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Updated: 6/21/2020


Austronesian Comparative Dictionary


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wai    wal    wan    war    was    wat    way    wea    wed    wee    wei    wel    wha    whe    whi    who    wic    wid    wil    win    wip    wir    wis    wit    woo    wor    wov    wre    wri    

wager in gambling:   bet, wager in gambling

Ilokano pústaa bet, wager
  p<um>ústato bet, wager
Bontok ʔi-pustato bet
Manobo (Western Bukidnon) pustathe stake in gambling

From Spanish apostar ‘to bet’.

wages:   earnings, wages

Itbayaten chitaidea of earning, esp. of seeking money through work
Ilokano kitawages, salary

Apparently from Spanish quitación ‘salary, income’.


Bikol halátwait, wait for
Kalamian Tagbanwa elatwait
Mongondow oḷatwait, wait for

Kalamian Tagbanwa elat is assumed to be a loan from a Greater Central Philippines language.

walking stick

Ayta Abellan bahtonwalking stick
Maranao bastonclub, cane, stick
Tausug bastuna cane (for support in walking)

From Spanish bastón ‘walking stick, baton’

walling:   woven bamboo walling material

Ilokano sawáliinterwoven splits of bamboo used in walls
Tagalog sawáliʔwoven strips of split bamboo used for simple walls in native houses
Bikol sawáliʔwoven, split bamboo strips used for walling
Romblomanon sawāliʔwoven bamboo walling
Aklanon sawáliʔwoven bamboo (< Tagalog)
Agutaynen sawalisplit woven bamboo walling material
Cebuano sawálibamboo matting woven with a kind of twill weave, commonly used for walling
Tausug sawaliʔsplit bamboo woven into sheets (used for walling)

Probably a Tagalog loan distribution, as shown by the irregular lack of a final consonant in both Agutaynen (expected **sawalik), and Cebuano (expected **sawáliʔ).

want:   desire, want

Iban iŋincraving, long for, covet
Malay iŋinintense longing; temporary craving
Toba Batak eŋenpester someone repeatedly with requests
Old Javanese iŋinlong for (to possess), desirous, avid, filled with desire or love

Probably an innovation in Proto-Malayic, later borrowed into Toba Batak and Old Javanese from Malay.


NGA budzube angry at someone
Makassarese bunduʔwar
Manggarai bunduwar

Borrowing from Makassarese.

(Dempwolff: *pe(rR)aŋ ‘war’)


Ngaju Dayak paraŋwar; fight with one another
Malay pəraŋwar
  bər-pəraŋto go to war, make war
Toba Batak poraŋwar, campaign
Javanese pəraŋbattle, combat; to fight

Borrowing from Malay. Dempwolff (1938) reconstructed Uraustronesisch *pe(rR)aŋ ‘war’.


Itawis bodégastoreroom
Tagalog bodégawarehouse
Bikol bodégawarehouse; storage room; shed; hold of a ship
Maranao bodigastorehouse, warehouse, garage

Borrowing from Spanish.


Ilokano labáact of washing the laundry
  ag-labáto wash clothes
  l<in>aba-ánwashed clothes
Tagalog labáwashing of clothes; laundry
Bikol mag-labáto wash clothes, to launder
Aklanon eaba(h)to launder, wash clothes
Cebuano labáto wash clothing
  labh-anandirty laundry; place to wash clothes

Borrowing of Spanish lavar ‘to wash’.

(Dempwolff: *pan-eŋet 'wasp')


Malagasy fanenitraspecies of mason wasp
Malay pəñəŋatwasp; “stinger” (from səŋat)

Dempwolff (1934-38) reconstructed *pan-eŋet but the Malay form, as indicated by Wilkinson 1959, is morphologically complex whereas the Malagasy form is not. The latter was almost certainly borrowed from Malay prior to the change of last-syllable *e/ to //a//. For abundant evidence of Malay loans in Malagasy cf. Adelaar (1989).

watchman:   guard, watchman

Tagalog káwalsoldier; warrior; follower; disciple; troops; soldiers
Malay kawalwatchman; patrol; guard; of keeping guard over a palace, policing a strait, etc.

Borrowing from Malay, ultimately from Tamil.

water not intended for drinking

Malay ban-ufermented coconut water used in dyeing; water in which rice has been washed; water for use as ink, etc.
Old Javanese ban-uwater
Javanese ban-uwater; fluid; tamarind (orange, etc.) juice
Madurese ban-ourine
Balinese ban-uwater
Komodo banuwater; tears

Except for Komodo, these form a restricted cognate set; Komodo is a loan from Javanese or Balinese.

(Dempwolff: *kendi ‘water jug’)

water pot

Maranao kendiʔkettle
Iban kendiformerly round earthenward cooking pot, usually with spout; now bell-mouthed brass pot with spout or lip, or a modern kettle
Malay kəndiwater goblet
Toba Batak hondiwater jug
Nias kundriwater pitcher
Javanese kenḍilarge earthenware water carafe with a spout

Also Toba Batak gondi ‘water jug’. Borrowing from Malay, ultimately from Hindi. Dempwolff (1938) reconstructed *kendi ‘water jug’.

(Dempwolff: *surud ‘ebb’)

water:   ebb (of water)

Ngaju Dayak surutto ebb, of water
  ma-ñuruttime when the water is ebbing
Iban surutwithdraw, ebb, subside, retreat (as the tide)
Malay surutwithdrawal; the ebbing of the tide; return to original state or condition
Gayō surutretreat; shrink, loss weight
Karo Batak surutto fall back, withdraw (in battle); of a fire, to die down
Toba Batak s<um>urutto withdraw, retreat
Sundanese surudto ebb, the ebbing of water
Old Javanese surudto diminish, decrease, draw to a close; to retreat, fall back, recede, withdraw, ebb, vanish; to be dismissed, removed
Javanese surudto ebb, recede; to die
Balinese surudebb-tide
  ñurudto decrease, subside, grow less, be left over; take away offerings when they have been presented and the gods have consumed their spiritual essence
Sasak surutdecrease, drop off

Dempwolff proposed *surud ‘ebb’, but his comparison could easily be a loan distribution from Javanese into Malay, and thence from Malay into other languages of western Indonesia. If this term were native in the Batak languages, for example we would expect Karo Batak **surun**. His inclusion of Malagasy a-tsururúka ‘to be made to fall down, as hair down the back, or water made to run down a hill, etc.’ appears misguided.

water buffalo, carabao

Kavalan qabawbuffalo
Tagalog kalabáwwater buffalo, carabao
Jarai kəbəwcarabao, water buffalo
Malay kərbawbuffalo: Bos bubalus
Toba Batak horbobuffalo
Old Javanese kəbowater buffalo
Javanese kebokerbau, water buffalo
  ŋeboto treat [esp. an unwanted child] like an animal
  kebo-angive rides to children on the back while crawling on hands and knees
Wayan karavauhumpback ox (possbly from Tagalog carabao, water buffalo). Used as beasts of burden in Viti Levu but only once introduced to Waya, without succcess.
Fijian karavauobsolute term for ox, bull or cow

