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The Most Common Filipino Filler Words

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Remember the last time you had to say something important, but you ended up forgetting the exact words you were planning to say? How about the time you were going to comment about something, but somehow, you just couldn’t utter the right words? What saved you from embarrassment during those moments? Let me guess—uhm—filler words! Yes, we’re talking about those short meaningless sounds that help you collect your thoughts or fill in the little pauses between your sentences.

While fillers are a common point of disagreement in the world of public speaking, there’s not a language in the world that makes do without them. It makes sense, then, to become familiar with Filipino filler words when learning Tagalog. Fillers make up a huge part of the daily conversations of the Filipino people. 

In this entry, we’ll introduce you to some of the most common filler words used in the Filipino language. We’ll also outline the pros and cons of using them in your speech. So, uhm, are you ready? Let’s get right to it!

A Woman in a Wedding Dress Looking Concerned

When asked if you use filler words all the time: “Ah, eh. I do?”

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Filipino Table of Contents
  1. What are filler words and why do we use them?
  2. A List of Filipino Filler Words
  3. Should you use filler words?
  4. Learn About Filipino Filler Words and More at FilipinoPod101.com!

1. What are filler words and why do we use them?

Fillers are short words or sounds we often use in conversations to “fill” pauses when speaking. Some filler words are actually useful, while others are rather meaningless. Filipinos use a lot of filler words in their conversations, many of which have an equivalent in English. Other cultures have their own version of these words, too. 

If you’re wondering whether it’s possible to speak Filipino without using filler words, the answer would be yes. However, there are certain situations where you can’t afford not to use them. For example, while you should avoid using fillers if you’re broadcasting or delivering a speech in public, they can come in handy during your daily conversations with native speakers. 

We use filler words in Filipino the same way they’re used in other languages. We use them when we need to think about our answers and to let people know we’re not done talking yet. We also use them to make our statements sound less harsh. That last point is important, as Filipinos are quite sensitive. If you feel that what you’re about to say is too straightforward, using fillers can help you rephrase your sentence so that it doesn’t come across too strong.


2. A List of Filipino Filler Words

Now that you’re familiar with the concept of fillers and how they’re used, it’s time to learn the top 15 filler words in Tagalog! 

#1

Filler WordLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Ano“What”“Uhm”

This is the most common filler word Filipinos use when they’re trying to remember something. It’s usually preceded by “uhm” or “ahh” and it’s used as a substitute for whatever the speaker is trying to remember, whether it’s a person, an object, a place, or an event.
  • Hinahanap ka ni ano…nakalimutan ko ang pangalan niya. 
    “Someone was looking for you. It was uhm…I forgot his name.”

  • Ano…oo pupunta kami dun. 
    “Uhm…yes, we’re going to be there.”

When you’re trying to remember a person’s name, you say Si ano
  • Si ano…si Anna! 
    “It was uhm…it was Anna!”
When you’re trying to remember anything other than the name of a person, you say Yung ano:
  • Yung ano…yung katrabaho ko. 
    “It was uhm…my colleague.”
Two variants of this filler are inaano and anuhin, which could mean almost anything. Both are in verb form and could imply doing something to someone. For instance, if someone is bothering you, you could tell that person:
  • Huwag mo akong anuhin! 
They would already understand that what you’re trying to say is, “Stop doing that to me!” He could reply with:
  • Hindi kita inaano! 
    “I’m not doing anything to you!”

#2

Filler WordLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Kasi“Because”“It’s because…uhm”

We most often use kasi when trying to explain something. It’s often associated with being defensive, like if the speaker is trying to justify one’s actions or is hiding something. Also, it usually comes with the previous filler word we discussed: ano.
  • Eh kasi…uhm…hindi ko napansin na may nakasulat na bawal. 
    “It’s because…uhm…I didn’t notice that there was a warning sign there.”

