Forgotten Bisaya Words Lost in Time

Just like any languages, Bisaya is a fascinating medium that has changed through the course of history. It has evolved from an old indigenous lingua f

 

Just like any language, Bisaya is a fascinating medium that has changed through the course of history. It has evolved from an old indigenous lingua franca to a somewhat cosmopolitan language as it adopted foreign loan words and creative wordplays of the modern generation. But there is something special that today's Bisayan speakers have somewhat lost their connections with - the old and original Bisaya words we barely recognize now.

Have you ever imagined what the people of Mactan said when they first sighted Ferdinand Magellan and his men leaving from their huge ships towards the pristine beaches where Lapulapu and his warriors were waiting for them?

Good thing, Magellan's chronicler Antonio Pigafetta was kind enough to make notes of what the people said more than 500 years ago. It's amazing to know that much of the words that were spoken remains the same until now and even if they (Spanish) wrote it differently, you will definitely understand what it means.

There are interesting words that are no longer used but somehow provide us with some historical understanding as to how certain words have evolved through time. And the word that most people thought was a Spanish loan word is actually indigenous. "Marica" means come hither. If you notice, a lot of the words were Sanskrit and Malay like "muttiara" for pearl, "perempuan" for woman, "macan" for eat, and "tida le" for no.

It is interesting to note that "babai" refers to a married woman but the "babaye" we know refers to women in general. Some common words have changed like "monot" for chicken, "epos" for cat, and "moboluc" for porcelain.


In the list, there is "alupalan" or St. Job's disease. I'm not sure what it is but it is likely that some inhabitants of the island, at that time, were suffering from some sort of skin disease. In historical context, St. Job's disease is more likely syphilis and perhaps, the Spaniards assume that the natives have multiple sexual partners. 

Exploring the Past

Understanding the words that no longer exist will give us a good understanding of what was life then. Reading or listening to these antiquated words may sound weird and unusual in this day and age but it is essential at the end of the day. If we don't explore the past, our language will go extinct as the dominant language we use every day will eventually become the medium of communication moving forward. Nowadays, kids event invent their own words combining different words from different languages, contracting complex terms, and giving words a whole different meaning.

The beautiful Bisayan language that our grandparents and ancestors know is no longer the same. Many of us have forgotten classic stories and literary works. Do you still know what "aginod" means? What about "intonsis," "rapiki," "espikikay," "dalikdik," "gining," or "risagos"?

I grew up when my mom and dad saying some words that are already out of fashion like "kamisedentro," "lechugas," or "tonto." I am appreciative that it's like living history, these words were spoken by their parents and grandparents and I got to hear and understand what these words meant.

From the Merchants' Mouth

Malay and Indian merchants visited Sugbu as they trade their wares in the past so most of the loan words that the locals eventually adopted were the words spoken by these foreign people. Case in point, the word for merchant in Old Malay and Sanskrit is "vanija" and "beniaga" respectively but the word evolved as Cebuanos adopted the word and used "baligya" for goods or ware instead. The word "banyaga" means scoundrel, which suggests that there is an antipathy towards these foreign merchants.

Garlic may be one of the most common things we see every day but we use the word "ahos." The old Bisaya word "laxuna" from the Sanskrit "lacuna." This term is no longer used by Cebuanos as it has apparently been superseded in usage by the Spanish loan word "ajos." Interestingly, the term "lasuna" is still used in Samar, Leyte, and the Ilocos but the meaning has changed into 'onion.'

Uncommonly Rare

It may be familiar for some but there are words that we seldom use in a proper sentence. Do you know how to use the following words - "kaambong" (grace), "talidhay" (prolonged laughter), "matahom" (pleasing to the eyes), "sagmuyo" (depressed), "bangaw" (rainbow), "limbongan" (cheat), "kahamtong" (maturity), or "bansilag" (motto)?

What are the words that you have encountered but are no longer used in everyday communication?

Sources:

"Marica! Bisaya words in use when Magellan was in Cebu," by Max Limpag

"The Vanishing Visayan Words," by Ben Emata

"The Sanskrit Loan-Words in the Cebuano-Bisayan Language," by Jose Kuizon

"A Dictionary of Cebuano-Visayan," compiled by John U. Wolff

"Diccionario espanol-bisaya," by Father Juan Felix de la Encarnacion

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Istoryadista | History Blog | Cebu Blogger: Forgotten Bisaya Words Lost in Time
Forgotten Bisaya Words Lost in Time
Just like any languages, Bisaya is a fascinating medium that has changed through the course of history. It has evolved from an old indigenous lingua f
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