Borrowing from Malay, ultimately from a Mon-Khmer source (Thurgood 1999:322). Kavalan has several loanwords from Philippine languages and from Spanish that date to the brief Spanish occupation of the Ilan basin from 1626-1642, during which time they came up from Manila in an attempt to expand their colonial holdings. The source of Fijian karavau remains unclear. Capell (1968:85) entertains two speculations: 1. “the name came from Vuda, where the people, seeing reddish cattle, called them after the cloth karavau”, 2. “probably Eng. caribou”. The second of these appears particularly improbable.

watercraft:   small watercraft

Ngaju Dayak ja-jukoŋa dugout made from a tree trunk and tapered at both front and back
Malay joŋkoŋdugout canoe; properly, a tree trunk hollowed out by fire, but used of other boats of mostly simple construction
Sundanese jukuŋa sailing vessel, junk
Old Javanese jukuŋa small vessel (dugout canoe)
Javanese jukuŋsmall boat, canoe (hollowed out tree trunk with outriggers; Pigeaud 1938)
Balinese jukuŋcanoe, dugout
Sasak jukuŋoutrigger canoe

Given its limited distribution in western Indonesia this cognate set is best attributed to borrowing from Malay, to a late innovation, or to some combination of these two.

(Dempwolff: *ulaq 'employment, occupation')

way, manner

Malay olahmanner; air; way of doing things, esp. when the way is tricky or affected
Toba Batak maŋ-ulaperform work in the fields
Old Javanese ulahwhat one does, action, activity (performing, cultivating, being engaged in); way of acting, conduct; sexual intercourse
Javanese olahdo the cooking
  olah-anthings cooked, cuisine
  ulahway of conducting oneself or handling something

Borrowing from Malay. Dempwolff (1934-38) included these forms together with Samoan ula-vale 'make a nuisance of oneself, make trouble' under a proposed reconstruction *ulaq 'employment, occupation', which I reject.

ways and manner

Ngaju Dayak ka-kaiin this way, thus
Javanese kayalike, as, as if, as though

This is another of many problematic Dempwolff comparisons. The sound correspondences are irregular, and even if Ngaju Dayak had not borrowed substantially from Javanese during the Majapahit period (1293-c. 1500), a reconstruction based only on these languages could not be assigned to any of the proto-languages recognized in the ACD.

wai    wal    wan    war    was    wat    way    wea    wed    wee    wei    wel    wha    whe    whi    who    wic    wid    wil    win    wip    wir    wis    wit    woo    wor    wov    wre    wri    


wealth, possessions

Maranao artaʔequipment, tools
Iban retaproperty, inheritance, estate
Malay hartaproperty; wealth
Karo Batak erta-erta, reta-retatreasured goods, gems
Toba Batak artaproperty and goods
Sundanese (h)artawealth
Old Javanese arthaaim, purpose; advantage, utility; object of the senses; substance, wealth, money
Javanese artamoney
Balinese artamoney
Sasak artapossessions, wealth

Borrowing, ultimately from Sanskrit.


Pangasinan yámanwealth
Tagalog yámanwealth; riches; treasure
  ma-yámanrich; wealthy
Bikol ma-yámanaffluent, rich, wealthy
Hanunóo yámanriches, with reference to money; a borrowed form and concept


Kapampangan barílgun
Bikol badílgun
Bintulu bəDilfirecrackers
Ngaju Dayak badilfirearm (cannon, etc.)
Iban bedilsmall gun (usually Muzzle-loaded) as opposed to meriam (large cannon) or senapaŋ (shotgun, rifle). Many bedil were cast in bronze at Brunei, often decorated and with twin barrels, for use from houses or boats bedil keretas firecrackers
Malay bedilfirearm: heavy guns, small arms of old types, e.g. blunderbusses and matchlocks (modern guns are senapaŋ), toy-guns of umbrella-tubing
Acehnese beudéweapon, gun
Simalur bedilweapon
  bedil-fedilplay weapon made of rattan
Karo Batak bedilweapon
  medilshoot with a weapon
Dairi-Pakpak Batak bedilrifle, weapon
  me-medil-ishoot someone with with a weapon
Toba Batak bodilgun, rifle
  ma-modilshoot with a gun or rifle
Rejang bdéarifle, shotgun
Sundanese bedilweapon
  ŋa-bedilshoot, shoot at someone or something
Old Javanese beḍilfirearm (old type); musket, matchlock, blunderbuss fire at
Javanese beḍilgun, rifle
  meḍil-(i)shoot something
Balinese beḍilgun, firearm
  beḍil-beḍil-anplay at shooting
  meḍilshoot with a firearm
Sasak bedilweapon
  medilshoot with a weapon
Makassarese baʔdiliʔweapon
Makassarese (Salayar) am-maʔdiliʔto shoot
Komodo bedihgun, dynamite; kill fish with dynamite
Manggarai wedilweapon, rifle
Rembong bedilrifle, weapon
Kambera bándiluweapon, rifle

Borrowing, ultimately from Tamil.

(Dempwolff: *pakay ‘to use; to dress up, put on clothing’)

wear:   use, wear, dress up in finery

Mapun pakayclothes; anything worn (including jewelry)
Tausug pakayto wear something (as clothes, jewelry, or a belt)
  mag-pakayto adopt something (as an idea, practice, or behavior)
Ida'an begak pakayto use (< Malay)
Malay pakayusing, observing or wearing
Karo Batak er-paketo dress oneself
  maketo use something; to adorn oneself, dress up
Toba Batak ma-mahewear beautiful clothes
Nias faketo use
  ma-maketo use, employ
Sundanese pakeuse it!; clothes, clothing
Bare'e pakeornament; beautiful costume
Tae' paketo use; to wear, have on; festival dress, beautiful clothing, adornment
Manggarai paketo use; clothing
Rembong paketo use
  pake wekiclothing

This is a clear Malay loanword in both of its common senses: ‘to use’ and ‘to wear/clothiing, adornment’. Dempwolff compared the Ngaju Dayak, Malay, Toba Batak and Javanese words given here with Tagalog pákay ‘mission; purpose; intention; aim’, and posited Urindonesisch *pakay ‘to use; to dress up, put on clothing’. However, the Tagalog word does not appear to be related to the others, and the remaining forms do not justify a reconstruction. (see clothing)

weather:   season, time, weather

Itbayaten timposeason, right time
Ilokano tiémpotime; weather
Ayta Abellan timpotime, season
Hanunóo tímpuyear
Mansaka timpotime

From Spanish tiempo ‘time, period, epoch; weather’.


Balinese bunciŋbride, bridegroom, bridal pair
  bunciŋ-aŋbe brought together in marriage by the parents
Sasak bunciŋmarry
Makassarese buntiŋbride, bridegroom; wedding feast
Bimanese ɓuntibride, bridegroom
Numfor bukmarry

Bimanese ɓunti and Balinese bunciŋ are assumed to be loans from Makassarese. The similarity of Numfor buk to these forms is attributed to chance.


