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Names of the Philippines

The nation's Coat of Arms showing its official name in Filipino, one of its official languages.

The name Philippines (Filipino: Pilipinas [pɪlɪˈpinɐs]; Spanish: Filipinas) derives from that of the 16th-century Spanish king Philip II, and is a truncated form of Philippine Islands. During the expedition of Ruy López de Villalobos to the region, the Spanish sailor Bernardo de la Torre bestowed the name Las Islas Filipinas on the islands of Leyte and Samar, in honor of the then Prince of Asturias (heir to the Spanish throne).[1][2] Despite the existence of other names, Filipinas ("Philippines") was eventually adopted as the name of the entire archipelago.

The official name has, however, changed throughout the course of the Philippines' history. During the Philippine Revolution, the state officially called itself República Filipina, now referred to as the First Philippine Republic. From the period of the Spanish–American War and the Philippine–American War until the Commonwealth period, United States colonial authorities referred to the Philippines as the Philippine Islands, a direct translation of the original Spanish. It was during the American Period that the name Philippines began to appear, a name that was officially adopted.[3]

Historical names

The Philippines was named in the late 1500s after Philip, Prince of Asturias (1527–1598), later Philip II of Spain and other territories (1556–1598).

In addition to the Philippines, the islands have historically had numerous other names.

  • Ma-i. According to the Zhao Rugua's (趙汝适) book Zhu Fan Zhi (诸蕃志) written around the 13th century during the Song Dynasty, there was a group of islands found in southern South China Sea called Ma-i (麻逸, Pinyin: Máyì). The islands groups were later invaded and renamed and identified by the Spanish to be the island of Mindoro.[4] This was further proved by Ferdinand Blumentritt in his 1882 book, Versuch einer Ethnographie der Philippinen (An Attempt to the Study of Ethnography of the Philippines) that Ma-i, which means "country of the Blacks" was the Chinese local name of present-day Mindoro.[5] On the other hand, historians claimed that Ma-i was not an island, but all the south of South Sea islands groups and Manila itself,[6] which was known to be an overseas Chinese settlement which was in constant contact with the Chinese mainland as early as the 9th century AD.[7]
  • Ma-i consists of the Sānzhōu (三洲, "Three islands") group of islands: Kia-ma-yen (卡拉棉, Calamian), Bālāwàng (巴拉望, Palawan) and Pa-ki-nung (布桑加, Busuanga).[8]
  • Aside from Sānzhōu, Ma-i also consists of the islands of Pai-p'u-yen (巴布延, Babuyan), P'u-li-lu (波利略, Polillo), Lim-kia-tung (林加延, Lingayen), Liu-sung (呂宋, Luzon) and Li-ban (盧邦, Lubang).[9] It was said that these islands had contacts with Chinese traders from Canton (Guangdong) as early as 982 AD.[5][6]
  • Liusung was the name given by the Chinese to the present-day island of Luzon. It originated from the Tagalog word lusong, a wooden mortar that is used to pound rice. When the Spanish produced maps of the Philippines during the early 17th century, they called the island Luçonia which was later respelled as Luzonia, then Luzon.[10]
  • Las islas de San Lázaro (St. Lazarus' Islands). Named by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 when he reached the islands of Homonhon in Samar (now Eastern Samar) on the feast day of Saint Lazarus of Bethany.[4]
  • Las islas de Poniente (Islands to the West). Another name from Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 when he learned that the Las islas de San Lázaro also included Cebu and Leyte islands.[11] However, various sources claimed that Magellan was not the one who renamed the area, but his chroniclers instead. The name came from the fact that the islands were reached from Spain en route approaching the left part of the globe.[4] Conversely, the Portuguese called the archipelago Ilhas do oriente (Islands to the East) because they approached the islands from the east of Portugal in the late 1540s.[12]
  • Las islas Filipinas, or simply Filipinas (Philippines). Vernacular corruption of Las islas Felipenas; irrevocably became the archipelago's name.[4]
  • Pearl of the Orient/Pearl of the Orient Seas (Spanish: Perla de oriente/Perla del mar de oriente) is the sobriquet of the Philippines. The term originated from the idea of Spanish Jesuit missionary Fr. Juan J. Delgado in 1751.[19] In his last poem Mi último adiós, Dr. José Rizal referred the country with this name.[20] In the 1960 revision of Lupang Hinirang, the Philippine national anthem, the Tagalog version of this phrase was included as the translation from the original Spanish.[21]
Mi último adiós, original Spanish (1896, first stanza)[20] English translation[22]

