Name of the Philippines

The Coat of arms of the Philippines showing the official name of the state in Filipino, one of its two official languages.

The name of the Philippines (Filipino/Tagalog: Pilipinas [pɪlɪˈpinɐs]), which is truncated form of Philippine Islands, was derived from King Philip II of Spain in the 16th century. Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos used the name Las Islas Filipinas (The Philippine Islands) in honour of the Prince of Asturias (Spain) during his expedition to the Philippines, originally referring to the islands of Leyte and Samar.[1] The name itself is Greek, and can be traced to the name of the father of Alexander the Great, Philipp II of Macedon, Greek: Φίλιππος — φίλος philos (meaning beloved, loving); ίππος hippos (meaning horse).[2] Despite the presence of other names, the name Filipinas (Philippines) was eventually adopted as the name of the entire archipelago.

The official name of the Philippines, however, changed throughout the course of Philippine history. During the Philippine Revolution, the Philippines was officially called República Filipina or 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 translation of the original Spanish name. It was during in the American period that the name Philippines began to appear, a name that was adopted as its current official name.[3]


Historical names

Philippines was named after Philip, Prince of Asturias (1527-1598), later became Philip II of Spain and other territories (1556-1598).
  • Ma-i. According to the Chao Ju-kua's Zhufan Zhi (諸蕃志, or Chu-fan-chi, literally "Description of the Barbarous Peoples") written around 1225 AD during the Song Dynasty, there was a group of islands found in southern China called Ma-i or Ma-yi, known to locals as Mait. The island group was 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 Mait, which means "country of the Blacks" was the local name of present-day Mindoro.[5] On the other hand, later historians claimed that Ma-i was not an island, but Manila itself,[6] which was known to be in contact with the Chinese as early as the 9th century CE.[7]
  • Ma-i consists of the San-sü ("Three islands") group of islands: Kia-ma-yen (Calamian), Pa-lau-yu (Palawan) and Pa-ki-nung (Busuanga).[8]
  • Aside from San-sü, Ma-i also consists of the islands of Pai-p'u-yen (Babuyan), P'u-li-lu (Polillo), Li-kin-tung (Lingayen), Liu-sung (Luzon) and Li-ban (Lubang).[9] It was said that these islands had contacts with Chinese traders from Canton (Guangdong) as early as 982 AD.[5][6]
  • Liu-sung was the name given by the Chinese to the present-day island of Luzon, originated from the Tagalog word lusong, a wooden mortar that is used to pound rice. When the Spanish produced maps of the Philippines during 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 the island of Samar (now present-day Eastern Samar) at the feast day of St. 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 late 1540s.[12]
  • Las islas Filipinas, or simply Filipinas (Philippines). Vernacular piracy 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.[18] In his last poem Mi último adiós, Dr. José Rizal referred the country with this name.[19] In the 1960 revision of the Philippine national anthem "Lupang Hinirang", the Tagalog version of this phrase was included as the translation from the original Spanish.[20]
Mi último adiós, original Spanish (1896, first stanza)[19] English translation[21]

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)[20]
Original Spanish lyrics[22]

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. Even though the name was very similar to the old Spanish name Las islas Filipinas, this was the anglicized version of the Spanish, used during American colonial period and under the Commonwealth of the Philippines.[23]

Proposed renaming

  • Haring Bayang Katagalugan (Sovereign Tagalog Nation). Andres Bonifacio's given official name for the Filipino nation, intended to be governed by the 1896-1897 Republika ng Katagalugan (Tagalog Republic). This was later used by Macario Sakay for his 1902-1906 government that had the same name.[24][25]
  • Kapatiran (Brotherhood), or its semi-equivalent Katipunan (Assembly of brothers).[26]
  • Luzviminda. Combination of first syllables of the country's major island groups: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
  • Maharlika. In the pre-Hispanic Philippines, maharlika was the "noble warrior" class whose members were the same as the common man, but had a duty to serve their ruler in battle. The word maharlika came to mean nobility due to its Spanish translation. On 1978, former President Ferdinand Marcos supported a house bill mandating to change the country name to Maharlika.[26]
  • Rizalia. Coined after national hero José Rizal, comparing Bolivia that was named from its hero (Simón Bolivar).[26]
  • While in exile in Japan, former revolutionary general Artemio Ricarte proposed a name called as Rizaline Republic (República Rizalina) and had already drafted a constitution for this attempted revolutionary government.[27]

Disputed names

  • Maniolas. According to Fr. Francisco Colin in 1663, a Jesuit friar and one of early historians of the Philippines, Maniolas was the name used by Claudius Ptolemy to refer to the group of islands south of China.[23][28] 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][29] However, Trinidad Pardo de Tavera rejected this notion on his 1910 book, Notas para una cartografia de Filipinas (Notes for the Philippine Cartography).[30]
  • Ophir (Hebrew: אוֹפִיר) is a region of islands mentioned in the Bible, most famous for its wealth. It has been accounted that King Solomon receives riches of the region every three years. During the early 17th century at the emergence of the hydrography of Spanish colonies in Asia, Dominican Gregorio García wrote that Ophir was indeed located in Moluccas and the Philippines.[31] In 1609, Juan de Pineda wrote a diverse collection of literature relating Biblical accounts of Solomon, Ophir and the islands.[31] Prime Minister Pedro A. Paterno said in his one of his works about conjectural anthropology that Ophir is Philippines because the scented wood Solomon got in Ophir also exists in the islands.[32] However, this idea was later dismissed by modern historians by alluding and comparing Philippines' position to the Spanish economy: sudden discovery and colonization of the island brought wealth and prosperity to Spain, which is similar to Ophir's function to Solomon's kingdom.[33]

