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Swardspeak (also known as gay speak[1] or "gay lingo") is an argot or cant slang derived from Taglish (Tagalog-English code-switching) and used by a number of LGBT people in the Philippines.[2][3]


Swardspeak uses elements from Tagalog, English, Spanish, and some from Japanese, as well as celebrities' names and trademark brands, giving them new meanings in different contexts.[4] It is largely localized within gay communities, making use of words derived from the local languages, including Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, Waray and Bicolano.


A defining trait of swardspeak slang is that it more often than not immediately identifies the speaker as homosexual, making it easy for people of that orientation to recognize each other. This creates an exclusive group among its speakers and helps them resist cultural assimilation. More recently, even non-members of the gay community have been known to use this way of speaking, e.g. heterosexual members of industries dominated by gays, such as the fashion and film industries.

Swardspeak as a language is constantly changing, with old phrases becoming obsolete and new phrases frequently entering everyday usage, reflecting changes in their culture and also maintaining exclusivity. The dynamic nature of the language refuses to cement itself in a single culture and allows for more freedom of expression among its speakers. Words and phrases can be created to react to popular trends and create alternatives to a strictly defined lifestyle. By these characteristics, swardspeak creates a dissident group without any ties to geographical, linguistic, or cultural restrictions, allowing its speakers to shape the language as they see fit, with relation to current times. In this way, the language is not only "mobile" and part of a larger community, but also open to more specific or local meanings and interpretations.[5]


The word "swardspeak", according to José Javier Reyes, was coined by columnist and film critic Nestor Torre in the 1970s. Reyes himself wrote a book on the subject entitled Swardspeak: A Preliminary Study.[6] "Sward" is an outdated slang for 'gay male' in the Philippines.[7][unreliable source] The origin of the individual words and phrases, however, has existed longer and come from a variety of sources.[8]


Swardspeak is a form of slang (and therefore highly dynamic, as opposed to colloquialisms) that is built upon preexisting languages. It deliberately transforms or creates words that resemble words from other languages, particularly English, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and German. It is colorful, witty, and humorous, with vocabularies derived from popular culture and regional variations.[9] It is unintelligible to people not familiar with the Filipino gay culture or who do not know the rules of usage.[10] There is no standardized set of rules, but some of the more common conventions are shown below:[11]

