Waray language

Waray (also known as Waray-Waray) is an Austronesian language and the fifth-most-spoken native regional language of the Philippines, native to Eastern Visayas. It is the native language of the Waray people and second language of the Abaknon people of Capul, Northern Samar and some Cebuano-speaking peoples of western and southern parts of Leyte island. It is the third most spoken language among the Bisayan languages, only behind Cebuano and Hiligaynon.

Waray-Waray, Samar-Leyte Visayan
Winaray, Samareño, Lineyte-Samarnon, Binisayâ nga Winaray, Binisayâ nga Samar-Leyte, Binisayâ nga Waray
Native toPhilippines
RegionEastern Visayas, some parts of Masbate, southern part of Sorsogon, and Gibusong Island of Mindanao
Native speakers
3.6 million (2015 census)[1]
DialectsStandard Waray (Tacloban dialect), Northern Samar dialect, Calbayog dialect, Culaba-Biliran dialect, Abuyog dialect and other 20 identified dialects and subdialects
Historically Baybayin
Official status
Official language in
Regional language in the Philippines
Regulated byKomisyon sa Wikang Filipino
Historically regulated by the Sanghiran san Binisaya ha Samar ug Leyte
Language codes
ISO 639-2war
ISO 639-3war
Areas where Waray-Waray is spoken


The term Waray comes from the word often heard by non-speakers meaning "none" or "nothing" in the language; similarly, Cebuanos are known in Leyte as "mga Kana" and their language as "Kana" (after the oft-heard word "kana", meaning "that" in the Cebuano language). The Cebuano pronunciation of Waray is "walay" with the same meaning, whereas the Waray pronunciation of Kana is "kan-o" meaning "that, when" which both dialects has many words or vocabularies that share a lot in common.

During the Spanish period, texts refer to the language as simply being a dialect of "Visayan". In contrast, most contemporary linguists consider many of these "Visayan dialects" (e.g., Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Karay-a, etc.) to be distinct languages, and the term Visayan is usually taken to refer to what is called Cebuano in contemporary linguistic literature. Domingo Ezguerra's 1663 (reprinted 1747) Arte de la lengua bisaya de la provincia de Leyte refers to the "Visayan tongue of the province of Leyte", Figueroa's Arte del idioma Visaya de Samar y Leyte refers to the "Visaya language of Samar and Leyte". Antonio Sanchez's 1914 "Diccionario español-bisaya" (Spanish-Visayan Dictionary) refers to the speech of "Sámar and Leyte".


Linguist Jason Lobel (2009) considers there are 25 dialects and subdialects of Waray-Waray.[2]

  • Tacloban: "standard" dialect: the dialect used in television and radio broadcasts and in education
  • Abuyog, Leyte: heavy Cebuano influence
  • Culaba, Biliran: heavy Cebuano influence
  • Catbalogan: "original" dialect: Pure Waray, central part of Samar Island
  • Calbayog: mixture of the Tacloban dialect and the dialect of Northern Samar
  • Allen, Northern Samar: mostly Waray Sorsoganon mixed with Northern Samarenyo. Dialects in neighboring towns have also borrowed extensively from Waray Sorsoganon.

Many Waray dialects feature a sound change in which Proto-Bisayan *s becomes /h/ in a small number of common grammatical morphemes. This sound change occurs in all areas of Samar south of the municipalities of Santa Margarita, Matuginao, Las Navas, and Gamay (roughly corresponding to the provinces of Samar and Eastern Samar, but not Northern Samar), as well as in all of the Waray-speaking areas of Leyte, except the towns of Javier and Abuyog. However, this sound change is an areal feature rather than a strictly genetic one (Lobel 2009).[2]

Most Waray dialects in northeastern and Eastern Samar have the close central unrounded vowel /ɨ/ as a reflex of Proto-Austronesian *e.[2]


Waray is one of the many regional languages found in the Philippines and used in local government. It is widely used in media particularly in television and radio broadcasts, however, not in print media because most regional newspapers are published in English.

The language is used in education from kindergarten to primary level as part of the Philippine government's K-12 program since 2012 in which pupils from Kindergarten to third grade are taught in their respective indigenous languages.