  • Ano kasi…ahh…kasi na low-bat yung cellphone ko kaya hindi ako nakasagot. 
    “Ah it’s because…uhm…my mobile phone died, that’s why I wasn’t able to reply.”

#3

Filler WordLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Ayun“That one”“There you go!” / “So…yeah”

One of the more frequently used Tagalog filler words, ayun could mean one of two things depending on when it’s used in a sentence. As an interjection, it’s what you exclaim when you’ve finally remembered what you were going to say (or when someone has helped you to remember). It’s equivalent to Archimedes exclaiming, “Eureka!”

A: Hiniram niya yung ano…yung ano…uhm. (“She borrowed my uhm…my uhm…”)
B: Yung kamera mo? (“Your camera?”)
A: Ayun! (“That’s it!”)

As a filler, it’s often used as a conclusion to something the speaker is trying to explain, such as the consequence of an action:
  • Bumagsak siya. Hindi kasi siya nag-aral, kaya…ayun. 
    “He failed. He didn’t study, so…yeah.”
In some cases, it’s used to express a sigh of resignation.

A: Ano na nangyari sa manliligaw mo? (“So, what happened to the guy courting you?”)
B: Ayun…sumuko na lang bigla. (“Sigh…he just quit.”)

One Schoolgirl Whispering Something in Another Schoolgirl’s Ear

Hindi kasi nag-aral. Ayun…bagsak tuloy siya. (“She didn’t study. So…yeah…she failed.”)


#4

Filler WordLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Kuwan“That thing”“Uhm”

Kuwan originates from the Spanish word ¿Cuál?, meaning “which.” Like the filler word ano, it’s often used to replace the name of a person or thing that the speaker has forgotten momentarily. It has no direct English translation, although it could be considered equivalent to the English filler “uhm.”

Filipino speakers use this word when they’re not sure about the proper term for something. In many cases, it’s used to replace a word that’s considered taboo, particularly one that’s related to sex or sexuality.

Close friends use this word as a secret code when they want to speak openly without other people understanding what they’re trying to imply.
  • Kunin mo nga yung…yung kuwan…yung pitaka ko. 
    “Could you please get me my uhm..my uhm…my wallet.”

  • May binigay pala yung messenger na kuwan…memorandum. 
    “By the way, the messenger gave a…uhmm…a memorandum.”

  • Alam mo, niregaluhan daw ni kuwan si kuwan ng mamahaling relo nung kaarawan niya! 
    “You know what, you-know-who gave you-know-who an expensive watch on her birthday!”

#5

Filler WordLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Parang“Supposedly”“It’s like…” / “Like”

Parang is the combination of the word para (which means “seems like”) and the ligature ng. As a filler word, it’s used when the speaker is trying to describe something but can’t seem to find the right words.
  • Parang…hindi ko maipaliwanag eh. 
    “It’s like…I can’t explain it.”

  • Maganda yung napuntahan namin! Parang…basta maganda siya! 
    “The place we went to was awesome! It was like…it’s simply beautiful!”

  • Yung parang…alam mo yun… 
    “It’s like…you know it…”

#6

Filler WordLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Basta!“Enough”

Basta is another word of Spanish origin, meaning “Enough said!” or “Stop it!”

In Filipino, it could mean many different things depending on how you’re using it in a sentence. Here are some of its uses:

Just to let you know. 
  • Basta, nandito lang ako pag kailangan mo ako. 
    “Just to let you know, I’m just here whenever you need me.”
As long as / Whenever
  • Magagawa ko ang lahat basta kasama kita. 
    “I can do anything as long as you’re beside me.”
Especially.
  • Basta Filipina, maganda! 
    “Filipina women are especially beautiful!”
I’d rather not tell.
  • Ah, basta! Sikreto naming dalawa yun. 
    “I’d rather not tell! It’s our secret.”
That’s enough!
  • Basta! Sundin mo na lang ang sasabihin ko! 
    “That’s enough! Just do as I say!”

