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15 Ilocano Words That Can Confuse Filipino Speakers

Updated on July 27, 2020
precy anza profile image

Precy enjoys helping others learn to speak and appreciate the Filipino language. She also speaks Ilocano.

Learn these Ilocano words that also exist in Filipino/Tagalog and what they actually mean.
Learn these Ilocano words that also exist in Filipino/Tagalog and what they actually mean. | Source


Ilocano is the third most spoken native Philippine language or dialect (as some prefers calling Ilocano and other regional languages as dialect). Being one of the eight considered major languages in the Philippines, it isn't uncommon for words to exist in two or more of these regional languages. And while the words sound exactly alike with most spelled just as the same, the words are totally different in regards of meaning.

Although these words may sound exactly the same, chances are one conveys another meaning. It may be a good ice breaker turning a dull moment to a lively fun conversation while learning what the word means but being unaware, it can also turn a good conversation into a confusing one.

With Tagalog/Filipino and Ilocano both spoken at home, I can tell you indeed it can get confusing at times. By experience and doing a little bit of thinking I have come up and wrote down 15 words that exist both in Ilocano and Tagalog sharing the same pronunciation yet having different meanings. And yes, these Ilocano words can confuse Filipino speakers. Let's get to the list.


An Ilocano word that wouldn't fail to make a Tagalog/Filipino speaker wonder and think about something else when hearing this. That is, if they have no clue that the speaker means something else. Utong is your Ilocano word for long beans, a common vegetable in Filipino dishes and often one of the ingredients on the Ilocano dish dinengdeng as well as pinakbet.

But with Filipino speakers, utong doesn't mean long beans but it is part of the body - utong (nipple).

Utong (long beans).
Utong (long beans). | Source


Tawa isn't your laughter in Filipino if that is what you have in mind. Hearing an Ilocano speaker mentioning or saying the word, chances are bigger that he/she is referring to a window.

Tawa (window).
Tawa (window). | Source


Umay has something to do with going to one place from another, to come closer. But sharing the same spelling with the Tagalog word umay that means getting tired of eating the same food or oversatiation, it can be confused as well to mean just that. Think of the word umay as the counterpart of the Filipino word punta.

Umay (come, to move closer).
Umay (come, to move closer). | Source

Umay ka ditoy.

Come here.

Word Pronunciation - Umay


This word may deceive Filipino/Tagalog speakers by assuming 'bigat' has something to do with weight. Well, it isn't, as this means the day after today or tomorrow. It is also used to mean morning. Naimbag nga bigat. (Good morning).

Bigat (Tomorrow).
Bigat (Tomorrow). | Source


Just relying on reading this Ilocano word, no doubt you'll be confused assuming the word 'saka' means and. Saka means exactly what's in the photo - feet. Pronunciation differs though with the Filipino word saka which means and, so hearing that is a good clue that the word means something else.

Saka (feet).
Saka (feet). | Source


Sabong doesn't mean cockfight if this makes you imagine roosters and cockpit. In Filipino, yes. But sabong here refers to something delicate and lovely growing in your garden - flowers. Sabong is an Ilocano word that means flower. So next time a co-worker says 'Napintas dagitoy sabong,' you'll know she's referring to the flowers being beautiful and not to a cockfight.

Sabong (flower).
Sabong (flower). | Source


In case you heard someone talking and mentioning this word where it somehow doesn't make sense, that is most likely because it is used to give a negative response. Saan in Ilocano means no. A word that can be easily confused with the Filipino word saan which means where. A variant of this you probably already know or heard as well, or maybe you would prefer using is haan.

Saan (no/not).
Saan (no/not). | Source


An Ilocano word that can make you chuckle if you get the luck of hearing or being told how big an utut is. But it isn't the intestinal gas you have in mind. Although this word may share the same way the word is pronounced with the Filipino word utot that means fart, utut here means something else - rat.

Utut ((rat).
Utut ((rat). | Source

Adda utut!

There's a rat!


A word that refers to the male genital in Filipino and unsuspecting non-Ilocano speakers may think just as that. This Ilocano word is often used with intensifiers that you've probably heard. Nagbayag means 'taking too long.' Something that sure will come in handy to say for someone who is taking too long.

Bayag (taking a large amount of time; taking too long).
Bayag (taking a large amount of time; taking too long). | Source


No it isn't referring to the sweet cone-shaped wafer where you put ice cream in called apa. This Ilocano word means quarrel, brawl or fight. The Filipino word for this is away just in case you're wondering.

Apa (Brawl or quarrel).
Apa (Brawl or quarrel). | Source


Sala is your Ilocano word to remember if you're into dancing as for sure this will come in handy. Kayat mo nga agsala? (Do you want to dance)?

Sala (dance).
Sala (dance). | Source


This word isn't referring to a guy that can't express his feelings for the girl he likes, the Filipino torpe. Torpe here means something else in Ilocano - rude.

Torpe (rude).
Torpe (rude). | Source


Another one to add in this list of confusing Ilocano words is this - ayan. No doubt it can confuse anyone as well. Hearing someone say 'Ayan na' could be easily taken to mean 'There it is' or 'Here she/he comes' as it is easy to assume this is Tagalog. Ayan is an Ilocano word that means where.

Ayan (where).
Ayan (where). | Source

Ayan na?

Where is he/she?


Be polite by addressing an older sister or a lady cousin the Ilocano title reserved for an older sibling by addressing her manang. Manang is the Ilocano counterpart of the Filipino ate which is a title of respect given to an older sister.

Curious as to what Filipino word this shares pronunciation with, that would be manang which means a woman who dresses up the old fashion way.

Manang (older sister).
Manang (older sister). | Source


This word has nothing to do with renting or leasing but is something you are familiar with specially if you're into raising chickens. Upa is the Ilocano word for hen.

Upa (hen).
Upa (hen). | Source

Poll time

Have you heard any of these Ilocano words?

See results


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    • Guckenberger profile image

      Alexander James Guckenberger 

      2 years ago from Maryland, United States of America

      It confuses some people when I try to explain that Filipino is considered by some people to be a dialect of Tagalog. I haven't tried to learn Ilocano yet. Maybe I should. :)


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