Adios, Patria adorada, region del sol querida,
Perla del Mar de Oriente, nuestro perdido Eden!
A darte voy alegre la triste mustia vida,
Y fuera más brillante más fresca, más florida,
Tambien por tí la diera, la diera por tu bien.

Farewell, my adored Land, region of the sun caressed,
Pearl of the Orient Sea, our Eden lost,
With gladness I give you my Life, sad and repressed;
And were it more brilliant, more fresh and at its best,
I would still give it to you for your welfare at most.

"Lupang Hinirang", official Filipino lyrics
(1958, rev. 1960s, first stanza)[21]
Original Spanish lyrics[23]

Bayang magiliw,
Perlas ng Silanganan
Alab ng puso,
Sa Dibdib mo'y buhay.

Tierra adorada,
hija del sol de Oriente,
su fuego ardiente
en ti latiendo está.

  • The Philippine Islands. This was the anglicized form of the original Spanish name, used under direct American rule and the succeeding Commonwealth Era.[24]


  • Maniolas. According to Fr. Francisco Colin in 1663, a Jesuit cleric and an early historian of the Philippines, Maniolas was the name used by Claudius Ptolemy to refer to the group of islands south of China (i.e. Luzon).[24][25] Colin quoted Ptolemy's writings speaking about the Maniolas islands, which is probably Manila. This theory was further supported by José Rizal and Pedro A. Paterno. Rizal also said that the country was recorded to Ptolemy's maps when a sailor named Hippalus told him the existence of "beautiful islands" in southeastern Far East.[12][26] However, Trinidad Pardo de Tavera rejected this notion on his 1910 book, Notas para una cartografia de Filipinas (Notes for the Philippine Cartography).[27]
  • Baroussai. Along with Maniolas is the Baroussai which was also quoted from Ptolemy. Barrousai is believed to be the Visayas with Mindanao, thus, composing majority of the now Philippine archipelago.[28][29]
  • Ophir (Hebrew: אוֹפִיר) is a region of islands mentioned in the Bible, most famous for its wealth. Accounts mention that King Solomon received the riches of the region every three years. At the emergence of the hydrography of Spanish colonies in Asia in the early 17th century, Dominican Gregorio García wrote that Ophir was indeed located in the Moluccas and the Philippines.[30] In 1609, Juan de Pineda wrote a diverse collection of literature relating Biblical accounts of Solomon, Ophir and the islands.[30] Former Prime Minister Pedro A. Paterno said in one of his works on conjectural anthropology that Ophir is the Philippines because the scented wood Solomon received from Ophir also exists in the Islands.[31] This notion was however, later dismissed by modern historians as merely alluding and comparing the Philippines' position to the Spanish economy with that of Ophir to Solomon's kingdom—the sudden discovery and colonisation of the Islands bringing wealth and prosperity to the realm.[32]
  • Tawalisi, was an ancient kingdom in Southeast Asia reached by explorer Ibn Battuta. He reached the kingdom when he left Sumatra and headed towards China. According to the historical accounts of the explorer, he met Urduja, a legendary warrior princess from Pangasinan. However, according to William Henry Scott, Tawilisi and its warrior-princess Urduja are "fabulous, fairy-tale, fiction".[33]