Ibanag bajiwedge; split with wedges
Ngaju Dayak bajiwedge
  mam-bajisplit with a wedge
Malay bajiquoin, wedge, of two types: (i) for splitting or widening, (ii) to tighten by filling an interstice, or for regulating the angle of a ploughshare
Toba Batak baji-bajiwedge for splitting wood
  ma-majisplit with a wedge
Bimanese ɓajiwedge

Most or all of these forms appear to be loanwords from Malay.


Ayta Abellan ilamonweed; grass
Bikol mag-hilamónto weed
Aklanon hilamónto pull grass out, pull weeds
Cebuano hilámunweeds growing in a cultivated field
Binukid hilamunto remove weeds, to weed an area
Manobo (Western Bukidnon) hilamunto weed

Also Hanunóo ilamn-án ‘be weeded’. Since the Ayta Abellen were traditional foragers this word is almost certainly a loan from an agricultural neighbor, although it is currently unknown in Tagalog.

weighing:   scale for weighing, balance

Tagalog talároʔscales; a balance for weighing; a weight; a piece of metal used in weighing
Ngaju Dayak tarajoa small gold scale; to weigh, consider
Malagasy tarazú-inato be carried on one end of a pole, in contradistinction to lanja-ina (lanja), carried as two burdens at each end of a pole
Malay tərajupair of scales, balance; tent ropes; rod supporting the heddles of a loom; the string joining loosely the two extremities of the body of a kite, and to which is attached the line by which the kite is flown
Old Javanese tarajupair of scales, balance

Borrowing from Malay, ultimately from Persian. Dempwolff (1938) marked this as a loan distribution, but provided a reconstruction simply to illustrate the regularity of the sound correspondences. However, as with other loans used for a similar purpose, the sound correspondences are not entirely regular, the final glottal stop in Tagalog being an immediate clue to its loan status.

weight:   catty (unit of weight for foodstuffs)

Ilokano kátipound; weighing scale
  katí-ento weigh
Bikol kátiunit of weight, equivalent to 600 grams
Kadazan Dusun katiʔweight measurement (one and one third pounds)
Tombonuwo katia catty (measure of weight)
Malay kati“catty”, a measure of weight of sixteen tahil, or about one and one third pounds avoirdupois
Toba Batak hatithe hundredth part of a pikul, thus about one and one quarter pound

Borrowing from Malay.

(Dempwolff: *papag ‘to meet, run across’)

welcome:   meet, run across, welcome

Malay mə-mapakto receive, to welcome
Javanese mapagto pick up, call for; to meet and pass (something going in the opposite direction)
  ka-papag-ana meeting from different directions
  papag-anvehicle in which someone is met, e.g. upon his arrival

Based on just these two languages Dempwolff (1938) reconstructed Uraustronesisch *papag ‘to meet, run across’. However, Wilkinson gives papag as Malay variant, a form that could only be borrowed from Javanese, and there appears to be little basis for a reconstruction at even a very shallow time-depth.

well:   spring, well

Ilokano bukálfountain, natural spring; well
Bikol bukálspring, a natural flow of water

Apparently from Spanish brocal ‘parapet (round well)’.

well (water)

Ilokano póso(pumping) well
Bikol pósowell (for water)

From Spanish pozo ‘well, sump’.

well-made structurally sound

Casiguran Dumagat tíbaystable, firm, enduring, lasting, strong (structurally)
Sambal (Botolan) tíbaydurable, strong, firm
Tagalog tíbaymaterial or structural strength; vitality; power to endure; wear; a lasting quality; service
  ma-tíbaystrong, morally strong, materially strong
Bikol ma-tíbaywell-made

Probably a Tagalog loan distribution.

wai    wal    wan    war    was    wat    way    wea    wed    wee    wei    wel    wha    whe    whi    who    wic    wid    wil    win    wip    wir    wis    wit    woo    wor    wov    wre    wri    


wharf:   dock, pier, wharf

Itbayaten pantalanpier, wharf
Ilokano pantalánwharf; pier
Tagalog pantalánwooden or bamboo pier; quay; wharf
Bikol pantalánpier, dock
Agutaynen pantalanwharf, pier
Palawan Batak pantálanharbor, channel, pass
Maranao pantalanwharf, dock, pier

Borrowing from Malay. Dempwolff (1938) reconstructed ‘Uraustronesisch’ *cukup ‘be sufficient’.


Malay bilurwheal; blue streak or stripe on the flesh
Makassarese biloroʔwheal (caused by a blow)

Borrowing from Malay.


Ilokano látikowhip
Tagalog látigó ~ látikówhip; horsewhip; lash; quirt
Cebuano latiguwhip; punishment inflicted with a whip
Maranao latigowhip
Mansaka latigowhip; to whip
Tausug latigua whip with a rod and an lash attached at one end

Borrowing of Spanish látigo ‘whip’.

(Dempwolff: *cambuk ‘whip’)


Malay cambokheavy whip
Javanese cambuk ~ sambuka whip

Borrowing from Malay. Dempwolff (1938) posited ‘Uraustronesisch’ *cambuk ‘whip’.

whip; to whip

Malagasy ma-mitsokato beat, to flog, to strike
  fitsóh-anato be beaten, to be struck
Malay pəcutwhipping
  mə-məcutto whip up (as a horse, to make it run)
Old Javanese pəcuta whip
  a-məcutto whip, wield a whip
Javanese pəcutwhip

Borrowing from Malay.


Casiguran Dumagat ípu-ípuwhirlwind
Kapampangan ípuʔípuwhirlwind, cyclone
Tagalog ipu-ípowhirlwind
Bikol ípo-ípowhirlwind

Borrowing from Tagalog into Kapampangan and Casiguran Dumagat.


Kapampangan bulúŋwhisper
  buluŋ-anwhisper something
Tagalog bulóŋwhisper
  búluŋ-buluŋ-anrumor, gossip
Aklanon bulóŋwhisper, speak softly
  bulóŋ-buloŋ-anrumor, gossip, whisperings

Borrowing from Tagalog.


Casiguran Dumagat sípulto whistle (with the fingers in the mouth)
Tagalog sípolwhistling; the sound of a whistle or siren
  pa-nípola whistle
  s<um>ípolto whistle
  sipúl-anto whistle someone
Hanunóo sípulwhistling
  pa-nípulwhistling, a shrill musical sound produced by forcing the breath through the teeth or compressed lips

From Spanish chiflo ‘a whistle’, with adaptations to the canonical shape of Philippine languages.