Waray is also used in the Mass in the Roman Catholic Church and in the worship services of different Christian sects in the region. Bibles in Waray are also available. In 2019, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures was released in Waray-Waray.[3] However, there is a growing population of Muslims in the region with the first mosque, Tacloban Mosque and Islamic Center, through a charity built by a Turkish Islamic religious authority in Tacloban at 2017 which teaches the scriptures and offers Friday sermons in both Waray and Cebuano in general.



Most Waray dialects have three vowel phonemes: /a/ [a], /i/ [ɛ~i] and /u/ [ɔ~u]. Some dialects have an additional vowel /ə/ [ə]; words with /ə/ in these dialects have /u/ in the majority dialects.[4][5]

Front Central Back
Close/Mid i (ə) u
Open a


Waray has a total of 16 consonant phonemes: /p, t, k, b, d, ɡ, m, n, ŋ, s, h, l, ɾ~r, w, j, ʔ/. Two extra post-alveolar sounds [tʃ, dʒ] are heard when /i/ occurs after /t, d/, further proceeding another vowel sound.[6][7]

Labial Alveolar Dorsal Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Stop p b t d k g ʔ
Fricative s h
Rhotic ɾ~r
Approximant w l j

Writing system

Waray, like all Philippine languages today, is written using the Latin script. There is no officially-approved orthography for the language and different writers may use differing orthographic styles. In general, it has become common to write the language following the current orthographic conventions of Filipino.



Native numbers are used for numbers one through ten. From eleven onwards, Spanish numbers are exclusively used in Waray today, their native counterparts being almost unheard of by the majority of native speakers (except for gatos for hundred and yukot for thousand). Some, specially the old ones, are spoken alongside the Spanish counterparts.

EnglishNative WarayDerived from SpanishSpanish
oneusáunoun / uno (m) una (f)
elevennapúlô kag-usáonseonce
twelvenapúlô kagduhádosedoce
thirteennapúlô kagtulótresetrece
fourteennapúlô kag-upatkatorsecatorce
fifteennapúlô kaglimákinsequince
sixteennapúlô kag-unomdisisays/disisaisdieciséis
seventeennapúlô kagpitódisisyetediecisiete
eighteennapúlô kagwalódisiotsodieciocho
nineteennapúlô kagsiyámdisinuybediecinueve
twenty onekaruhaàn kag-usàbaynte unoveintiuno
twenty twokaruhaàn kagduhàbaynte dosveintidós
one hundredusa ka gatòssyencien
one thousandusa ka yukòtmilmil
one millionusa ka ribo[8]milyonun millón

Loanwords and Cognates

Waray has borrowed vocabulary extensively from other languages, especially from Spanish. These words are being adopted to fill lexical gaps of the recipient language. Spanish colonialization introduced new systems to the Philippine society.

See also

  • Waray people
  • Waray literature
  • Waray Wikipedia
  • Languages of the Philippines
  • Samar
  • Leyte


  1. Waray at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. Lobel, Jason (2009). "Samar-Leyte". Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World. Oxford: Elsevier. pp. 914–917.
  3. "Iginrelis an Bag-o nga Kalibotan nga Hubad ha Lima nga Yinaknan". Jw.org.
  4. "Waray: a Major Language in Philippines | English Language | Grammatical Number". Scribd. Retrieved 2020-03-06.
  5. Zorc, David Paul (1977). The Bisayan Dialects of the Philippines: Subgrouping and Reconstruction. Canberra, Australia: Dept. of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University. doi:10.15144/PL-C44. ISBN 0858831570. P. 47
  6. Oyzon, Voltaire Q. (2014). An Winaray.
  7. Rubino, (2001:797-800)
  8. Makabenta, Eduardo (2004). Pagpurulungan nga Binisaya (Waray) ha Leyte ug Samar (Binisaya-English English-Binisaya Dictionary) (2nd edition). Quezon City: Adbox Book Distributors and Eduardo A. Makabenta Sr. Foundation. p. 121.

Further reading

  • Abuyen, Tomas A. (2005). Dictionary English Waray-Waray/Tagalog, National Book Store, 494 pp., ISBN 971-08-6529-3.
  • Diller, Timothy Clair (1971). Case grammar and its application to Waray, a Philippine language (PDF) (PhD dissertation). University of California at Los Angeles.
  • Rubino, Carl. Waray-Waray. In Garry, Jane and Carl Rubino (eds.), Facts About the World's Languages, An Encyclopedia of the World's Languages: Past and Present (2001), pp. 797-800.
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