Proposed names

  • Haring Bayang Katagalugan (Sovereign Tagalog Nation). Andrés Bonifacio's suggested name for the Filipino nation, intended to be governed by the 1896–1897 Republika ng Katagalugan (Tagalog Republic), although unrecognized by non-Tagalog Filipinos. This was later used by Macario Sakay for his 1902–1906 government that was suppressed by the Americans.[34][35] Historians have stated that Bonifacio's usage of "Katagalugan" was not meant to demean other ethnic groups as the word itself meant "people of the river", from the word "taga-ilog", which constitutes all ethnic groups in the country.[36]
  • Kapatiran ("Brotherhood"), or its semi-equivalent Katipunan ("Assembly"/"Gathering").[37]
  • Luzviminda. A portmanteau of the first syllables of the country's three major island groups: Luzon; Visayas; and Mindanao. The term has sometimes been interchanged with Luzvimindas, due to the territorial claim of the country on eastern Sabah in Borneo.
  • Mahárlika (Sanskrit: mahardhikka (महर्द्धिक), "freeman"[38]). In Pre-Hispanic Philippines, the mahárlika was the common Tagalog term for freedmen, not for the royalty.[38] The maharlika were the largest sector of society, and included warriors, artisans, artists, and others.[39] Unlike the rulers, maharlika did not participate in politics.[40] In 1978, then-president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos supported a House Bill mandating the country's renaming to Mahárlika under military rule.[41] Marcos claimed that Mahárlika was the name of the guerilla force he allegedly led during World War II. This was later proven as a Marcosian hallucination and fabrication, as testified by an Army investigation which "found no foundation" for the late dictator's claims.[42] Eddie Ilarde, who filed the bill, wrongfully[43] stated that Maharlika connoted royalty and wrongfully translated the term as "nobly created".[43] In the book, "Vocabulario de la lengua tagala", the term translates into "alipin na itinuring na malaya" or "a slave that was treated as free".[44] Historians noted that in some accounts, the term means "big phallus" or "large male genitalia".[45][43] The bill did not pass since the term was seen by numerous ethnic groups as "imperial in nature".[37] The proposal was revived by populist president Rodrigo Duterte in February 2019,[46] but the name was dropped a month later.[47] The name change is still supported by the government, although a new name has yet to be determined.[48]
  • Rizalia. Named after Filipino patriot José Rizal[49], in a similar fashion to Bolivia being named after Simón Bolivar.[37]
  • República Rizalina ("Rizaline Republic"). While exiled in Japan, former revolutionary general Artemio Ricarte proposed the name and had already drafted a constitution for this attempt at a revolutionary government. The term has been pushed by many pro-Rizal Filipinos, however, the term itself is criticized by many as Rizal was not in favor of Philippine independence during the Philippine revolution against Spain as he believed that the Philippines was "not yet ready" to be separated from "mother Spain".[50] However, historians agree through surfaced historical documents that Rizal "believed in the supreme right of revolution" but "did not think it timely in 1896, and considered the people and the country unprepared for it."[51]

In other languages

The obverse of a 1944 one centavo coin. "Filipinas" is printed on the lower ring.

The 1987 constitution provides that Filipino and English be official languages of the Philippines. The constitution does not contain a provision specifically designating an official name for the country; however, "Republic of the Philippines" is used consistently throughout its provisions (in English). Article XIV, section 8 of the constitution also mandates that the constitution be also promulgated in Filipino but no such official Filipino version exists. "Republika ng Pilipinas" is the de facto name of the country used in Filipino. When standing alone in English, the country's name is always preceded by the article the.[52][53][54] However, the definite article ang does not precede the name in Filipino contexts.

