Filipino slang terms: Romance and love edition I Inquirer USA

A crash course in Filipino slang: Romance edition

Filipinos have lots of love (the romantic type, specifically) in our hearts. And all that love has seeped its way into our day to day language
/ 09:45 AM August 20, 2023

13 romance-adjacent Filipino slang to add to your dictionary

13 romance-adjacent Filipino slang to add to your dictionary | Photo by Laura Ockel on Unsplash

Just like typical languages, the language of love tends to evolve—that is, when it comes to the slang terms used to refer to it. Filipinos are known to be loving, and our language reflects how much love we have in our hearts.

Aside from songs and other types of media, language has accommodated our love-loving nature. There’s a whole other world of words, terms of endearment, and expressions used to describe unique instances in relationships.


If you want to be more discreet in describing your relationships (like hide them from your conservative Filipino parents who aren’t up to date in the Filipino slang department), here are some Filipino slang you can use to show and describe your love.

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If your friend tells you they’ve been “basted” or “busted,” that’s usually not a good thing. The word “basted” comes from the word “busted,” which means they’ve been rejected or dumped by their budding romantic interest. In a conversation, you can say “Lodz, binasted ako,” which means it’s time to bring out the karaoke, sisig, and Red Horse.

Bebe time

“Bebe time” simply means spending quality time with your romantic partner. “Bebe” is a common term of endearment used to refer to your significant other. By the principle of transitive property (or something, I’m bad at math) “bebe time” means shunning your friends and family in favor of spending time with your partner. Among single friends, declarations of bebe time usually garner sighs and eyerolls. Believe me, I’ve definitely rolled my eyes and sighed once or twice.


The term “bebequoh” is actually more of a meme than a term of endearment, but it also happens to be a little bit of both. “Bebequoh” is the mutated version of the term “bebe ko” or “my baby” in English. People usually poke fun at their significant others by calling them “bebequoh.” I wouldn’t know since I don’t have one.


In every relationship (situationship or otherwise), there comes a time to DTR. “DTR” is an acronym for “defining the relationship.” It’s usually an anxiety-ridden task for people who want something more serious. It doesn’t always go the way people want, but it does offer a lot in terms of clarity.


“HHWW” is another acronym—this time, for an action. “HHWW” stands for holding hands while walking, which is something a lot of couples do (whether we like it or not).

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The concept of hugot can be complicated, but in terms of romance, it’s simply “romantic angst” or “romantic angsting.” For example, if your friend is posting songs like “Halik” by Aegis or “Sana Maulit Muli” by Gary V on their stories, that’s a form of hugot.



Among all the Filipino slang terms, “jowa” is probably the most important. “Jowa” refers to a significant other, regardless of gender. It’s a slang term that can be used to directly substitute the words “girlfriend” and “boyfriend.” Used in a sentence, it can sound a lot like “I don’t have a jowa” or “I’m taking applications for a jowa.”


When it comes to romantic slang, attempting to explain the concept of “kilig” is akin to beating a dead horse to its second death. The most succinct explanation of the term, though, is simply the feeling of romantic excitement.

When you see a text from someone you’ve been consistently DM-ing in hopes of something romantic, the feeling you get seeing their name pop up is kilig. Or when your significant other sends you a gift out of the blue, the eruption of butterflies in your stomach is exactly what kilig is.

You can also get “kilig” for someone. Like if your friend’s longtime partner finally proposes, you can feel kilig for your buddy.


If you can’t already tell, Filipinos love abbreviations. “LDR” is the abbreviation for “long distance relationship,” which has a success rate of extremely low to never. While I personally think most “LDRs” are doomed, I’ve been proven wrong on occasion, which of course, prompts the feeling of “kilig.”


“MU” is another one of those Filipino-loved abbreviations. It stands for “mutual understanding,” but is usually used to describe the stage before a formal relationship (or calling things off). In English terms, the closest similar word is probably “dating” or “the talking stage.” It can also be used to describe a person you’re in a situationship with. In Bisaya, “MU” also stands for “murag uyab” or “like a significant other.” That’s probably the most accurate definition.


After your friend’s MU decides to call things off and they’re hugot-ing all over the place, that sorry state is described as “sawi.” In formal Filipino, “sawi” means unfortunate or unlucky. In the romantic context though, “sawi” is a term used to describe a romantic sense of sadness from a lost relationship, a lost potential relationship, or the longing of a romantic relationship.

You can be “sawi” over a person or a relationship, and the cure is a few bottles of beer and a plate of sizzling sisig. It works over a quarter of the time—or so I’ve been told.

You may also like: Trendy Filipino slang every Fil-Am should know


Before the term situationship was a thing, there was “syota.” “Syota” (pronounced sho-ta) is an amalgamation of the phrase “short time,” which refers to the other person in your short-term relationship. Before things are made official, the person you’re in a situationship with can be referred to as “syota” by yourself or by your friends. If you guys aren’t official yet, you can substitute the word “jowa” with “syota.”


For all the romantic love Filipinos have in our heart, we have an equal amount of romantic fear. “Torpe” is a term used to describe someone who has romantic feelings for another person, but won’t ‘fess up. If your friend has been mooning over someone for years and still won’t scrounge up the courage to confess, that’s a “torpe” right there.

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