Provincial name

Name in other languages

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
(Republic of the Philippines)
Afrikaans Filippyne Republiek van die Filippyne
Albanian Filipinet Republika e Filipineve
Arabic الفلبين Āl-filibiyīn جمهورية الفلبين Jāmhwayr āl-filibiyīn
Azerbaijani Filippin Filippin Respublikası
Basque Filipinetan Filipinetako Errepublikako
Bengali ফিলিপাইন Filipain ফিলিপাইন প্রজাতন্ত্র Filipain Projatôntro
Bulgarian Филипини Filipini Република Филипини Republika Filipini
Catalan Filipines República de Filipines
Chinese 菲律賓 Fēilǜbīn 菲律賓共和國 Fēilǜbīn Gònghéguó
Croatian Filipini Republika Filipini
Czech Filipíny Filipínská Republika
Danish Filippinerne Republikken Filippinerne
Dutch Filipijnen Republiek van de Filipijnen
English Philippines Republic of the Philippines
Estonian Filipiinid Filipiini Vabariik
Finnish Filippiinit Filippiinien Tasavallan
French Philippines République des Philippines
German Philippinen Republik der Philippinen
Greek Φιλιππίνες Filippínes Δημοκρατία των Φιλιππίνων Di̱mokratía to̱n Filippíno̱n
Hebrew פיליפינים Filipinim הרפובליקה של הפיליפינים
Hindi फिलिपीन्स Philipīns फिलीपींस गणराज्य Philīpīnsa Gaṇarājya
Hungarian Fülöp-szigetek Fülöp-szigeteki Köztársaság
Icelandic Filippseyjar Lýðveldið Filippseyjar
Indonesian Negeri Pilipina Republik Filipina
Irish Na hOileáin Fhilipíneacha Phoblacht na hOileáin Fhilipíneacha
Italian Filippine Repubblica delle Filippine
Japanese フィリピン Firipin フィリピン共和国 Firipin no kyōwa-koku
Korean 필리핀 Pillipin 필리핀 공화국 Pillipin Gonghwaguk
Latin Philippinae Respvblica Philippinae
Latvian Filipīnas Filipīnu Republikas
Lithuanian Filipinai Respublikos Filipinai
Malay Filipina Republik Filipina
Maltese Filippini Repubblika tal-Filippini
Marathi फिलिपिन्स 'फिलिपिन्साचे प्रजासत्ताक
Norwegian Filippinene Republikken Filippinene
Polish Filipiny Republika Filipin
Portuguese Filipinas República das Filipinas
Romanian Filipine Republica Filipine
Russian Филиппины Filipinɨ Республика Филиппины Respublika Filipinɨ
Spanish Filipinas República de Filipinas
Swedish Filippinerna Republiken Filippinerna
Thai ฟิลิปปินส์ Filippin สาธารณรัฐฟิลิปปินส์ Sāthānrat Filippin
Turkish Filipinler Filipinler Cumhuriyeti
Ukrainian Філіпіни Filippiny Республіка Філіппіни Respublika Filippiny
Vietnamese Philippin Cộng hoà Philippin
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? at the Wayback Machine (archived March 18, 2008)
  5. ^ a b Hirth 1911, p. 160, Footnote 1
  6. ^ a b "National identity". Retrieved 2009-07-27. 
  7. ^ Scott 1984, p. 150
  8. ^ Hirth 1911, p. 162, Footnote 1
  9. ^ Hirth 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. ^ Tope 2002, p. 7
  19. ^ a b "Mi Ultimo Adiós by Dr José Rizal". Retrieved 17 November 2010. 
  20. ^ a b "Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines". The LawPhil Project. Retrieved 17 November 2010. 
  21. ^ "The Last Poem of Rizal". Jose Rizal University. Retrieved 17 November 2010. 
  22. ^ Palma, José (1912). Melancólicas : coleccion de poesías. Manila, Philippines: Liberería Manila Filatélica.  (Digital copy found online at HathiTrust Digital Library on 2010-03-31)
  23. ^ a b "Origin of the Name "Philippines"". Retrieved 2009-08-26. 
  24. ^ Guerrero 1996, pp. 3–12
  25. ^ Guerrero 1998, p. 95
  26. ^ a b c "Maharlika: AsianWeek". 2008-09-02. Retrieved 2009-07-27. 
  27. ^ Rodis, Rodel (2 September 2008). "‘Maharlika’ Reconsidered". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  28. ^ Carunungan, Celso Al (December 23, 1987). "What's in a Name?". Manila Standard Today.,3529476. Retrieved 2009-08-26. 
  29. ^ de Morga 2004, p. 298
  30. ^ Mojares 2006, pp. 174–175
  31. ^ a b Sheehan 2008, p. 398
  32. ^ Mojares 2006, p. 85
  33. ^ Truxillo 2001, p. 82

Printed sources

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