The country has throughout its history been known as Filipinas. In the 1930s, the scholar Lope K. Santos introduced the abakada alphabet for writing Tagalog which no longer used the letter F as this sound was absent and was usually pronounced by speakers of several Philippine languages as "P". The abakada alphabet also subsequently spread to other Philippine languages (which had been using spelling systems based on the Spanish abecedario). Thus, the form Pilipinas propagated and came into general use.[55]

The Commission on the Filipino Language and National Artist, Virgilio S. Almario urges the usage of Filipinas as the country's official name to reflect its origin and history,[56] and to be inclusive to all the languages in the country that already have the new 8 letters of the modern Filipino alphabet (officially used since 1987) which includes the letter F.[57]

Unlike Ireland which uses the name "Éire/Ireland" to identify itself at international meetings,[citation needed] the English name usually appears to identify the Philippines (e.g., when there are meetings in the United Nations or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in this setting. This is also the tradition even if the meeting is held within the Philippines.

In many Philippine languages such as Tagalog, Pilipinas is used; while some other languages, including Ilocano and Chavacano, use Filipinas. Though the name Philippines is the official name that is used by the country's government for international and domestic businesses, numerous major languages of the world still use their own translation or transliteration of the name Philippines to refer to it.

Language Name
Transliteration Official Name
(Republika ng Pilipinas)
Afrikaans Filippyne Republiek van die Filippyne
Albanian Filipinet Republika e Filipineve
Amharic ፊሊፒንስ Filipins ፊሊፒንስ ሪፐብሊክ Filipins Ripäblik
Arabic الفلبين Al Filibīn جمهورية الفلبين Jumhūrīyyat Al Filibīn
Armenian Ֆիլիպիններ Filipinner Ֆիլիպիններում Հանրապետություն Filippinerum Hanrapetut’yun
Azerbaijani Filippin Filippin Respublikası
Basque Filipinetan Filipinetako Errepublikako
Belarusian Філіпіны Filipiny Рэспубліка Філіпіны Respublika Filipiny
Bengali ফিলিপাইন Filipain ফিলিপাইন প্রজাতন্ত্র Filipain Projatôntro
Bulgarian Филипини Filipini Република Филипини Republika Filipini
Cantonese 菲律賓 Fēileuhtbān 菲律賓共和國 Fēileuhtbān Guhngwòhgwok
Catalan Filipines República de les Filipines
Croatian Filipini Republika Filipini
Czech Filipíny Filipínská Republika
Danish Filippinerne Republikken Filippinerne
Dutch Filipijnen Republiek der Filipijnen
English Philippines Republic of the Philippines
Estonian Filipiinid Filipiini Vabariik
