Arts & Culture


In honor of Buwan ng Wika, we´ll talk about Filipino Idiomatic Expressions. Idioms are phrases or sayings that are used to describe a situation. They are a type of figurative language that gives us the opportunity to describe our circumstances or express ourselves in a more creative way. Idioms also help you understand and speak the language like a native.

Here are some examples of Filipino Idioms to get you started! These are mostly expressions that I hear from my mom and grandma. Maybe you´ve encountered them too!

Expression # 1: Isang kahig, isang tuka

Literal Translation in English: One scratch, one peck
Expression Meaning: Living exactly on what you can afford (nothing in excess)
Context: Usually used in situations where your salary is just enough for what you need to pay for or buy.

Expression # 2: Itaga mo sa bato

Literal English Translation: (You can) carve it in stone
Expression Meaning: A promise or declaration that something will definitely happen

Expression # 3: Pagputi ng uwak

Literal English Translation: When the crow turns white
Expression Meaning: Impossible; it is something that is highly unlikely to happen.

Expression # 4: Nagsusunog ng kilay

Literal English Translation: Burning eyebrows
Expression Meaning: (State of) studying very hard
Context: When someone is studying hard in the days where there is no electricity yet, students will need to use their gas lamps or candles to have a source of light and risk burning their eyebrows.

Expression # 5: Balat sibuyas

Literal English Translation: Onion-skinned
Expression Meaning: Sensitive
Context: Onion is very thin and bruises very easily even when scratched very lightly. So a person who is onion-skinned tends to be very sensitive and might take small things to heart or be hurt very easily.

Expression # 6: Kahit lumuha ng dugo

Literal English Translation: Even if (you) cry blood
Expression Meaning: (You will never be forgiven) even if you cry too hard
Context: It’s been said that if you run out of tears to cry, you’ll start crying blood. So saying this to someone means that even if they run out of tears to cry, they will not be absolved of what they’re asking forgiveness for.

Expression # 7: Mani lang ‘yan!

Literal English Translation: That’s just a peanut / That’s just peanut!
Expression Meaning: That’s easy!
Context: Similar to ‘that’s a piece of cake!’ The context here is that the task or request is small and really easy to do.

Expression # 8: Suntok sa buwan

Literal English Translation: Punch (to) the moon
Expression Meaning: Similar to ‘pagputi ng uwak’, this is an expression that means an impossible task or something that would take a lot of effort to do as opposed to something based on probability.

Expression # 9: Nagbubuhat ng sariling bangko

Literal English Translation: Lifting one’s own chair
Expression Meaning: Empowering oneself / Bragging
Context: It can be taken positively or negatively, but it’s about someone who carries their own ego, which can be viewed as both empowering and arrogant.

Expression # 10: Makati ang paa

Literal English Expression: Itchy feet
Expression Meaning: Wanting to go somewhere / anywhere
Context: When someone has itchy feet, then they’re dying to move or be elsewhere, not because they want to leave their current location or situation but is more of an urge to explore. It can be likened to wanderlust.

These are only some of the Filipino idioms commonly used (at least where I’m from). Are there other idioms or expressions that you know of? Let us know through the comments section!



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