Itbayaten piitowhistle
Ilokano pítobamboo flute; whistle
  ag-pítoto play the bamboo flute
Tagalog pítowhistle; the instrument for making a whistling sound; also the sound itself; blast of a siren; flute; toy flute; pipe; a musical instrument with a single tube into which the player blows
Bikol pítoa whistle (of wood, plastic)
  mag-pítoto blow a whistle
Aklanon pítowhistle (instrument blown)
  píto(h)to blow a whistle
Cebuano pítuwhistle; whistling sound; blow a whistle, usually as a signal
Maranao pitowhistle
Tiruray fitua whislte; to blow a whistle, to whistle through one’s fingers loudly
Tausug pītuan instrument for making whistling sounds, a whistle
  mag-pītuto blow a whistle

Borrowing of Spanish pito ‘whistle’.


Ngaju Dayak ba-buroŋnot individually enumerated, in quantity (of buying merchandise wholesale)
Iban buroŋsmall contract; piecework; price for the job
Malay mem-beli boroŋbuy all that may be offered; contract to buy the whole of a crop in advance
  mem-boroŋbuy up, e.g. to create a corner or buy up output at a definite price; charter or rent for a long period; withdraw the whole of a bank deposit; contract for the whole of a work, e.g. for all the laundry of a hospital
  boroŋwholesale; on a large scale; in the lump; piecework, in contrast to employment by the day
Acehnese burōŋto accept (a job); payment of a previously stipulated salary
Toba Batak gaji boroŋsalary stipulated by contract
  ma-moroŋwork by contract
  pa-boroŋ-hongive out a contracted job
Nias borohiring out
  gazi borosalary for a piecemeal job
Sundanese ŋa-boroŋ-keunput something out for contract
  boroŋinclude all together (in buying or selling); buy everything, buy in quantity; accept (a portion of a job or the entire job)
Javanese pa-moroŋcontractor; one who buys by lots or in large quantities
  moroŋhave a job contracted for; do a job on a contract basis; buy up an entire lot, a large quantity
  boroŋdone on a job basis (of contracted work); by the wholesale lot, wholesale (as a quantity of oranges for sale)
Balinese boroŋmake a contract, contract for
  boroŋ-ancontract, legal arrangement
Mandar pam-boroŋcontractor
  boroŋwholesale, all at one time (of buying or selling, carrying out work, etc.)
Buginese boroŋbuy wholesale, buy all together
Makassarese pa-boroŋ-andock worker
  boroŋ-aŋaccept a certain job for a previously determined remuneration, either for the entire job, or in proportion to the amount accomplished
Wolio borosecurity, guarantee, pledge; undertake, contract (for work)

Borrowing from Malay. Although the origin of this word remains unclear, its referents suggest that it did not exist in its present meaning prior to the commercial civilization of Hinduized western Indonesia during the Sriwijaya period (7th to 13th centuries A.D.).

wholesale buying

Itbayaten pakiawwholesale
Tagalog pakiyáw ~ pakyáwwholesale buying
Bikol mag-pakyáwto buy wholesale
Hanunóo pakyáwsomething done by lot, en masse, in a large unit; specifically 1) contract labor, 2) wholesale purchase, as of rice, dry goods, etc.
Agutaynen pakiawcontractual work (the parties involved decide on the amount of money which will be paid for the job, rather than paying an hourly or daily wage)
Cebuano pakyawhire for the whole job, buy the whole lot

Borrowing from Tagalog, ulimately from Hokkien (Southern Min) ba⁵ giao⁴.

whore:   prostitute, whore

Ilokano pampámprostitute; whore; easy girl
Bikol pampámprostitute, whore, harlot
  magin-pampámto become a prostitute
Cebuano pampámprostitute (slang); become a prostitute
  pa-mampámto patronize a prostitute
Maranao pampamharlot, prostitute

Presumably a loan, although a source is yet to be determined.

wai    wal    wan    war    was    wat    way    wea    wed    wee    wei    wel    wha    whe    whi    who    wic    wid    wil    win    wip    wir    wis    wit    woo    wor    wov    wre    wri    



Kapampangan súmbuɁlight
Tagalog sumbólight of a candle or lamp
Maranao sombowick
Kadazan Dusun sumbulamp, torch, lantern, light
Ngaju Dayak sumbotallow or wax light; lamp
Iban sumbuwick, fuse; lampwick or mantle
Malay sumbuwick; fuse; slowmatch (of native lampwicks made of the pith of Panicum myurus)
Toba Batak sumbuwick, fuse
Old Javanese sumbuwick
Javanese sumbuwick, fuse

Borrowing from Malay.


Ilokano pabílowick of a candle
Binukid pabiluwick (of a lamp); to put a wick in a lamp

Borrowing of Spanish pabilo ‘wick or snuff of candle’.

(Dempwolff: *bi(n)daŋ)


Tagalog bíraŋkerchief, usually used as a head covering
Ngaju Dayak bidaŋthe width (used only of palm leaf roofing mats)
Malagasy vitranaa seam in a cloth; two planks or more tongued together so as to make the surface broader
Iban bidaŋnumeral classifier for things spread out when in use (cloth, skirt, palm leaf matting, land, mats -- esp. heavy kinds)
Malay bidaŋspacious; expansive; broad; a (Sumatran) measure of length of about five hasta, a numerical coefficient for sails, mats, hides, awnings, screens and so on
Acehnese bideuëŋbroad, wide; width; extended, spread out
Toba Batak bidaŋwide, broad
Javanese biḍaŋfield, area, scope

Borrowing from Malay.

wide-mouthed bottle

Ilokano garápawide-mouthed bottle; decanter
Bikol garápawide-mouthed bottle or jar; carafe, decanter

Borrowing of Spanish garrafa ‘decanter, carafe’.

widow:   period in which a widow may not remarry

Malay édahperiod during which a widow or divorced woman may not remarry
Sasak édahperiod during which a widow may not remarry
Gorontalo idatime in which a widow may not remarry

Borrowing, ultimately from Arabic.

(Dempwolff: *banTiŋ ‘wild cow’)

wild ox

Ngaju Dayak bantiŋkind of wild bovid living in Borneo
Iban bantiŋwild ox (temadau)
Malay bantéŋsmaller wild ox, Bos sondaicus … of doubtful occurrence in the Peninsula
Sundanese bantéŋwild cow
Old Javanese banṭèŋ ~ banṭyaŋspecies of wild buffalo, Bos sundaicus
Javanese banṭèŋwild cow/bull; fighter for or champion of (a cause)
Balinese banṭéŋbovine, cow, bull (High Balinese)

Dempwolff posited *banTiŋ ‘wild cow’, but the available evidence suggests that this form originated in Java and spread from there to Malay and to languages that were in close contact with Malay . Wild bovids are found both on the island of Mindoro in the Philippines and in Borneo, and permit the reconstruction of PWMP *tamadaw ‘kind of wild ruminant.’