A Woman Making an Arrogant Face and being Snobby

Ah, basta! Sikreto naming dalawa yun. (“I’d rather not tell! It’s our secret.”)

#7

Filler WordLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Ngek!“Yikes” / “Oh” / “Eh”

Ngek is primarily a Filipino slang word which could mean “Yikes!” or “Eek!” When you hear a Filipino saying ngek, it either means they made a mistake or that they’re disagreeing with what another person is saying. 
  • Ngek. Paano mo nasabi, eh wala ka naman dun? 
    “Eh? How can you say that when you were not there?”
It could also be an onomatopoeia that imitates the sound of a game show buzzer, indicating that the time is up or that the player got the answer wrong. 

As a filler, it’s used when the speaker is trying to deny an accusation against them.
  • Ngek…hindi ah. Hindi ko sinabi yun. 
    “Oh my, no…I never said that.”

  • Ngek…baka ibang tao yun. 
    “Duh…it must be somebody else.”

    One effective way to study filler words is to learn how they sound. Hear how Filipino words are usually pronounced by checking out the FilipinoPod101 YouTube channel!

#8

Filler WordLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Ah oo“Ah yes…”“I see…”

Ah oo is like saying, “Yes, yes!” Filipinos use it to quickly let the other party know that they’re agreeing with what they’re saying or that they’re making a point. Using this filler word also serves as a way to let someone know that you’ve figured something out or that you’re finally getting what they’re trying to convey.
  • Ah oo! Tama ka! 
    “Ah, yes! You’re absolutely right!”
Try to imagine, too, a Filipino talking to someone over the phone and hearing that person saying:
  • Ahh…oo…hmm…tama…ahh okay… 
    “Ahh…yes…hmm…I see…”

#9

Filler WordLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Diba?“Is it not?”“Right?”

Diba, also spelled di’ba or di ba, is a contraction of Hindi ba, which literally means “Is it not?” Hindi is the Tagalog word for “not.” Ba, on the other hand, has no direct English equivalent. It’s an intensifier that’s used when forming a question. For instance:
  • Kumain ka na ba? 
    “Have you eaten yet?”

  • Papasok ka pa ba kahit malakas ang ulan? 
    “Are you still going to work despite the heavy rain?”
Diba is one of the most common expressions you need to know when you’re learning Filipino. You can place it at the beginning or the end of a sentence when you’re asking someone for confirmation.
  • Taga dito ka, diba? 
    “You’re from around here, right?”

  • Diba ikaw yung asawa ni Mary? 
    “You’re Mary’s husband, right?”
As a filler, diba is mainly used to confirm information.
  • Narinig niyo nung sinabi ko yun, diba? Diba, Jen? Diba, Mike?
    “You heard me when I said it, right? Right, Jen? Right, Mike?”

  • Gusto mo siya no? Aminin mo na. Diba, diba, diba? 
    “You like him, don’t you? Admit it. Right, right, right?”

#10

Filler WordLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
O, ha?“Told ‘ya!” / “See?”

O, ha is sometimes used in conjunction with the previous filler word, diba. You can use this expression as a response to someone who has agreed with you after disagreeing at first. You can also use it to show detractors that you’re not easily discouraged and that they were wrong to tell you that you amount to nothing.

A: Tama ka. Tatlong taon pa lang ang nakalipas, hindi apat. (“You were right. It’s only been three years, not four.”)
B: O, ha? (“Told you so.”)
  • Natanggap ako sa trabaho! O, ha? 
    “I got hired! Told ‘ya!”

  • O, ha? Diba? Sabi ko sa’yo eh! 
    “See? Right? Told ‘ya!”

