Feature Article: Filipino words with Arabic origin

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Photo by Tas Espiritu

My Arabic is just conversational but for 13 years of my daily use of the language; I learned that there are many words in Arabic which are similar to ours.

For several years, I had wanted to make a list of all those words but I didn’t have the interest to do it. Last week, I was fired with enthusiasm to start listing and to my amazement, I was able to find more words than I had expected.

Such amazement drives me to write this article.

A Brief History

In AD 711, the Umayyad army invaded the Iberian Peninsula from the Germanic Kingdom and brought most of the region  under Islamic rule. Al-Andalūs (Land of the Vandals) is the Arabic name given the Iberian Peninsula by its Muslim conquerors and its subsesquent inhabitants.  From the 8th-15th centuries, parts of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar and Andorra) were ruled by the Muslims (mainly Berber and Arab) who had crossed over from North Africa.

In 1380, an Arab trader named Makhdum Karim brought Islam to an Archipelago (now named Philippines). Subsequent visits of Arab and Malay missionaries helped strengthen the Islamic faith of our ancestors, most of whom (except for those in the Mindanao) would later become Christian under the Spanish colonization.

Filipino words with Arabic origin

(compiled by Tas Espiritu from his own posting in Patnubay E-Group)

The following Filipino words could have originated directly through the Arab traders or through the Malay missionaries, or the Spaniards during their colonial rule in our country.

To gather all these words, I made use of my conversational Arabic, my little knowledge in Spanish and my fluency in Visayan Languages and Tagalog and Google Translator for Malay Language.

Similar Words

kamison, kamisita (shirt) – from the arabic word “qamis” to the spanish word “camisa”

asukar – from the arabic word “sukar” to spanish word “azukar”

tasa – from the arabic word “tassa” (cup, goblet) to spanish word “tazza”

salawal – in arabic, “sarwal” which means underwear..

pantalon – the arabic word is “bantalon” (note p in arabic is pronounced as b, like baba for father)

akala – from the arabic word “aqala” which means intellect

bukas – from the arabic word “bukra” (which means tomorrow)

pinsan – the arabic word is “Al insan” (descendants, “insan adam” means “sons of adam” which means humans; “hukok al insan” means human rights )

kuba, – from the arabic word “quba” which means dome,arch or curve

bakal – in ilonggo bakal means buy.. magbakal means to buy.. in arabic the word “bakala” means store..

salamat – the arabic word “salamat” is used to express be safe, welcome back.. also salam means hello… in malaysia it is selamat… the word was then used in philippines for saying thank you.

alakdan – the arabic word is “acrab”  it is common for arabic to put the syllable “al” (which means the) to every noun. so in arabic it is “al acrab”, to spanish “alacran” then to the tagalog word “alakdan”

alboroto – from the arabic word “al buroz” to spanish word “alboroto”

alam – from the arabic word “alam” (know)

alamin – from the arabic word “al amin” (secretary, record keeper, kalihim) or  from the arabic word “alam” (know)

alkalde – from the arabic word “al qadi” (judge) to spanish word alcalde

hukom – from the arabic word “hukom” which means  “judgment”

hukoman –   from the arabic word “hukom” (judgment)  or  “hukuma” which means  “government”

Manila – I read once from a very old arab history book in yemen, Manila was “Fi Amanillah” (which means in God Safety).. with the advent of internet, old history books of some countries in Africa mentioned the place Fi Amanillah as ancient trading port  in the far east.

Fulos – Money

“walay pulos” is a bisayan expression which means “no value”.. “fulos” in arabic means money… understandably, NO MONEY = NO VALUE

thus the root word for the other bisayan words

kapuslanan – how valuable a thing is

pahimuslan/gipahimuslan – to use or to take advantage of.

makapahimulos – to make use/advantage of.

and here is one more..

the word “juwa” in arabic means INSIDE.. in egypt since they pronouce “j” as “g”, it is “guwa”.. in bisaya the word “guwa” means outside..