  • Replacing the first letter/syllable of words with the letter "J"/"Sh" or the syllables "Jo-"/"Sho-" or "Ju-"/"Shu-".
Swardspeak Original word Language of origin
Jowa (variant diminutive: Jowabelle/Jowabels) Asawa (spouse, usually female) Tagalog, Cebuano, Hiligaynon
Gora (variant diminutive: Gorabelle/Gorabels) Puntá (to go [to a place]) Tagalog
Shupatembang, Shupated, Jupiter Kapatíd (sibling) Tagalog
Shunga Tangá (idiot) Tagalog, Cebuano, Hiligaynon
Julalay Alalay (assistant) Tagalog
  • Replacing the first letter/syllable of words with the diphthongs "Ky-" or "Ny-".
Swardspeak Original word Language of origin
Kyota Batà (child) Tagalog
Nyorts Shorts English
Nyormville FarmVille English
Kyoho Mabahò (stinking) Tagalog
  • Replacing the end syllable of words with "-ash", "-is", "-iz", "-ish", "-itch", "-ech", "-ush", or "-oosh" as a diminutive or augmentative suffix.
Swardspeak Original word Language of origin
Jotis (a very small amount) Jutay (a small amount) Cebuano, Hiligaynon
Jubis (very fat) obese English
Jomba fat English
Taroosh (very bitchy) Taray (bitchy) Tagalog
Baboosh (goodbye) Babay/Bye-bye Philippine English
Itech (this) Itó (this) Tagalog
Sinetch (who) Sinó (who) Tagalog
Anech? (what, usually exclamatory) Anó? (what) Tagalog
  • Replacing "a", "o", or "u" sounds with "or", "er", or "ur", especially directly before or after the consonant "l".
Swardspeak Original word Language of origin
Haller/Heller Hello English
Churchill Sosyál (high society) Tagalog (from Spanish social)
Kalurkey Kaloka (insanely [entertaining], maddening, crazy) Tagalog (from Spanish loca)
Gander Gandá (beautiful) Tagalog
Walley Walâ (nothing) Tagalog
  • Inverting the letter order of a word, similar to Tagalog syllable switching slang. It is predominantly used in Cebuano swardspeak.[12]
Swardspeak Original word Language of origin
Ilij (no, not) Dili (no, not) Cebuano
Bayu (lover, boyfriend) Uyab (lover) Cebuano
Nial (bad, unpleasant) Lain (bad, unpleasant) Cebuano, Hiligaynon
Swardspeak Original word(s) Language of origin
Crayola (to cry, to be sad) Cry English
Antibiotic (obnoxious, unpleasant) Antipátika (obnoxious, unpleasant) Tagalog (from Spanish antipática)
Liberty (free) Libre (free) Tagalog (from Spanish libre)
Career/Karír ('to take seriously', used as a verb, e.g. karirin, "to career", kinareer) Career English
Fillet O'Fish (to be attracted to someone) Feel (to sympathize) English
Kapé / Capuccino / Coffeemate (to be realistic) 'Wake up and smell the coffee.' (a humorous corruption of 'Wake up and smell the roses') Philippine English
Thundercats (old, or the elderly, particularly old gay men) Matandà (old) Tagalog
Chiminey Cricket (housemaid) Deliberate corruption of Jiminy Cricket, Chimáy (Tagalog slang for housemaid) Tagalog
Warla (war, fight, quarrel) War English
Nota (penis) Description as musical note Tagalog
Pocahontas (prostitute) Pokpok (slang for 'prostitute') Tagalog
Pagoda Cold Wave Lotion (tired, exhausted) A locally available brand of cold wave lotion for setting permanent waves, and pagód (tired, exhausted) Tagalog
Mudra (mother, also used to refer to female friends with children) Madre (mother) Spanish, Portuguese
Pudra (father, also used to refer to male friends with children) Padre (father) Spanish, Portuguese
Hammer (prostitute) Pokpok (slang for 'prostitute), Pokpok (onomatopoeic Tagalog word 'to pound', 'to hammer') Tagalog, English
Biyuti/Beyooti (beautiful, pretty) Beauty, word play of Cebuano bayot ('gay') English, Cebuano
Silahis (bisexual male, often flamboyant) Silahis ([sun]beam, ray) Tagalog
Boyband (fat kid) A pun on Tagalog baboy ('pig') Tagalog, English
G.I. Joe (A foreign lover, particularly American) Acronym for 'Gentleman Idiot' English
Opposition Party (a social occasion with a lot of expected problems) Pun on political opposition English
Egyptian Airlines (jeep) jeep (or dyip in Tagalog) English
Geisha (he is gay) gay siya English, Tagalog
  • References to popular culture, usually celebrities or TV shows. They can be selected to replace a word in reference to the things they were famous for, simply because parts of the words rhyme, or both.
Swardspeak Original word or concept Derived from
Julie Andrew (to be caught cheating) Hulì (Tagalog, 'to be caught') 'Julie' rhymes with 'Huli', and references the British actress Julie Andrews
Gelli de Belén (jealous) Jealous Gelli de Belen
Winnie Cordero (to win, have won) Win Winnie Cordero
Luz Valdez (to lose, have lost) Lose Luz Valdez
Toy Story (toy, or any other kind of plaything) toy Toy Story
Julanis Morrisette (raining) ulan (Tagalog, 'rain') Alanis Morissette
Jinit Jackson (hot weather) init (Tagalog, 'hot') Janet Jackson
Tommy Lee Jones / Tom Jones (hungry) Tom-guts (Tagalog syllable switching slang for gutóm, hungry) Tommy Lee Jones, Tom Jones
Stress Drilon (stress) stress Ces Oreña-Drilon
Haggardo Versoza (haggard) haggard (exhausted, tired) Gardo Versoza
X-Men (formerly appearing to be heterosexual, coming out, especially from being hypermasculine to effeminate) 'Ex-man' X-Men
Fayatollah Kumenis (thin) Payát (Tagalog, 'thin') Ayatollah Khomeini
Barbra Streisand (to be rejected bluntly, blocked) Bará (Tagalog, 'to block', including verbally) Barbra Streisand
Muriah Carrey (cheap) Mura (Tagalog, 'cheap') Mariah Carey
Lupita Kashiwahara (cruel) Lupít (Tagalog, 'cruel') Lupita Aquino-Kashiwahara (A Filipina film and television director, and sister of assassinated Senator Benigno Aquino Jr.)
Carmi Martin (karma) Karma Carmi Martin
Rita Gómez (irritating, annoying) Nakaka-iritá (Tagalog, 'irritating') Rita Gómez
Mahalia Jackson (expensive) Mahál (Tagalog 'expensive', 'precious', 'dear') Mahalia Jackson
Anaconda (traitor, to betray) Ahas (Tagalog slang, 'to betray', literally 'snake') Anaconda (film)
Badinger Z (homosexual) Badíng (Tagalog derogatory slang 'homosexual') Mazinger Z (manga)
Taxina Hong Kingston (to wait for a taxicab) Taxi Maxine Hong Kingston
Noël Coward (No) No Noël Coward
Oprah Winfrey (promise) Promise Oprah Winfrey
Sharon Cuneta (yes, sure) Sure Sharon Cuneta
Jesus Christ Superstar/Optimus Prime (Fashion makeover, to change into more fashionable clothing) Resurrection, Transformation Jesus Christ Superstar, Optimus Prime
  • Borrowed words from other languages, particularly long disused Spanish words in the Philippines (which has feminine forms of words preferred in swardspeak that is absent in most Filipino languages), English, and Japanese.[13]
Swardspeak Definition Origin
Drama (also means the adjective 'dramatic') Melodrama, exaggeration, drama [queen] English
Carry/Keri To carry [oneself well], manageable English
Siete Pecados Nosy, gossipmonger Spanish, 'seven sins'
Puñeta (also spelt punyeta) General profanity, roughly equivalent to 'fuck' Spanish slang, with varying degrees of perceived obscenity. Literally 'in a fist'.
Chiquito Small Spanish, 'small'
Coño (also spelt 'konyo') High society, especially [affluent] socialites who speak Taglish exclusively Spanish slang, 'vagina'
Otoko fangirl octopus Japanese, 男 (otoko)
Berru Beer Japanese, ビール (bīru)
Watashi Me, I Japanese, 私 (watashi)


