[What’s Your Favorite Color?] Part One: Color Words in Filipino
Kung marunong kang mag-Filipino—dapat ay alam mo kung ano sa wikang ito ang katumbas ng color words na gaya ng red, blue, at green. Subalit, alam mo ba kung saan hango ang mga salitang kulay na iyan? At alam mo rin ba kung paano ang wastong gamit ng mga ito?
These color words—black, white, gray, red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purple, pink, brown, and beige—have been identified in various studies as the most common across most languages, although the actual colors represented by each of the color words are not necessarily exactly the same. For example, in Greek and Russian, there are two words for blue corresponding to light blue and dark blue, and these colors are considered and perceived to be separate. In other languages there are overlaps between blue, green and gray, or red, orange and brown.
In the Filipino language, the following are perhaps the only clearly identified and widely recognized color words used by a great majority of Filipinos who speak the Philippine national language.
itim – black
puti – white
abó, ábuhin – gray
The Filipino word abó originally only meant ash or ashes, but now it also refers to the color of ash, that is, gray. Ábuhin is “grayish.” Both words are usually interchangeable. Many people still use kulay abo [the color of ash] to mean “gray”; however, this phrase is now considered redundant, because abo can now stand alone as a color word.
pulá – red
dilaw – yellow
The Filipino word dilaw was derived from its Spanish counterpart, dilao.
asul, bughaw – blue
The Filipino word asul was derived from its Spanish counterpart, azul, or perhaps from azure, which originated from Persian, adopted by French and then by English. Asul is used to describe the blueness of anything, including the skies and the oceans. The Filipino word bughaw, however, is almost always used to refer only to the blueness of the skies and not of the ocean or any water body for that matter. Bughaw is also the direct Filipino translation of “royalty” or “royal,” as in the phrase “royal blood” [dugong bughaw], a phrase which is used also to refer to a person of royal lineage. In current Filipino slang, dugong bughaw may be used to refer to privileged people such as the ultrarich, superintellectuals, and very famous celebrities and political personalities.
berde, lunti, luntian – green
The Filipino word berde comes from the Spanish verde. Lunti is used to describe the color of plants, e.g., Ang dahon ay lunti [The leaf is green]. Luntian is used to refer to the greenness of something grand or noncountable such as landscapes or foliage, e.g., luntiang bulubundukin [green mountain range], luntiang parang [green meadows], Ang mga dahon ay luntian [The leaves are green]. Luntian also means “greenish,” e.g., Ang damit mo ay may luntiang mantsa [Your shirt has a greenish stain]. Compare this with Ang damit mo ay may berdeng mantsa [Your shirt has a green stain].
dalandan – orange
Dalandan is the Filipino name of Citrus aurantium, or ‘bitter orange,’ a certain variety of citrus fruits endemic in the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries. Dalandan has as well become the word for the color orange. Initially people would say “kulay dalandan” [“the color of the fruit orange”] to refer to the color orange; but eventually, the word kulay [color] is dropped, leaving solely dalandan to refer also to the color.
lilà – purple, violet
The Filipino word lilà is the counterpart of purple or violet and its other shades, e.g., Pinturahan mo ang dingding ng iyong kuwarto nang lilà [Paint the walls of your room purple]. Some use the Filipino word ube as a color word, however, this is incorrect word usage. Ube is actually the Filipino word for the vegetable ‘purple yam.’ To illustrate, let’s take for example this sentence: Ang suot niyang pantalon ay kulay ube. In English, this translates to “The pants she is wearing is the color of purple yam.” Therefore, ube in our exampled sentence refers to the vegetable. It cannot stand alone in a sentence without prefixing it with the word kulay [color] to mean “violet or purple.”
rosas – pink
The Filipino word rosas comes directly from the Spanish word for the flower rose. It is the Filipino word for both the flower rose and the color pink. Although rose as the flower comes in a variety of colors, rosas as the color strictly means pink, e.g., Ang paborito kong kulay ay rosas [My favorite color is pink].
tsokolate, kayumanggi – brown
The Filipino word tsokolate comes from the English word chocolate. In Filipino, it means both the food and the color. Almost always tsokolate as the color means “dark brown.” Example of usage: Ang buhok ni Lola ay tsokolate [The hair of grandmother is brown]. Kayumanggi, on the other hand, almost always refers to the typically light brown or tan skin color of Filipinos and other peoples of the so-called Malay race.
murang kapé – beige
In Filipino, murang kapé may be used to describe anything that is beige in color. It literally means “young coffee beans,” but it can now be used as a color word, e.g., Ang kanyang kotse ay murang kapé [His car is beige]. The Filipino word mura is a homophone that has at least three different commonly used meanings: 1) cheap, low-priced, or economical, e.g., Ang bigas sa palengke ay mura [The rice sold at the wet market is low-priced]; 2) a curse word, e.g., Ang ‘anak ka ng puta’ ay isang halimbawa ng mura [‘Child of a whore’ is an example of a curse word]; 3) young fruit or vegetables, e.g., Bumili ka ng murang buko [Buy some young coconuts]. Furthermore, some Filipinos use mura colloquially to refer to a “young luscious girl.”
pilak – silver
The Filipino word pilak refers to both the metal silver and the color silver. It is used also in expressions like pinilakang tabing [silver screen], which means “larangan ng pelikula” [“movie industry” or, loosely, “showbusiness”].
ginto – gold
The Filipino word ginto refers to both the metal and the color. Golden is ginintuan, as in “golden memories” [ginintuang alaala] and “golden heart” or “heart of gold” [ginintuang puso].
Sa Madaling Salita
Hindi lang pala basta-basta ang paggamit sa mga salitang kulay. Tulad rin lang ng bawat salita sa anupamang lenggwahe, ang bawat salita sa Filipino ay kinakailangang gamitin ayon sa batas ng balarila [rules of grammar]. Sa paraang ito ay naipakikita hindi lamang ang respeto at pagmamahal sa sariling wika kundi pati na rin ang karunungan ng isang tao bilang mananalitâ o manúnulát.
Pero teka, ano na nga ba ang paborito mong kulay? Basta ako, rosas pa rin!
Or, in Simple Words
There is no better way to respect a particular language than to use it in a grammatically correct manner.