotion! Go get it!

Expand Your Knowledge Of Tagalog Words With Ling

Many languages have different interpretations of an idiom’s true meaning. Sometimes it depends on how the vocabulary was used in context, just like Shakespeare and many writers with a subtle context in their books. So, it’s impossible just to guess what a word means in idioms just by memorizing the words. Yet, there’s no harm in learning more Filipino words to communicate with your friends. But how exactly do you learn Filipino or Tagalog better?

Jumpstart your experience as you learn Tagalog faster with Ling. Ling is the perfect app to understand what a Filipino idiomatic expression means. You’ll even develop a better technique in memorizing vocabulary through 200+ lessons for your reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills.

Stop finding the literal interpretation of these Tagalog words without any context. Download the Ling app on Google Play Store or the Apple App Store and start learning Tagalog now.

But wait! Before downloading the Ling app, don’t forget to comment on your favorite Filipino idioms. Let’s learn together and connect with Ling!

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