14 Common Tagalog Idioms Guaranteed To Impress Your Friends

Tagalog idioms

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 idioms. 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? If you try to understand the literal meaning, these words will make you scratch your head. 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.

Tagalog idioms - A photo of a kalesa with passengers

Commonly Used Tagalog Idioms

Filipino idioms are a creative way to express ourselves through senses, emotions, objects, and situations. Additionally, most Filipino idioms pertain to body parts. 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 a native speaker.

Now, check out these Tagalog idioms to impress your Filipino friends and even strike up conversations with a new language partner:

Too Emotional – Mababaw Ang Luha

Literal Translation In English: Shallow tears

If you try translating this phrase, you’ll have an entirely different meaning. Its English translation means shallow tears. But, in Filipino, a person who is mababaw ang luha is too emotional or is a sensitive person. It also means a person easily sheds tears. This is often associated with Filipinos who love watching dramas or a cute puppy rescued on a random YouTube video.

English ContextTagalog Idiom In A SentenceSound
You cry too easily! Masyado namang mababaw ang luha mo!

Very Unfortunate – 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.

English Context Tagalog Idiom In A SentenceSound
Unfortunately, I can’t attend the party. Sa kasamaang palad, hindi ako makakasama sa pagtitipon.

Bad Person – Maitim Ang Budhi

Literal Translation In English: Dark conscience

Similar to the Tagalog idiom maitim ang dugo, this idiom means someone is an 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 who can sway you with their promises or words.

English ContextTagalog Idiom In A SentenceSound
Her coworker has evil intentions. Maitim ang budhi ng kanyang kasama sa trabaho.

No More Money – Butas Ang Bulsa

Literal Translation In English: Hole in the pocket

Yes, you’ve read that right, butas ang bulsa literally means a 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!

English ContextTagalog Idiom In A SentenceSound
My pockets are empty after going to the mall. Butas ang bulsa ko pagkauwi namin galing sa mall.

Being Unfaithful – 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!

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

Someone Who Says Hurting Words – Matalas Ang Dila

Literal Translation In English: Sharp tongue

This Tagalog idiom has an English counterpart with the same literal translation in English. 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 is sometimes.

English ContextTagalog Idiom In A SentenceSound
He left the house because his mother talked offensively. Umalis sya ng kanilang bahay dahil matalas ang dila ng nanay nya.

Lazy/Easily Angry – Mabigat Ang Kamay

Literal Translation In English: Heavy hands

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

English ContextTagalog Idiom In A SentenceSound
He got mad, so he hit me.Mabigat ang kamay ni Carding kaya wala siyang trabaho ngayon.
He got mad so he hit me.Mabigat ang kanyang kamay kaya nya ako sinaktan.

Bet On It – Itaga 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? Then, itaga sa bato is the phrase for you. This means you will bet your life upon it. 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.

English ContextTagalog Idiom In A SentenceSound
I’ll get rich even if you bet on it!Yayaman rin ako kahit itaga sa bato!

Mother – Ilaw Ng Tahanan

Literal Translation In English: Light of the house

Literally, in Tagalog, this Filipino idiom talks about mothers. Filipino moms are often the people who give warmth to the house. A literal light, Filipino moms brighten their loved one’s days with their smiles, sacrificial love, and efforts to make their children happy.

English ContextTagalog Idiom In A SentenceSound
Our mother is our life source.Ang nanay ay ang ilaw ng tahanan namin.

Being Nervous – Daga Sa Dibdib

Literal Translation In English: A rat on your chest

If you can’t express what’s bothering you, you could be having daga sa dibdib in FilipinoIt’s a feeling when you can’t stay still over something you’re worrying about, or you’re just being nervous. Rats are often speedy, fearing that their lives are in danger from a predator. Hence, when you say this Tagalog idiom, you’re unsure of what lies ahead.

English ContextTagalog Idiom In A SentenceSound
I’ll be dancing next! I’m so nervous!Ako na ang susunod na sasayaw, may daga sa dibdib ko.

Being Too Proud – 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!

Feeling Lucky – 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, it will happen.

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

Go For The Gold – 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!

Why Should You Learn Tagalog 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 Tagalog idioms is easy peasy. I hope you gain some profound layers of Tagalog idiomatic expression in this article.

Tagalog Idioms Itaga Sa Bato - A photo of stones on top of each other

Learn Tagalog 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 the Ling app. It 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 the 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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