#11

Filler WordLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Naman

Naman is one Filipino word that’s very difficult to translate to English. You could say that it has no direct English equivalent, as this filler could mean different things depending on how you use it in a sentence. For instance, you could use it to make a contrast, to give emphasis, or even to tone down a request. As a filler word, it could mean, “not again.” When someone is being a nuisance, for example, you could say:
  • Naman. 
    “Here we go again.”
Interestingly, it’s also used by a person who’s being annoying to say they’re just joking around:
  • Naman ito. Binibiro lang kita. 
    “Oh you…I was just teasing.”

A Man Wearing Overalls and Standing with His Hands on His Hips

O ha? Sabi ko sa’yo bagay sakin itong suot ko eh! (“I told ‘ya these overalls would suit me!”)

    Need to know the Filipino equivalent of a particular English word? Try out the FilipinoPod101 Filipino Dictionary!

#12

Filler WordLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Alam mo yun?“You know that?”“You know”

“You know” is one of the most commonly used filler words in English. Its equivalent filler in Filipino is Alam mo yun, which is used in the same manner. 
  • Ang ibig kong sabihin…alam mo yun… 
    “I mean…you know…”
In some cases, it’s used to express annoyance:
  • Ang tagal kong naghintay tapos ang init-init pa. Alam mo yun? 
    “I waited there for so long, and the fact that it was so hot…you know what I mean?”

  • Huwag mo siyang pautangin. Hindi yan nagbabayad…alam mo yun? 
    “Don’t lend him anything. He doesn’t pay…you know.”

  • Alam mo yun? Yung gusto mo ng makauwi tapos wala kang masakyan? 
    “You know that feeling when you want to get home so badly but you can’t grab a ride?”

#13

Filler WordLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Ganito“This”“It’s like this” / “Here”

Ganito is a word that you use when you’re showing someone how to do something. When showing a foreigner how to cook rice, for instance, a Filipino would say:
  • Ganito magluto ng kanin. 
    “This is how you cook rice.”
It could also mean, “This is how things are,” such as in the famous Tagalog slogan:
  • Ganito kami sa Makati. 
    “This is how we are in Makati.” / “This is how we do things in Makati.”
As a filler word, ganito is often used when the speaker is trying to describe a circumstance or event, or when they’re attempting to establish a fact.
  • Ganito, hindi ako ang nagsabi na kunin niya ang pera. 
    “It’s like this, I’m not the one who said that he should get the money.”

  • Ganito, bakit hindi na lang tayo sumang-ayon na huwag sumang-ayon sa isa’t-isa? 
    “Here, why don’t we just agree to disagree?”

  • Ganito na lang. Samahan mo na lang ako. 
    “Let’s just do it this way. Why don’t you just accompany me?”

#14

Filler WordLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Hala“Uh-oh” / “Oh no” / “Really?”

Hala is a word with a thousand meanings. It’s mainly an interjection or an exclamation of warning:
  • Hala ka! Anong ginawa mo? 
    “You’re in trouble! What have you done?”
It’s what you would say when you’re about to witness (or are witnessing) a disaster:
  • Hala! Nasusunog yung bahay! 
    “Oh no! The house is on fire!”
It’s also an expression of panic:
  • Hala! Nakalimutan ko ang mga papeles! 
    “Uh-oh! I forgot to bring the documents!”
It functions as a filler word when used to express disbelief:

A: Pasensya ka na, pero hindi ka nakapasa. (“I’m sorry, but you didn’t pass.”)
B: Hala. Imposible. (“Oh no. That’s impossible.”)

It can also indicate sarcasm: 

A: Ikaw na daw ang bagong team leader sabi nila. (“They say you’re going to be the new team leader.”)
B: Hala? Sigurado sila? (“Really? Are they sure?”)

#15

Filler WordLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Naku / Hay Naku“Oh my” / “Ugh!”

Linguists say naku came from Nanay ko, which literally means “My mother.” Its variant is Nakupo, which comes from Nanay ko po! It’s what someone would exclaim when they’re in trouble and need their mom on their side.
  • Nakupo! Mapapatay ako ni boss! 
    “Oh my! My boss is going to kill me!”