(Dempwolff: *liaR ‘wild’)


Ngaju Dayak riarshyness, wildness; not tame
Malagasy diawild, roving, savage
Malay liarwild, i.e. shy or undomesticated but not necessarily ferocious
Toba Batak riarwild, of animals, of the sea, and also of men
Fijian lia-liafoolish ??? (not in Capell)

Probably a Malay loan distribution. Dempwolff (1938) also included Tagalog iyág ‘lust, sensuality’, which seems unconnected, and Fijian lia-lia ‘foolish’, which does not appear in Capell (1968), and in any case differs considerably in meaning. Nonetheless he posited Uraustronesisch *liaR ‘wild’.

(Dempwolff: *benaŋ, menaŋ)


Ngaju Dayak manaŋwin, be victorious
Malay menaŋto prevail, especially of success in some particular contest or of winnings
Toba Batak monaŋwin, be victorious
Old Javanese (u)m-enaŋable, capable, have the right to, assume the right to, be superior, win, gain the victory
  wenaŋhave within one's reach or power, be able to, be capable of, have a right to, be entitled to, have authority
Javanese menaŋgive authority to, grant a privilege to
  wenaŋhave authority, privilege
Balinese sa-wenaŋ-wenaŋat one's will, as one wishes
  wenaŋdominate, permit, have power, be the authority

Borrowing from Javanese, in some cases (e.g. Toba Batak monaŋ) probably through Malay.

wind, storm

Saisiyat balʸiwind
Pazeh bariwind
Amis faliwind, air
Thao fariwind
Puyuma variwind
Paiwan valiwind
Kavalan bariwind
Isneg bálistrong wind, typhoon
Kankanaey bálityphoon, storm

This evidently was the PAn word for 'wind', replaced in PMP by *haŋin. The available forms in MP languages suggest that they were borrowed in the meaning 'typhoon', presumably well after the dispersal of PMP.

(Dempwolff: *te(n)duq ‘stillness of wind’)

wind:   stillness (of wind)

Ngaju Dayak tendohcalm, still (of the surface of water)
Iban tedohcalm, still, quiet (esp. of weather)
Malay tədohthe stilling of wind or rain
  bər-tədohto take shelter
Old Javanese təḍuhquiet (after motion), quietened down, calm, having lost its fierce heat or glare (sun)
Javanese təḍuhcloudy; (of a storm) to subside
Fijian toroto move

Borrowing from Malay, except Fijian toro, which is best treated as a chance resemblance. Dempwolff (1938) reconstructed ‘Uraustronesisch’ *te(n)duq ‘stillness of wind’ (Windstille).

(Dempwolff: *li(ŋ)ke(r) ‘wind around, coil up’)

wind around

Ngaju Dayak rikarbasket of woven ratten in which dishes, etc. are put
Malay liŋkarcoil, of a snake’s coil, a coil of rope, etc.
Javanese léŋkerwinding; coil

Probably a Malay loan distribution. Dempwolff (1938) added Samoan liɁo ‘circle, ring’, and posited Uraustronesisch *li(ŋ)ke(r) ‘wind around, coil up’, but without further support from Oceanic witnesses the resemblance of the Samoan form to the other words cited here is better treated as a product of chance.

(Dempwolff: *tiŋtiŋ ‘loosen by shaking’)

winnowing:   shake grains on winnowing tray

Ngaju Dayak tintiŋpurify by shaking
Malay tintiŋto winnow with a swaying motion so as to separate grain from chaff or sand from alluvial gold; (fig.) to refine; to retain only the best
Javanese tintiŋto sort grains according to size by shaking them on a broad shallow tray

Borrowing from Malay. Despite the consistent shapes of the forms cited here Dempwolff (1938) reconstructed ‘Uraustronesisch’ *tiŋtiŋ ‘loosen by shaking’ (durch schütteln losemachen). His inclusion of Tongan sisiŋ-i ‘hit oneself on the head’ (sich auf den Kopf klopfen) is puzzling, as I find no such form in Churchward (1959), and even if it could be found, the semantic connection with the above forms is strained beyond credibility.

wipe off

Casiguran Dumagat me-pahidto brush against
  məg-pahidto wipe off with something
Tagalog páhidwiping off; a light wiping
Hanunóo páyidwiping off
Aklanon pághidrub one's hands on something in order to get dirt off; clean off (by scraping -- without water)
Cebuano paghídput s.t. on by spreading
  páhidto rub on, apply by wiping

Probably a Tagalog loan distribution in languages outside the Central Philippine group.


Tagalog dáwaywire tied to the fishhook
Maranao rawayfishhook; fishline with hooks
Ida'an begak dawaywire (from Malay)
Lun Dayeh dawaywire
Kayan (Uma Juman) dawewire
Iban dawaywire
Malay dawaywire
  daway duribarbed wire
  daway-dawayname for wiry plants

Borrowing from Malay.

(Dempwolff: *kawad ‘wire, fiber’)


Casiguran Dumagat káwadthin wire; to put wire on a guitar
Tagalog káwadwire; made of wire
Hanunóo káwadwire; specifically the short wire between a fishhook and the end of a fishline
Cebuano káwatwire used for conducting electricity
Maranao kawatwire
Manobo (Western Bukidnon) kawatfine wire, often used as strings for the kutiyapiɁ (boat lute)
Tausug kawatwire (as for conducting electric current, stringing musical instruments, barbed wire fence, snares)
Ngaju Dayak kawatiron or copper wire
Iban kawatwire
Malay kawatwire
Old Javanese kawatwire
Javanese kawatwire

Dempwolff (1938) compared the Tagalog, Ngaju Dayak, Malay and Javanese forms with Tongan, Futunan kava, Samoan ava ‘beard’, and proposed *kawad ‘wire, fiber’. However, the Polynesian forms are not clearly related, and since the remaining words are 1. connected with metallurgy, and 2. phonologically irregular since the final consonant is voiceless in some languages in which it would be expected to be voiced (if from *kawad) it must be assumed that this word is a loan, although its source is yet to be determined.


Ilokano alámbrewire
Casiguran Dumagat alámbrewire (esp. barbed wire)
Tagalog alámbrewire
Bikol alámbrewire
Cebuano alambriwire
Binukid alambriwire

Borrowing of Spanish alambre ‘wire’.

wish, aspire

Casiguran Dumagat haŋádreason, purpose, ambition, wish, goal, aim; intend, try to aspire to/for
Hanunóo haŋádwish, desire
Aklanon haŋádintend, try, aspire (for/to)

Borrowing from a GCPh source into Casiguran Dumagat.

witch:   evil spirit, vampire, witch

Kapampangan aswáŋa frightening spirit creature, half-human, half-bird, vampire-like, said to prey on corpses and unborn children
Tagalog asuwáŋ, aswáŋfolkloric evil creature capable of assuming diverse forms, but specially human form with horse feet
Bikol aswáŋdevil or witch said to eat human flesh
Aklanon áswaŋvampire, evil creature (preying on people, sucking liver bile and leaving them weak or with some strange afflictions)
Cebuano aswáŋa person who is possessed of a supernatural force, which attacks from time to time causing him to change his form and go out, often to harm others, preying on their blood, livers, etc.
Maranao ansoaŋdemon, witch
Mansaka asoaŋdemon
Sangir ansuaŋgiant

Borrowing into Kapampangan from a GCPh source. It is possible that the suaŋgi/ of eastern Indonesia has a similar origin.

withdrawal from food:   fast, withdrawal from food

Itbayaten ayonofast
  mi-ʔayonoto fast
Ilokano ayúnoa fast
  ag-ayúnoto fast (refrain from eating)
Tagalog ayúnoa fast; fasting; abstaining from food
  mag-ayúnoto fast; to go without food or to eat very little
Bikol mag-ayúnoto fast

Borrowing of Spanish ayuno ‘fast’ (from ayunar ‘to fast’).