The words LIFE and DEATH from Arabic to Malay to Filipino

Arabic (LIFE)


– Hi (the arabic alphabet “ya” can be used as y or i)

– HAYat or HIat (in arabic if the word used is a noun, the syllable “at” is added at the end of the word)

Malay (LIFE)

– HAYat

– HIdup

– keHIdupan

Filipino (LIFE)

– buHAY

– buHI

– mabuHAY

– mabuHI

– kinabuHI

The word DEATH from Arabic to Malay to Filipino

Arabic – (DEATH)



Malay (DEATH)




Filipino (DEATH)


– kaMATAYan (tagalog)

– kaMATAYon (bisaya)

– PATAY (so it is clear now that PATAY is not root word but the word MATAY)

and the root  for the following Filipino words

– and MAOT in bisaya? (nalugas, tumanda, nabulok)

– gi-HAYA – in bisaya ay paglagay ng patay na katawan sa isang lugar para makita ng kaanak bago ito ilibing.. in english ay “wake”, in Tagalog, it’s lamay … the word haya, ay malamang ginamit ng ating mga ninuno dahil yon yong last moment ng tao (katawan) sa mundo.. thus the root word of visayan word for the position of the body, “HAYAng” or in  tagalog, nakati-HAYA..


when performing wudhu (ablution before prayer), the passing of wet fingers (gentle touch) over the nape is called “masah”… could be the etymology for the word masaje in spanish, then to the word massage in english)

A masah can also be applied to the feet.. thus the etymology for the bisayan word “himasa” which means to wash the feet.. which could be linked to the tagalog word “himas” which means “gentle touch”

masah in wudhu must be performed with wet hands.. thus the malay word for wet is “basah”.. thus we as malay by race, we use the word basa…

Here is one more pa


ruku – means bowing down.. in salah (prayer), the ruku is executed after recitation of verses from the Holy Quran in standing position..

Malay = Rukuk , Philippines – duko (bisaya) , yuko (tagalog)

also in our Salah (prayer) we have the sujud position, which ang tuhod namin ay nakatouch sa ground (our palms, forehead and nose ay nakatouch din sa ground).. may also be the etymology of the word LUHOD.

heto more pa.. whewww ang dami na..

pataqa in arabic means identification card.. it could be the root word of pitaka.. di ba ang mga wallet kung bibili ka ay may id card na sample?

and the word “SA !” in bisaya as an expression for agreement sa iyong kausap.. ay parehong pareho sa ARabic. sakto SA! di ba SA!

Qatil – Arabic for Kill / Murder

Kitil – in tagalog “kumitil ng buhay” means “to take ones life”..

(note: Buno in bisaya is derived from Malay’s membunuh but not from Arabic)

Kalas – stop, finish, end or to cease

kumalas – in tagalog has the same meaning

kalas  – in bisaya means to waste something

sura – Arabic for image or picture (facial)

hitsura – in tagalog and bisaya

ri-Sala(t) – Arabic for “message”  (specifically a letter)

surat – Malay

sulat – Tagalog (Bisaya)

suwat – Bisaya

Arabic word for BROTHER

– aki

– aku

– akuya

Arabic word for SISTER


If you have some words to add please don’t hesitate to write these in our comment box. Thank you so much.

“If you know your history

Then you would know where you’re coming from

Then you wouldn’t have to ask me

Who the ‘eck do I think I am”

– Bob Marley (Buffalo Soldier)

Readers’ Contributions

Romy Tangbawan

Ilocanos would say “ala!” when someone makes a mistake. It’s like saying “lagot ka” in Tagalog. I wonder if they picked that up long ago from Muslims exclaiming “Allah.”

And then there’s this mysterious “illa illa illallay” phrase often used by Kalinga and the Tingguians of Abra when they sing indigenous songs. I’ve asked our old folks and nobody could say what it really means. Maybe our folks of long, long ago have picked that up from Muslims praying.

Enrico Luga

ilaha = other gods/dieties or  for the english word “except”
Ilaha = in Visayan language it means “for others”

Kaliwali = Baliwala, Walang Saysay, Useless

From: Khaled Essale
To: Patnubay Online
Sent: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 5:42 PM
Subject: Filipino words of Arabic Origin

Salam Alaykum

I want to add few words

Maitim = Mo’etim = black

Madilim= Modlim = dark

Amain = Amm = uncle

Kutub = kutub = hanch

Alam = elim = Knowlege

Gasgas = qasqas = cut or scratch

Laglag= mlaglag = fail or hesitate

Lamasin = lams = touch gently

Hiya = Hayaa = shame

It’s worth mentioning that some families in Philippines are also of Arab origin see the following link


Khaled Essale

I am a Palestinian refugee from Majdal Yaba http://www.palestineremembered.com/al-Ramla/Majdal-Yaba/index.html

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