Finnish Filippiinit Filippiinien Tasavalta
Fijian Filipin Matanitu Tugalala o Filipin
French Philippines République des Philippines
Georgian ფილიპინები P’ilipinebi ფილიპინების რესპუბლიკა P’ilipinebis respublika
German Philippinen Republik der Philippinen
Greek Φιλιππίνες Filippínes Δημοκρατία των Φιλιππίνων Di̱mokratía to̱n Filippíno̱n
Haryanvi फ़िलिपीण Filippínn फ़िलिपीण गणराज्य Filippínn Gannrājya
Hebrew פיליפינים Filipinim הרפובליקה של הפיליפינים Ha'republika Filipinim
Hindi फ़िलीपीन्स Filipīns फ़िलीपींस गणराज्य Filīpīns Gaṇarājya
Hokkien 菲律賓
菲律賓共和國 Huili̍ppin kiōnghôkok
Hungarian Fülöp-szigetek Fülöp-szigeteki Köztársaság
Icelandic Filippseyjar Lýðveldið Filippseyjar
Indonesian Filipina Republik Filipina
Irish Na hOileáin Fhilipíneacha Poblacht na nOileán Filipíneacha
Italian Filippine Repubblica delle Filippine
Japanese フィリピン Firipin フィリピン共和国 Firipin kyōwakoku
Kazakh Филиппиндер Filippinder Филиппин Республикасы Filippin Respublikasy
Khmer ប្រទេសហ្វីលីពីន Filippin សាធារណរដ្ឋហ្វីលីពីន Sathéaranakrâth Filippin
Korean 필리핀 Pillipin 필리핀 공화국 Pillipin Gonghwaguk
Kurdish Filîpîn Komara Filîpînan
Lao ຟີລິບປິນ Filipin ສາທາລະນະລັດຟີລິບປິນ Sāthālanalat Filipin
Latin Philippinae Respublica Philippinarum
Latvian Filipīnas Filipīnu Republika
Lithuanian Filipinai Filipinų Respublika
Macedonian Филипини Filipini Република Филипини Republika Filipini
Malaysian Filipina Republik Filipina
Maltese Filippini Repubblika tal-Filippini
Mandarin 菲律宾 Fēilǜbīn 菲律宾共和国 Fēilǜbīn Gònghéguó
Marathi फिलिपिन्स Filipins फिलिपिन्सचे प्रजासत्ताक Filipinsce prajāsattāk
Norwegian Filippinene Republikken Filippinene
Persian فیلیپین Filipin جمهوری فیلیپین Jomhuri Filipin
Polish Filipiny Republika Filipin
Portuguese Filipinas República das Filipinas
Romanian Filipine Republica Filipine
Russian Филиппины Filipiny Республика Филиппины Respublika Filipiny
Serbian Филипини Filipini Република Филипини Republika Filipini
Sinhala පිලිපීනය Pilipinaya පිලිපීනය ජනරජය Pilipinaya Janarajaya
Slovak Filipíny Filipínska Republika
Slovene Filipini Republika Filipini
Somali Filibiin Jamhuuriyada Filibiin
Spanish Filipinas República de las Filipinas
Swahili Ufilipino Jamhuri ya Ufilipino
Swedish Filippinerna Republiken Filippinerna
Tamil பிலிப்பைன்ஸ் Pilippaiṉs பிலிப்பைன்ஸ் குடியரசு Pilippaiṉs kuṭiyaracu
Thai ฟิลิปปินส์ Filippin สาธารณรัฐฟิลิปปินส์ Sāthāranarat Filippin
Turkish Filipinler Filipinler Cumhuriyeti
Turkmen Filippinler Filippinler Respublikasy
Ukrainian Філіпіни Filippiny Республіка Філіппіни Respublika Filippiny
Urdu فلپائن Filipāʾin جمہوریہ فلپائن Jamhūriya Filipāʾin
Uzbek Filippin Filippin Respublikasi
Vietnamese Phi Luật Tân Cộng hoà Phi Luật Tân
Welsh Philipinau Gweriniaeth Ynysoedd y Philipinau