Ilokano saksíwitness
  ag-saksíto appear before the priest before marriage; appear as a witness
  ma-naksíeyewitness; witness a marriage
  saksi-ánto witness; testify; give witness or testimony
Casiguran Dumagat sáksito bear witness, to witness (as to testify before the police that you saw so-and-so commit the crime)
Tagalog saksieyewitness; seeing or witnessing some incident; a witness; one who testifies in a court trial; a member of a certain religious sect
  ka-saksífellow witness; co-witness
  má-saksi-hánto be witnessed; to be seen
  s<um>aksíto testify; to give evidence under oath, especially in court; to depose; to bear witness to
  saksi-hánto testify
Cebuano sáksito see, witness; testify, say something in evidence; ask someone’s opinion about something
Maranao sakesiʔwitness
Iban saksiwitness, evidence (in court)
Malay saksiwitness; oral evidence; personal testimony
Gayō saksiwitness
Toba Batak saksidetermination, ruling, order
Sundanese saksiwitness
  di-saksibe deposed, examined for evidence
  ka-saksiin the presence of
  ñaksi-anbe an eyewitness to something
Old Javanese sākṣieye-witness, witness
  maka-sākṣito have as witness
  ka-sākṣy-anto witness, be a witness at
  s<in>ākṣy-akənto promulgate before witnesses
  s<um>ākṣy-anito witness, be a witness at
Balinese saksiwitness (person)
  ñaksito bear witness
  saksi-na witness of
  dewa-saksihave a god as witness, swear an oath in a temple
Sasak saksiwitness, especially before a judge
  me-ñaksi-aŋappear as a witness against someone, or in a particular matter

Also Maranao taksiʔ ‘witness’. This Sanskrit loanword entered Malay and Old Javanese during the Indianization of western Indonesia. It was later spread to the Philippines through Malay traders, who probably concentrated their efforts mostly in the Tagalog-speaking region of Manila Bay. From Tagalog it reached areas of the northern Philippines that apparently never came under direct Malay contact influence. Given his usual practice of including pseudo-reconstructions for loanwords with a distribution that would justify an attribution to his ‘Proto-Indonesian’ if they were native, it is noteworthy that Dempwolff (1938) did not include this form. The reason for this exclusion may have been phonotactic, since a reconstruction *saksi would violate his otherwise exceptionless template of CVCVC forms or CVCCVC forms which were either reduplicated monosyllables or unreduplicated bases with homorganic medial prenasalization. Finally, the extent to which this form has been integrated into native morphological paradigms is a warning that loanwords cannot easily be detected by their exclusion from indigenous word-building mechanisms.

wits:   trick, ruse, scheme, wits

Maranao akaltrick, fool, plan
  akal-akaltrick a person without mercy
Manobo (Western Bukidnon) akalto betray
Mansaka akaltrick; crafty procedure or practice
Tiruray ʔakara trick, a crafty or cheating action
  feg-akarto trick (someone)
  tag-akar-enalways tricky
Tausug akkalintellect, intelligence, wisdom, ability
  maŋ-akkalto fool, trick, dupe, deceive (someone)
  paŋ-akkal(someone) prone to fool people; one who tricks, dupes, or deceives people
  akkal-unto use one’s mind, wisdom, intellect (to do something)
Lun Dayeh akalshrewdness, cleverness; deception; an excuse
Iban akalskill, craft, cunning, intelligence
Malay akalwit; intelligence
  bər-akalclever, resourceful
Gayō akalintelligence, but in an unfavorable sense: clever trick, subterfuge, pretext
Javanese akalidea, scheme (as to solve a problem)
  akal budicommon sense
  akal kojaa convincing lie; skilled at deception
  di-akal-ito take advantage of someone
Balinese akalmind; intention
Sasak akaltrick, ruse, deceit
  bər-akalclever, smart, ingenious
Banggai akaltrick, ruse, deceit, fraud, artifice
Mandar akalwits, ideas, thoughts, cleverness
  pe-akaldeceptive, not honest
Wolio Ɂakalaguile, trick, ruse, device, artifice, way out, resource, means, reason, intellect, spirit
Muna akalamind, intellect; way, tactic, strategy, deceit
  akala-i ~ akala-hito deceive with cunning, trick
Bimanese akawits, intelligence
  mbora akaconfused, losing one’s wits, not understanding
  mboto akaclever, sharp-witted, brainy
Rembong akalwits, intelligence; deceive, lie to

A Malay loanword, ultimately from Arabic. Note how the positive features of the meaning in Malay assume a more negative cast in most other languages.

wai    wal    wan    war    was    wat    way    wea    wed    wee    wei    wel    wha    whe    whi    who    wic    wid    wil    win    wip    wir    wis    wit    woo    wor    wov    wre    wri    


wood shavings:   sawdust, wood shavings

Yogad kúsutwood shaving
Tagalog kusótsawdust, wood shavings
Bikol kusótsawdust

Mintz and Britannico (1985) derive the Bikol form from a Hokkien original, and English (1986) holds a similar view of the Tagalog form, although this has not been confirmed.

wooden peg

Ilokano tarúgowooden peg for fastening a door or window
Tagalog tarúgowooden peg for fastening a door or window
Bikol tarúgowooden peg
  mag-tarúgoto peg
Cebuano tarúgua peg or pin to hold something in place or provide support; penis (slang)

From Spanish tarugo ‘wooden peg or pin, stopper’.


