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In Tagalog: Mabuhay!



  1. (verb) to live
  2. a greeting that means, “May you live long!”


Word Guide:

Mabuhay ka! ~ May you live long! (when speaking with one person)

Mabuhay kayo! ~ May you live long! (when speaking with two or more people)


Say It Correctly:

Mabuhay – (mah-boo-hay) with intonation on the second syllable

Reminder: In Tagalog/Filipino language, vowels are always pronounced in their short form. For example, short “a” like in bat, cat, mat. Not long “a” like in Kate, rate, hate.



What is “Mabuhay” and why do Filipinos say that as a greeting?


The word “Mabuhay” is a verb (imperative form) coming from the root word “buhay” (noun) which means “life”.


There are multiple English translations for this word if used as a greeting. It is sometimes mistaken as “hello” or “welcome” by some cultures but it actually means more than that. The complete phrase for the greeting is “Mabuhay ka!” which literally means “Be alive!” but a deeper meaning would be similar to saying, “May you live long!” or “May you have a good life!” Other Filipinos may have a different translation for this word as a greeting, but in general, the word is all about well-wishes given to another person or group. This is frequently mentioned to newly-arrived foreigners in the Philippines to mean a warm welcome.


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A girl in colourful pink costume for the Pintaflores Festival in San Carlos, Negros Occidental | The colourful Philippine festivals are reflections of the country’s warm and vibrant culture…all captured in one word — Mabuhay! | About the Pintaflores Festival in November ~ ‘Pintaflores’ comes the Spanish words “pinta” or “pintados” (painted ones) and “flores” (flowers).



Saying It All In One Word

What’s nice about greeting someone “Mabuhay” is that you not only welcome a person but there is also fire and vibrancy in the greeting as this is synonymous to blessing another person with success, happiness and a rich life.


In other Asian countries, the greeting “Mabuhay” has close counterparts but not totally the same. China has the word “Banzei” in the 8th century to show respect to their Emperor. The word was introduced to the Japanese who used the word “Banzai” after the Meiji Restoration period, a greeting that is shouted to acknowledge the presence of the Emperor among the common people. During WWII in the Philippines, the word “Banzai” was also used by the Japanese here and it is a greeting that they expected the Filipinos to say whenever a person of authority (like a Japanese officer) was present. However, “Banzai” is not the same as “Mabuhay”.


“Mabuhay” is a warm greeting that extends friendship even to a stranger.


“Banzai” on the other hand is a form of respectful submission to a royalty, and also used as a battle cry which means “Long live His Majesty the Emperor!”


“Mabuhay” is a short and simple word and yet its meeting is quite profound, ardent, and dynamic — a reflection of the Filipino culture.


Well, to all of you who avidly read and study our weekly “Tagalog Word of the Week”…Mabuhay kayo! 

And to our Japanese friends… Nagai shiawasean jinsei o okutte kudasai!  

(I wish for you a happy and long life. = Mabuhay kayo!) (* ˘⌣˘)◞[_]


Author: Marcelle Villegas
Photo source:
Girl in pink costume –








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