See also


  1. ^ Scott 1994, p. 6
  2. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2009-01-02.
  3. ^ World Factbook — Philippines. CIA. ISBN 978-1-4220-0227-8. Retrieved 2009-03-12.
  4. ^ a b c d "The Islands to the West: How are Philippine towns named?". Archived from the original on March 30, 2009. Retrieved 2005-05-06.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  5. ^ a b Hirth & Rockhill 1911, p. 160, Footnote 1
  6. ^ a b "National identity". Retrieved 2009-07-27.
  7. ^ Scott 1984, p. 150
  8. ^ Hirth & Rockhill 1911, p. 162, Footnote 1
  9. ^ Hirth & Rockhill 1911, p. 160, Footnote 3
  10. ^ Keat 2004, p. 798
  11. ^ "Navegación: Exploraciones: Filipinas" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2009-07-27.
  12. ^ a b c d "Names of the Philippines at different times in history". Retrieved 2009-08-26.
  13. ^ "History of the Philippines". Retrieved 2009-07-27.
  14. ^ a b Halili 2008, p. 22
  15. ^ Duka 2004, p. 55
  16. ^ Cooley 1830, p. 244
  17. ^ Spate 1979, p. 98
  18. ^ "East Visayan History". Northern Illinois University. Retrieved 18 December 2011.
  19. ^ Tope 2002, p. 7
  20. ^ a b "Mi Ultimo Adiós by Dr José Rizal". Retrieved 17 November 2010.
  21. ^ a b "Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines". The LawPhil Project. Retrieved 17 November 2010.
  22. ^ "The Last Poem of Rizal". Jose Rizal University. Retrieved 17 November 2010.
  23. ^ Palma, José (1912). Melancólicas : coleccion de poesías. Manila, Philippines: Liberería Manila Filatélica. (Digital copy found online at HathiTrust Digital Library on 2010-03-31)
  24. ^ a b "Origin of the Name "Philippines"". Retrieved 2009-08-26.
  25. ^ Carunungan, Celso Al (December 23, 1987). "What's in a Name?". Manila Standard Today. Retrieved 2009-08-26.
  26. ^ de Morga 2004, p. 298
  27. ^ Mojares 2006, pp. 174–175
  28. ^ Rizal: "Ptolemy also mentions... five Baroussai (Mindanao, Leite, Sebu, etc.)." See: []
  29. ^ Makmak (10 February 2011). "domingo: Name of the Philippines".
  30. ^ a b Sheehan 2008, p. 398
  31. ^ Mojares 2006, p. 85
  32. ^ Truxillo 2001, p. 82
  33. ^ William Henry Scott, Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History, ISBN 971-10-0226-4, p.83
  34. ^ Guerrero, Encarnacion & Villegas 1996, pp. 3–12
  35. ^ Guerrero & Schumacher 1998, p. 95
  36. ^ News, ABS-CBN. "Should the Philippines be renamed? Historian weighs in". ABS-CBN News.
  37. ^ a b c "Maharlika: AsianWeek". 2008-09-02. Archived from the original on 2009-01-29. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
  38. ^ a b "Historian says 'Maharlika' as nobility a misconception".
  39. ^ Tan, Samuel K. (2008). A History of the Philippines. UP Press. p. 40. ISBN 978-971-542-568-1.
  40. ^ News, ABS-CBN. "Maharlika means noble? Not so, says historian". ABS-CBN News.
  41. ^ hermesauto (12 February 2019). "Goodbye Philippines, hello 'Maharlika'? Duterte wants to rename country in break from colonial past". The Straits Times.
  42. ^ "Palace says renaming Philippines to 'Maharlika' needs congressional action".
  43. ^ a b c "From Philippines to Maharlika? Referendum needed".
  44. ^ Feb 13, Kevyn Tapnio; 2019. "What Does "Maharlika" Actually Mean?". SPOT.PH.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  45. ^ "Miscellany Playing the Name Game". TIME Magazine. June 24, 2001.
  46. ^ News, Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN. "Duterte mulls changing name of the Philippines". ABS-CBN News.
  47. ^ []
  48. ^ []
  49. ^ []
  50. ^ Rodis, Rodel (2 September 2008). "'Maharlika' Reconsidered". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 24 July 2011.
  51. ^ "Did Rizal Favor the Revolution? A Criticism of the Valenzuela Memoirs". The Kahimyang Project.
  52. ^ Zwier, Larry (2011-11-29). "Using 'the' with the Names of Countries". Retrieved 2018-11-28.
  53. ^ Torrecampo, Rex Raymond (2015-07-05). "Why Filipinos are Correct in Saying THE Philippines Instead of Philippines". Retrieved 2018-11-28.
  54. ^ Purdue University Online Writing Lab. "How to Use Articles (a/an/the)". Retrieved 2018-11-28.
  55. ^ Almario, Virgilio S. (2014). Madalas itanong hinggil sa wikang pambansa / Frequently asked questions on the national language (PDF). Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino. p. 47. ISBN 978-971-0197-38-5. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  56. ^ "Bye Pilipinas, hello Filipinas?".
  57. ^ "Filipinas 'di Pilipinas – Almario (Ituwid ang kasaysayan)".

Printed sources