Colours – basics

The Philippines is a very colourful country and one would see that in the festivals. So colourful you might want to point to every single colour.

The Tagalog word for colour is kulay.

Here are some of the Tagalog words for different colours.

English  Tagalog
Black  Itim
White  Puti

Here is a colour spectrum and its colours in Tagalog. The word “rainbow” has two Tagalog words: bahaghari (mainly used in Manila) and balangaw (mainly used in Marinduque).

e.g. Maraming kulay ang bahaghari. The rainbow has many colours.

English  Tagalog
Red  Pula
Orange  Kahel*
Yellow  Dilaw
Green  Luntian or Berde
Blue  Bughaw or Asul
Violet/Purple  Ube or Biyoleta

* Kahel no longer refers to the orange-coloured citrus fruit the colour was named after. Nowadays, the fruit is called dalandan. The word for the smaller Mandarin orange is ponkan.

NOTE: I did not include indigo. You will rarely hear Filipinos describe indigo.

Here are some of the remaining colours.

English  Tagalog
Brown  Kulay-kape*
Pink  Rosas
Grey  Kulay-abo**

* literally means “coffee-coloured”

** literally means “ash-coloured”

Once you get to the Philippines however, you may be surprised that most Filipinos rarely use these their Tagalog words for colours but instead just use the English words.


Black ang bag ko – My bag is black.

Gusto ko ang red  I like the red one.

Brown ang kulay ng balat ko – My skin colour is brown. NOTE: Filipinos usually describe skin colour darker than brown as “maitim” (black). This manner can be quite offensive so avoid this.

Regardless of whether Filipinos prefer to use the Tagalog or English colours, a knowledge of both groups would surely impress the locals of your knowledge.


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