Bunun kuða-kuðawork
Paiwan k<ar>a-kudawork, labor

A loanword, probably from Bunun into Paiwan, although this remains unclear.

works of piety, charity

Maranao amalspiritual desire, spiritual goal
Manobo (Western Bukidnon) amalundertake a quest for supernatural help or power by means of self-inflicted difficulty
Iban amalpractices for acquiring strength or beauty
  ŋ-amalfast or perform the proper ceremonies to become strong
Malay amalputting into operation, esp. of practical piety, whether in religious observances or in good works
Sundanese amala meritorious work (generally applied to the giving of alms or to lending assistance)
Javanese amalcharity; charitable donation
Sasak amalwork, deed, act (in a theological sense)
Sangir amaleʔundergo self-chastisement, torment oneself in order to repulse the assaults of demons on body and property
Makassarese amalaʔperform good works in the expectation of a reward in the Hereafter
Wolio ʔamalagood work, pious deed, charity, meditation
Bimanese amagood works, spiritually meritorious deeds
Buruese amalincantation to render someone receptive to amorous advances

Borrowing, ultimately from Arabic.

worm:   palolo worm

Tanga parurpalolo worm: Palolo viridus
Fijian balolosea-worm appearing on the reefs at the end of October and end of November ... It is cooked and eaten as a dainty
Tongan palolosea-worm
Samoan palolokind of sea-annelid (Eunice sp.) ... They are collected for food

Tanga parur is assumed to be a loan, presumably from a Polynesian source.

worry:   trouble, worry, difficulty

Ngaju Dayak susahdifficult, tiring (Malay)
  susah ataimiserable, troubled
  ka-susahwearisome, tiring
  ma-ñusahcause trouble, make difficulties for
Banjarese susahpoor
Iban tusahtroubled, anxious, sad
  nusahto trouble, cause sadness or worry
Malay susahuneasy; disquieted; difficult
  susah hatidisquiet of mind; worry
  ke-susah-anto experience trouble
Acehnese susahtrouble, burden, distress, worry, grief, adversity
Karo Batak susah ~ suhsahtrouble, worry, difficulty
  ke-susah-enbe in difficult straits; difficulty
Toba Batak susaburden, worry, concern, care, sorrow (Malay)
  ma-nusa-ito cause trouble or worry for someone
  ha-susa-anburden, trouble
Sundanese susahtrouble, anxiety, worry; burden; adversity; distress, grief, sorrow; anxious, worried, sorrowful
Old Javanese susahdisturbed, in disorder, in confusion, stirred
  a-nusahto disturb, confuse, stir up, rouse, move
Javanese susahsad
  ñusahto sadden, cause sorrow for
  ke-susah-ansorrow, grief, trouble

Dempwolff (1938) posited this form as ‘Uraustronesisch’, but its distribution is restricted to Malay and other languages of western Indonesia that have borrowed from Malay. It is therefore best considered a Proto-Malayic innovation that has been borrowed over much of the area that it is found, and is indicated as such in at least two of the sources cited here. In addition, Dempwolff included Malagasy usa ‘cowardly, timid, faint-hearted; feeble, weak’ in his comparison, but this appears to be unrelated.

worship:   prayer, worship

Ilokano simbá-anchurch, chapel
Tagalog mag-simbáto go to church
Bikol mag-símbato go to church
Cebuano símbato to attend church services; adore, regard with respect and affection; know someone’s innermost thoughts
Maranao simbaobeisance; pray; prayer
  simba-Ɂanchurch; worship; pray to; godlike, godhead, title of nobility
Ngaju Dayak sembahoffer one’s humble veneration (by making a deep bow with palms pressed together and elbows extended out; also by kneeling and touching someone’s feet)
Malay səmbahobeisance; gesture of worship or homage; speech accompanied by such a gesture
Toba Batak sombaworship, reverence; also a small offering as an expression of reverence
Sundanese səmbahraise the hands with palms pressed together and thumbs against the nose (a sign of homage or reverence)
Old Javanese səmbahworship, veneration, reverence
  a-nəmbahto worship, revere, pay respect to, pay homage to
Javanese sembaha gesture of high esteem made to a superior by holding the hands before the face, palms together, thumbs approaching the nose, and bowing the head slightly
Balinese sembahthe bow with palms together of an inferior to a superior; to greet a superior
Sasak səmbahreverential homage or greeting
  ñəmbahto revere, pay homage to
Sangir ma-nəmbahto make an offering
  sa-səmbahan offering
Makassarese sombatitle of princes; mark of homage made by bringing the palms together in a gesture of respect

Borrowing, probably from Javanese into Malay, and from Malay into Philippine languages, where the sound correspondences are irregular, as they also are in Makassarese.

worth:   value, worth

Bikol balíequals (mathematics); all-in-all; adaptable
Hanunóo balígood, fitting, suited
Maranao baliprice, worth
  bali baliuse, relevance, importance, fit
Manobo (Western Bukidnon) balivalue; estimate the value of something in terms of money or goods
Tiruray baliworth (as to be worth ... )
Karo Batak baliequal, identical; as like; repaid, of a debt
Dairi-Pakpak Batak balieasily repaid, of a debt; same, identical
Uma baliagree with one another
Chamorro baliworth, value

The Philippine forms and Chamorro bali apparently derive from Spanish valer. The remaining items may have the same source, or may reflect *baliw₂.

woven bamboo walling material

Ilokano sawáliinterwoven splits of bamboo used in walls
Tagalog sawáliʔwoven strips of split bamboo used for simple walls in native houses
Bikol sawáliʔwoven, split bamboo strips used for walling
Romblomanon sawāliʔwoven bamboo walling
Aklanon sawáliʔwoven bamboo (< Tagalog)
Agutaynen sawalisplit woven bamboo walling material
Cebuano sawálibamboo matting woven with a kind of twill weave, commonly used for walling
Tausug sawaliʔsplit bamboo woven into sheets (used for walling)

Probably a Tagalog loan distribution, as shown by the irregular lack of a final consonant in both Agutaynen (expected **sawalik), and Cebuano (expected **sawáliʔ).

wai    wal    wan    war    was    wat    way    wea    wed    wee    wei    wel    wha    whe    whi    who    wic    wid    wil    win    wip    wir    wis    wit    woo    wor    wov    wre    wri    


wrestle, struggle with

Ibatan torsito finger-wrestle someone
Ilokano túrsifinger wrestling
  ag-túrsito finger wrestle, twist
Kankanaey men-tulsíto wrestle, holding each other by one finger of each hand
Casiguran Dumagat tórsea contest of strength (for two boys or men to hook their middle fingers together, and each trying to bend his opponent’s arm down)
Bikol mag-túsayto struggle with one another; to grapple with
Cebuano tursitwist a limb, wring a neck

From Spanish torcer, ‘twist’.

(Dempwolff: *surat ‘writing’)


