What is a Noun?

A noun is a person, a place,  a thing, or an idea.

Let's talk about the way words are formed in Tagalog. This will help you to understand Tagalog nouns.

There are a lot of root words in Tagalog. A root word is simply a basic, core word that can be used to make other words, like an atom, or a building block that is used to make a tower. In Tagalog, most root words function as nouns. It is like the default position: if there are not any extra parts (suffixes, or prefixes etc.)  added to the word,  then the word is a root and it probably functions as a noun.

Let's look at an example from English to help make this clear. Root words in English are words like beauty, bomb, kick etc.

Take the root word bomb.   On its own,  the word bomb can function as a noun as can be seen in the following sentence:

Give me the bomb.

(The bomb is a thing I want someone to give to me. Remember the definition of a noun is a person, place or thing.)

Now with this basic root word that functions as a noun, I can further add things to this noun to make it a verb:

We bombed them yesterday.

This is basically the same way how Tagalog builds up different words. Root words in Tagalog are words like ganda (beauty), ilong (nose), and awit (song). If I take a root word like ganda, and put on a certain addition to this word (in this case ma-) I can make ganda into an adjective.

ganda (beauty)

ganda + mamaganda (beautiful)

All of the long, complicated looking words that we will encounter in Tagalog will have a core, root word embedded in there somewhere. In reading or listening to Tagalog, it is helpful to be able to recognize which part is the root word so you can tell what the basic meaning of the word is. Then by looking at the special markers that have been added to this root word, you can find out just exactly how this root word is being used. That is the basic theme to understanding Tagalog vocabulary and how Tagalog builds words. We will return to this theme again and again.

This is the really important beginning point to understand. The following sections below contain more detailed information about nouns and roots.


More Information on Nouns and Roots

Nouns in Tagalog are either roots or stems(root + nominalizing affix).  There are also nouns that are borrowed from other languages such as Spanish, English, other Philippine languages, etc.

Noun Roots: Inherent, Adjective, Verb

Most roots in Tagalog can function as nouns, but they may be classified into three types,  based on meaning and form.

Inherent noun roots function primarily as nouns, take nominalizing affixes, and occur with pluralizers.

Adjective roots may, likewise, function as nouns and take nominalizing affixes. However, they are not used with pluralizers.

Verb roots may also function as nouns and take nominalizing affixes. They may also be used with pluralizers. 

Inherent Adjective Verb
matá eye gandá beauty takbó to  run
ilóng nose talino intelligence lakad to walk
kamáy hand sipag  industry sulat letter
paá foot tiyagâ patience tawag  call
araw sun husay  skill bantáy guard
gubat forest galíng talent sumbóng  complaint
ilog river lambót softness awit  song
bató rock bigát weight away  quarrel
bahay house kapál thickness hatol  judgment
bigás rice tigás hardness   hawak  to hold

Stems and Complex Nouns

There are nouns that are formed by adding nominalizing affix(es) to a root word.  There are also complex nouns which are formed by combining root words. Some of the more common nominalizers and root combinations are shown in the following examples:

Noun Root(s) Meaning
kagubatan gubat thick forest
kalangitan langit skies
kabukiran bukid farm/fields
kabaitan (ma)bait kindness
kalungkutan (ma)lungkot loneliness
kasiyahan (ma)saya happiness
pag-awit (um)awit act of singing
pagmamahal (mag)mahal love
pagkagulat (ma)gulat shock
bahay-bata bahay + bata house + child = uterus
bukang-liwayway   buka + liwayway open + sun = dawn

Loan Words

Tagalog has borrowed many important words from English and Spanish. Here are some examples:

Spanish English
mesa mesa
kompyuter computer
silya silla
tren train
sibuyas cebollas
titser teacher
kabayo caballo
syampu shampoo
edukasyon educacion
tsok chalk

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