  • Translation of the traditional Filipino nursery rhyme Ako ay May Lobo (I have a balloon) into swardspeak.[14]
Original version Translation into swardspeak Approximate English translation
Ako ay may lobo

Lumipád sa langit
Di ko na nakità
Pumutók na palá
Sayang lang ang pera,
Pinambilí ng lobo
Sa pagkain sana,
Nabusóg pa ako.

Aketch ai may lobing

Flylalou sa heaven
Witchels ko na nasightness
Jumutók lang pala
Sayang lang ang anda
Pinang buysung ng lobing
Kung lafangertz sana
Nabusóg pa aketch

I had a balloon

It flew up to the sky
I couldn't see it anymore
[Didn't know] it had popped
Money was just a waste
Buying the balloon
Had I bought food instead
At least I would have been full

  • Translation of the traditional Filipino nursery rhyme Bahay Kubò (Nipa hut) into swardspeak.
Original version Translation into swardspeak Approximate English translation[15]
Bahay kubò, kahit muntî

Ang halaman doón,
Ay sari-sarì
Singkamás, at talóng,
Sigarilyas at manî
Sitaw, bataw, patani
Kundól, patola, upo’t kalabasa
At saka meron pa
Labanós, mustasa
Sibuyas, kamatis, bawang at luya
Sa paligid-ligid
Ay puno ng lingá

Valer kuberch, kahit jutey

Ang julamantrax denchi,
Ay anek-anek.
Nyongkamas at nutring,
Nyogarilyas at kipay.
Nyipay, nyotaw, jutani.
Kundol, fyotola, kyupot jolabastrax
At mega join-join pa
Jobanos, nyustasa,
Nyubuyak, nyomatis, nyowang at luyax
And around the keme
Ay fulnes ng linga.

