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Tagalog vs Filipino: What’s the difference?


Most often, you will hear that the most commonly used language in the Philippines is Filipino. Other times, you will hear that it’s Tagalog? If you are confused, then this post is just for you. If you want to know more about Tagalog vs Filipino, then read on.

What is really the difference between Tagalog vs Filipino? Is there even a difference?

Going back to the Philippine Constitution of 1987, you will find that the declared national language of the Philippines is Filipino. However, despite this fact, there are still confusing answers when a local is asked if they are speaking the Tagalog language or the Filipino language.

Brief History Of The Filipino Language

To answer your confusion, let’s go back to when it all started. The Philippine language history started way back the 1930s. This time was when the Commonwealth government insisted that the country needed a national language. Back then, the Philippines was composed of different dialects and cultures.

Metro Manila, the capital of the country, and its neighbouring provinces spoke the Tagalog language. Because of this, it was the main candidate in becoming the national language. However, with the geography of the country, there were a lot of Filipinos who don’t know the Tagalog language. As such, a lot of representatives opposed this decision.

Because of this the constitution simply recommended that in the future, there should be a national language.

A few years passed and during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos by the 1970s, the government focused on the creation of a ‘new society’ for the country. This time, nationalist academics decided to put in the effort to create a national language to be called ‘Pilipino’.

They then set to work to enrich the vocabulary of the Philippines by modifying and incorporating new words into the new language. Most of the borrowed words came from Chinese, Malay, English and Spanish. Unsound Tagalog words were replaced and new words that are pleasing to the ear were included.

Take, for example, the word ‘silya’ which was derived from the Spanish language replaced the Tagalog word ‘salumpuwit’.

When Cory Aquino replaced Marcos, the constitution finally called the new language as ‘Filipino’ – the national language of the Philippines. By then, most Filipinos already used the language to converse daily. Aside from the borrowed words, new letters were added to the alphabet including c, x, z, j and f.

Tagalog vs Filipino

Now, to answer the question ‘what’s the difference between Tagalog and Filipino?’.

‘Are they the same language?’

Well, Tagalog is where the Filipino language was derived from. Aside from the Tagalog words, there are also words borrowed from the Spanish and English languages. These words were then nativised and included in the vocabulary of the Filipino language.

Aside from that, as the national language of the Philippines, Filipino allows transliteration. Words can be spelled on how locals pronounce it. Take, for example, the English word ‘driver’ can be spelled as ‘drayber’ just like how most locals pronounce it. Another example is the word ‘computer’, Filipinos often spell it as kompyuter especially when writing in the Filipino language.

In a sense, the Filipino language is just an upgraded 2.0 version of Tagalog.

Tagalog vs Filipino: A Comparison

To further understand the difference between Tagalog and Filipino. Here’s a Tagalog vs Filipino sentence with an English translation.

  • Tagalog: Nauunawaan ko ang wikang sinasambit ng aming lolo.
  • Filipino: Naiintindihan ko yung mga salitang ginagamit ng lolo ko.
  • English: I can understand the language/words used by my grandfather.

As you can see from the example, there are Tagalog words that can be found in Filipino. But there are a few words that are not present in the Filipino sentence. Since Filipino is simply the standardised version of the Tagalog language, it is a bit more lenient with its structure and rules to build a sentence.

When we take a closer look at the vocabulary used in the Filipino sentence, you can see that the Filipino word ‘naiintindihan’ originates from the Spanish word ‘entender’ meaning to understand.

On the other hand, the word ‘yung’ comes from the Tagalog word ‘yaong’. Because of the vocabulary, syntax and archaic structure of the Tagalog language, it has become a literature language but now a language that’s used every day. The Filipino language is much more open to words from Western languages including English and Spanish.

Old Tagalog Words

Here are some Tagalog words that have been lost over the years and are rarely being used in today’s conversations.

  • Alili- violet
  • Alimbukad- full bloom
  • Anakula- ship’s captain, (note : admiral is “laksamana”)
  • Awon – yes, sir!
  • Bandahali – butler
  • Baro – tunic, shirt
  • Barok – a protection for the wrist; hand when shooting with an arc
  • Bayubay – to hang the heads
  • Bukad – open (flower)
  • Bunlay – Brunei
  • Dangkang – spread of fingers
  • Daong – ocean-going vessel, 16th-c. galleon
  • Ingkag – breaking open of a bracelet
  • Itsin – Sunday
  • Iwa – dagger that is wide and flat at the end, used for beheading
  • Kabigin – gem, cornaline
  • Kalatas – paper
  • Kalikot – silk underwear
  • Kalis – Filipino kris (still used if you’re familiar with Filipino martial arts)
  • Kandaki – cloth of Persian origin; fine black cloth Tagalogs wear ordinarily
  • Kangkag – extension of wings
  • Katan – circumcision (likely from Arabic term for circumcision “khitan/khatna”)
  • Kayo – cloth
  • Kayumpata – silk article of clothing embroidered with gold
  • Kuwasa – religious fasting
  • Lakha – red lacquer
  • Lantaka – swivel canons
  • Likhak – stone/wooden idol, statue
  • Lingkag – forced open (padlock)
  • Malim – pilot
  • Musim – wind; season
  • Paham – well-trained; learned, scholar
  • Paho – small mango
  • Palapati – dove
  • Palisay – round bucklers
  • Pangadyi – prayer
  • Paraluman – compass
  • Patong – generation
  • Pinaho – box or case from Brunei having the shape of small mango
  • Ramadlan – September
  • Sabuwat – slave
  • Salabat – ginger tea
  • Sampal – to cut someone in half
  • Sapar – January
  • Sinagitlong – coat from Japan
  • Siyak – Muslim cleric
  • Sukab – prying open of oyster; untrustworthy
  • Sumbalil – to cut the head off; pugot
  • Sunat – female circumcision
  • Suob – fumigation
  • Suuban – censer
  • Taba – cutting with a cutlass
  • Tabak – cutlass
  • Tiyuoy – tunic
  • Tundo – pierced
  • Tundok – skewed
  • Tungol – to grab someone from behind and slit his throat; bungol
  • Ugit – rudder
  • Untik – little
  • Wingkag – forcibly open

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