  • Naku, nakuu, nakuuu! Bakit ba kasi hindi siya nakinig. 
    “Oh my, oh my, oh my! Why didn’t he just listen?”
This expression also appears as Hay naku, with hay being the sound of sighing. It functions as a filler when someone is disappointed and about to burst into anger, or when they want to remain calm when they’re about to explode.
  • Hay naku! Makaalis na nga. 
    “Ugh! I’d better leave now!”

A Woman with a Deeply Concerned Look on Her Face Biting Her Knuckles

Naku, nakuu, nakuuu! Ana na naman itong pinasok ko?
(“Oh my, oh my, oh my! What have I gotten myself into this time?”)

3. Should you use filler words?

Fillers may come in different forms, but they all seem to serve the same purpose. This is true regardless of which language we’re talking about. The question, however, is whether or not it’s okay to use filler words in Filipino. First, let’s take a look at some of the pros of using fillers when speaking.

1 – Filler words can make you sound like a native speaker.

A native speaker will always speak in the colloquial variety, and when they do, you can expect a lot of filler words to be sprinkled throughout their conversation. You’ll impress your Filipino listeners when you use filler words because it will make you sound authentic.

2 – Filler words can help you insert yourself into a conversation more naturally.

It can be a difficult task to insert oneself into a group conversation without being impolite. A well-placed Ah oo… or Ganito… in the middle of a colleague’s pause can be an effective way to break into a conversation.

3 – Filler words can help you “hold the floor” so people know you’re not done speaking yet.

When speaking in public (such as in a business meeting), pausing in the middle of your speech instead of using a filler word might make people assume that you’re done speaking. This could cause others to jump in and interrupt you. Using the right filler word can be a great way to tell people that you’re not finished speaking.

This time, let’s take a look at three downsides to using excessive filler words.

1 – Excessive use of filler words can be distracting to both you and your listeners.

A few fillers here and there can have some benefits, but using too many can be distracting. When you say Alam mo yun (“You know”) at the end of every sentence, your listeners will shift from listening to you to taking note of how many times you’ve said Alam mo yun.

2 – Filler words can unnecessarily lengthen your sentences.

Filler words may be short, but using too many of them will make your sentences longer. Not a good thing when you’re giving a report that’s supposed to be precise and direct.

3 – Using filler words can make you look unconfident and less credible.

If you’ve noticed, most Filipino filler words mentioned here are used when you’re trying to remember or explain something. Using ano, kasi, and diba excessively will make you come across as inauthentic or insincere because they make you sound as if you need to justify everything you’re saying.

A Woman in a White Tank Top Holding Her Hands Out to Signal She’s Not Done Speaking

Filler words can help you “hold the floor” so people know you’re not done speaking yet.
Ano…sandali…hindi pa ako tapos magsalita. (“Uhm..wait…I’m not done talking.”)

4. Learn About Filipino Filler Words and More at FilipinoPod101.com!

So…uhm…what did you think of our entry on common filler words in Filipino? Did you know that you can learn so much more here at FilipinoPod101.com? With us, you can take your skills in Tagalog to the next level using our wide range of resources. All of our lessons and materials are designed to help you develop your comprehension skills in Filipino.

There are many good language learning platforms online, but what separates FilipinoPod101 is its innovative approach to teaching the Filipino language. Each lesson here can be tailored to your needs so that you don’t miss a step in your journey toward mastering this beautiful language. From video lessons to audio lessons, from PDF lesson materials to blog entries like this one, you can rest assured that there’s an approach to suit your preferences. 

FilipinoPod101 is also one of the few, if not the only, language learning platforms that provide 1-on-1 lessons. This is done through our MyTeacher service for Premium PLUS students, which allows you to have personal lessons with a real Filipino teacher. With this approach, you can learn Filipino the fast, easy, and fun way!

Did we miss anything on our list? Is there one filler word you want to learn more about? Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments section!

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