Kavalan sulalletter, book
  pa-sulalto write to someone
  sa-sulal-ansomething to write with
  s<m>ulalto write
  s<m>u-sulalto keep on writing
Saaroa suɬatəpaper
  s<um>a-suɬatəto write
Siraya sulatbook, letter
  s<m>ulatto write
Paiwan (Makazayazaya) sunatpaper
Ilokano súratletter; writing; note; anything written
  ag-súratto write
  ag-s<inn>úratto write to each other
  i-súratto inscribe
  ka-surát-ancontract, written agreement
  s<in>úratarticle; essay; document
  surát-anto write to someone
Bontok súlatpaper; letter
  ʔi-súlatto write
Kankanaey súlatpaper (said to be from Ilokano súrat)
Ibaloy solatwriting, penmanship
Pangasinan súlatletter
  ma-núlatto write
  ka-sulat-ánthings one likes to write; persons one likes to write to
Kapampangan sulatletter, thing written
  s<um>ulatto write
Tagalog súlatwriting; handwriting; letter (correspondence); epistle (religious term)
  i-súlatto write (down) something
  mag-sulátto write much; to write continuously or repeatedly
  ma-núlatto write professionally
  ka-sulat-áncorrespondent; person who exchanges letters with another; pen pal
  ka-sulát-andeed; a written statement containing a grant; paper; document
  sulát-anto write to; to write on; to fill a form or blank
  sulat-ánmaterial on which writing is done; exchange of letters; writing; used for writing
  sulát-into write out a topic or something definite; to write down; to put down in writing
  sulat-ínthings still to be written down
Hanunóo súratwriting, especially on bamboo; a letter so written; a character, one “letter” of the Indic-derived syllabary used by the Hanunóo
  s<um>úratto write
Cebuano sulátto write something; write a letter, story; letter, mail; written or printed message
  pa-nulátwriting as an avocation or profession
Manobo (Western Bukidnon) surata letter; writing; to write
Tiruray sulata letter; to write
Kadazan Dusun suatwriting, letter, note, inscription
  mo-nuatto write, mark down, inscribe
  ko-suat-anact of writing
  suat-anto write (a letter)
  suat-on(to be) written
Ida'an begak surata letter
Kayan suratletter (< Malay)
  mə-ñuratto write
Ngaju Dayak suratletter; book; writing
  ma-ñuratto write
Malagasy súratrawriting; markings; color
  ma-núratrato write; to arrange silk of different colors in the loom
  surát-anato be written
Malay suratthing written; letter; epistle
  surat-anscript; writing
  surat-kanto cause to be written, e.g. to imprint on coins
Simalur suradbook; writing
Karo Batak suratletter; writing; thing written, book
Toba Batak suratletter
  ma-nuratto write
  tar-suratbe written
Nias suraa letter; book; writing
  ma-nurato write
Old Javanese surat(drawn) line, writing, drawing, letter
  ma-suratwith letters, written
  a-nuratto draw on, write on, write (a letter)
  s<in>uratto draw on, write on, write (a letter)
Javanese suratletter
Balinese suratwriting, letter, drawing, bill, written account; to write
  s<in>uratbe written
Sasak surata letter
  ñuratto write
Sangir suratəɁa letter
  ma-nuratəɁto write a letter
Tontemboan surata letter (< Malay)
Bare'e suramake an incision on the trunk of a sugar palm so that the sap doesn’t flow down the trunk, but instead follows the conduit into a bamboo case; book; piece of writing; letter (< Buginese)
Tae' suraɁincise figures in something, carving of wood or bamboo; engrave; write; draw or mark
  banua suraɁa house decorated with carving
  ma-suraɁdrawn; spotted; with markings all over, as the skin of a snake
Mandar suraɁbook
Makassarese suraɁwriting, letter (< Malay)
Wolio suraletter, epistle
Muna suraletter (< Malay)
  po-surasend letters to each other, correspond
Manggarai surakletter; book; writing
Rembong surakletter; book; writing
Lamaholot suraɁletter, written communication
Tetun suratpaper, letter, note, book, journal, or any document
Fordata suratletter; book

Also Javanese (Krama)) serat ‘letter’. Most of this comparison is due to borrowing, ultimately from Malay. Dempwolff (1938) reconstructed *surat ‘writing’, and Blust (1976:33) noted that “Since all reported ‘indigenous’ scripts in Indonesia and the Philippines ... appear to be based on Indian originals, there is no known physical reason to suppose a pre-Indian tradition of ‘bamboo literacy’. *surat is not a Sanskrit loanword, however, invariably and exclusively refers to writing, and must have existed in western Indonesia only slightly later than the earliest inscriptions in an Indian-based script. It therefore seems unlikely that writing was introduced to Indonesia entirely as a result of direct or stimulus diffusion from India.”

Whatever the origin of this word, it now seems safest to assume that it came to refer to writing in the Malay world only after the introduction of Indic scripts. What is most remarkable is its occurrence (with irregular sound correspondences) in several Formosan languages, presumably as a result of the Dutch commericial and proselytizing presence in southwest Taiwan from 1624-1661. Since the short-lived Dutch colonization of Taiwan was staged from Batavia it is very likely that it would have included Malay speakers, and one can only assume in the absence of direct historical evidence that some of these Malays introduced elements of literacy to the Siraya. However, the historical records we have indicate that the earliest Dutch contact with Taiwan in October, 1623, was a fleet under the command of Cornelis Reyerson that included “a small following of soldiers and Bandanese slaves”, but apparently no Malays (Blusse and Roessingh 1984:66). Nonetheless, the observations that were made of the Siraya-speaking Soulang village claim that the population at that time already used “many Malay words”. While this can be interpreted as meaning only that the Dutch recognized Siraya cognates of Malay words they already knew -- much as they did two decades earlier in stating that there was “much of Malay in Malagasy” -- several cited forms are distinctively Malay, and not Siraya, as with babij ‘pig’, tacot ‘afraid’, boesoek ‘rotten’, maccan ‘to eat’, or ican ‘fish’. Some of the Dutch in this contingent speculated that these words might have been introduced by Malay sailors from Johore who had preceded them in reaching southwest Taiwan, but this raises the question why similar contacts would not have happened along the west coast of northern Luzon. The presence of sulal in Kavalan is more plausibly attributed to contact with Tagalog speakers who accompanied the Spanish during their even briefer colonization of northeast Taiwan from 1626-1642.

Finally, the forms in some of the languages of Sulawesi, as Bare'e and Tae' suggest that Malay surat may have arisen from PWMP *suRat ‘to carve, incise’, and spread widely during the apogee of Sriwijaya after undergoing semantic change. A connection with PWMP *suRat ‘wound’ seems less likely.


Ngaju Dayak tuliswriting; drawing, painting
Malay tulisdelineating in contrasted color, e.g. in paint, dye or ink, in contrast to carving, inlaying, engraving, embroidery, etc.; writing
  mə-nulisto write
Gayō tulisto write
Toba Batak tulisstripe on an animal’s hide
  mar-tulisto be striped
Old Javanese tulispainting, drawing; writing, letter
  a-nulisto draw on, paint on, write on
  t<um>ulisto draw on, paint on, write on
Javanese nulisto write (in general)
  tulis-anwriting, script

Borrowing from Malay, although the gloss of the Toba Batak form suggests that this may have been a more widespread form that originally referred to natural markings, as on animal pelts. Dempwolff (1938) proposed an etymological chimera, comparing the western Indonesian forms with Tagalog túlis ‘point, sharp end; spire;; anything tapering and pointed’, which is better assigned to PWMP *tirus ‘tapering, attenuating to a point’, and with Samoan tusi ‘point (with finger); draw; write’, etc., and other Polynesian forms that are best assigned to PCEMP *tusi ‘draw, make marks or designs’.

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Austronesian Comparative Dictionary, web edition
Robert Blust and Stephen Trussel
2010: revision 6/21/2020
email: Blust (content) – Trussel (production)