Nipa hut, though it be small

The plants it houses
Are sundry and all
Jicama and eggplant,
Winged bean and peanut
String bean, hyacinth bean, lima bean.
Wax gourd, luffa,
long gourd and squash,
And then there is also white radish, mustard greens,
Onion, tomato,
Garlic, and ginger
And all around
Are sesame seeds.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Alba, Reinerio A. (2006-06-05). "In Focus: The Filipino Gayspeak (Filipino Gay Lingo)". National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Archived from the original on 2015-10-30. Retrieved 2017-06-21.
  2. ^ Empress Maruja (27 July 2007). "Deciphering Filipino Gay Lingo". United SEA. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
  3. ^ Leap, William (2013). Globalization and Gay Language. 350 Main Street, Malden: Wiley-Blackwell. p. 558. ISBN 978-1-4051-7581-4.CS1 maint: location (link)
  4. ^ Jessica Salao (30 April 2010). "Gayspeak: Not for gays only". thepoc.net. Archived from the original on 1 December 2010. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
  5. ^ Cynthia Grace B. Suguitan. "A SEMANTIC LOOK AT FEMININE SEX AND GENDER TERMS IN PHILIPPINE GAY LINGO" (PDF). University of the Philippines. Retrieved 25 December 2010.
  6. ^ Reinerio A. Alba (June 5, 2006). "The Filipino Gayspeak (Filipino Gay Lingo)". ncca.gov.ph. Retrieved 24 December 2010.
  7. ^ "GAY SPEAKS on "SWARDSPEAK"". badinggerzie.blogspot.com. May 13, 2005. Retrieved 24 December 2010.
  8. ^ Norberto V. Casabal (August 2008). "Gay Language: Defying the Structural Limits of English Language in the Philippines". Kritika Kultura, Issue 11. Kritika Kultura. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  9. ^ Danton Remoto (2008-05-05). "On Philippine gay lingo". abs-cbnnews.com. Retrieved 25 December 2010.
  10. ^ "Gay Lingo (Made in the Philippines)". doubletongued.org. November 16, 2008. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
  11. ^ Empress Maruja (27 July 2007). "Deciphering Filipino Gay Lingo". United SEA. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
  12. ^ Reinerio A. Alba (June 5, 2006). "The Filipino Gayspeak (Filipino Gay Lingo)". ncca.gov.ph. Retrieved 24 December 2010.
  13. ^ "Gay Lingo Collections". July 5, 2009. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
  14. ^ Norberto V. Casabal (August 2008). "GAY LANGUAGE: DEFYING THE STRUCTURAL LIMITS OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE IN THE PHILIPPINES". Kritika Kultura, Issue 11. Kritika Kultura. Retrieved 25 December 2010.
  15. ^ Lisa Yannucci. "Philippines Children's Songs and Nursery Rhymes". mamalisa.com. Retrieved 25 December 2010.


  • DV Hart, H Hart. Visayan Swardspeak: The language of a gay community in the Philippines - Crossroads, 1990
  • Manalansan, Martin F. IV. “’Performing’ the Filipino Gay Experiences in America: Linguistic Strategies in a Transnational Context.” Beyond the Lavender Lexicon: Authenticity, Imagination and Appropriation in Lesbian and Gay Language. Ed. William L Leap. New York: Gordon and Breach, 1997. 249–266
  • Manalansan, Martin F. IV. “Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora”, Duke University Press Books, November 19, 2003. ISBN 978-0-8223-3217-6

External links[edit]