The Origin and Meaning of the Names of Philippine Cities

I’m sure you’ve already asked somebody about your city’s name origin and meaning. But your friend could not give you a definitive answer.

Some of the cities’ names have several versions, the most accurate information probably lost in time, most likely because of the lack of authors to record history. The Spaniards were reluctant to fully educate the Filipinos, because an “oppressive regime is constantly fearful“.

City nameProvinceMeaning and Origin
1. AlaminosPangasinan (Luzon)Named after former governor-general Juan Alaminos y de Vivar.
2. AngelesPampanga (Luzon)Originally named Culiat, it was renamed in 1829 as El Pueblo de los Ángeles or “The Town of the Angels” in English, in honor of the holy angels and its founder “Don Ángel Pantaleón de Miranda“.
3. AntipoloRizal (Luzon)Tipolo tree, a breadfruit.
4. BacolodNegros Occidental (Western Visayas)Bakolod, an Ilonggo word for hill, slope or elevation.
5. BacoorCaviteDerived from the Tagalog word “bakood” for a backyard fence, after the Spaniards misheard it as bacoor.
6. BagoNegros Occidental (Western Visayas)Origin varies, from a tree called Bago, or from shrub bago-bago. Another interpretation is the Bago River in Molo, Iloilo.
7. BaguioBenguet (Coldillera / Luzon)Bagiw, means “moss” in Ibaoli dialect.
8. BaisNegros Oriental (Central Visayas)Bais, meaning the “catch of fish“.
9. BalangaBataan (Central Luzon)Came from Kapampangan word balanga, a clay jar.
10. Batac
Ilocos Norte
Batac, an Ilocano word meaning “pull“.
11. Batangas CityBatangasBatangas is outrigger of a boat.
12. BayawanNegros OrientalFrom the root word Bayaw, a Cebuano term for to uphold or elevate.
13. BaybayLeyteBaybay is Cebuano word for shore or beach.
14. BayuganAgusan del Sur (Mindanao)Bayugan literally means “a place where there are a lot of bayug trees“, or bayur tree in English.
15. BiñanLagunaDerived by the Spanish from “binyagan” (“baptismal place“) who had difficulty pronouncing it.
16. BisligSurigao del SurDerived from an old currency called bizlin.
17. BogoCebuNamed after a tree called bogo.
18. BoronganEastern SamarBorong is fog in Waray. Borongan means “place with fogs“.
19. ButuanAgusan del NorteNamed after a sour tree batuan. Butuan is pronounced as but-wan.
20. CabadbaranAgusan del NorteDerived from Cebuano word badbad, meaning “to loosen
21. CabanatuanNueva Ecija (Central Luzon)Derived from a vine named banatu. The city’s name means “a place of banatus“.
22. CabuyaoLagunaNamed after a citrus fruit, cabuyao.
23. CadizNegros Occidental (Western Visayas)Spaniards named after Cadiz, also a city in Spain. The name means “fortified wall“, or stronghold.
24. Cagayan de OroMisamis Oriental (Northern Mindanao)The name has various origins, could be named after kayan, kalayan, karayan, kayayan which means river. Another version is the tagay plant.
25. CalambaLaguna (Luzon)Derived from Kalan-banga, literally means “clay-stove“.
26. CalapanMindoro Oriental (Luzon)Derived from the word kalapang, which is Tagalog for branch.
27. CalbayogSamar (Eastern Visayas)Derived from a plant called bayog.
28. CaloocanMetro ManilaCoined by the Spanish from the Tagalog word, kalo-ok-lo-okan, meaning innermost.
29. CandonIlocos Sur (Luzon)It was either named after an extinct tree called kandung or a city in Spain with the same name.
30. CanlaonNegros Oriental (Central Visayas)Named after goddess Kan-Laon, “One Who Is the Ruler Of Time“.
31. CarcarCebuNamed after a town in Spain. Carcar is also a surname of Spanish origin.
32. CatbaloganSamar (Eastern Visayas)The name “means a place of balaug“, a shrub that grows along shore.
33. CauayanIsabela (Cagayan Valley / Luzon)Hispanicized spelling of kawayan, meaning bamboo.
34. Cavite CityCaviteCavite was derived from kawit, which was also derived from kalawit, meaning a hook. The city is standing on a hook-shaped peninsula.
35. Cebu CityCebuHispanicized of sugbo, an old Cebuano word which means “walking on shallow waters“.
36. Cotabato CityMaguindanaoA combination of cota (fort) and bato (stone).
37. DagupanPangasinan (Luzon)Shortened from pandaragupan, meaning a “place to converge
38. DanaoCebuHispanicized of danawan, a “small lake” or “place of lake“.
39. DapitanZamboanga del Norte (Mindanao)A Cebuano word for “place to go“, “to invite” or “near“. Another version is the original name was Daquepitan, later changed to Dapitan.
40. DasmariñasCaviteNamed after the 7th Governor-General Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas. The last name means shore or marine.
41. Davao CityDavao del Sur (Mindanao)Davao River used to be called Dawaw by the Guiangan natives.
42. DigosDavao del Sur (Mindanao)The natives would say padigos when they want to take a dip in Digos River for a bath.
43. DipologZamboanga del Norte (Mindanao)Derived from dipag which means “across the river“.
44. DumagueteNegros Oriental (Central Visayas)Derived from Cebuano word dagit, meaning “to snatch”. Because of the rampant kidnapping by the Moros from the south.
45. El SalvadorMisamis Oriental (Northern Mindanao)Spanish word for “the Savior“.
46. EscalanteNegros Occidental (Western Visayas)Named after Escalante, a municipality in Spain. It means escalate in English.
47. GapanNueva Ecija (Central Luzon)The original name was Ibon. The Spaniards changed it to Gapang, from the Tagalog word gapang, meaning “crawl”.
48. General SantosSouth Cotabato (Mindanao)Named after General Paulino Santos, the leader of the first 62 migrants from Luzon.
49. General TriasCaviteNamed after Mariano Trías, who was the Vice-President of President Emilio Aguinaldo.
50. GingoogMisamis Oriental (Northern Mindanao)Hispanicized spelling of hingoog, a Manobo word for “good luck“.
51. GuihulnganNegros Oriental (Central Visayas)There are two versions of the name’s origin. 1. Guipadulngan, a Cebuano word which means “traveling to a certain destination“. 2. Guihulogan, it means “an area where something fell or dropped“.
52. HimamaylanNegros Occidental (Western Visayas)Derived from “hima babaylan“, a combination of two Hiligaynon or Ilonggo words, hima (foot disease) and babaylan (shaman or quack doctor).
53. IlaganIlagan (Cagayan Valley / Luzon)The reverse of nagali, which means relocated, moved or transferred.
54. IliganLanao del Norte (Mindanao)There are two versions of the city’s name origin. 1, Ilig – means “downstream” because of the over 30 waterfalls scattered around. 2. Iligan or Ilijan – meaning “fortress” because of the frequent attacks of Moro invaders.
55. Iloilo CityIloilo (Western Visayas)Derived from Hiligaynon word “irong-irong” which means “like a nose” describing the shape of the delta formed by the rivers in the area.
56. ImusCaviteThere are 4 versions of the origin.
1. From a defunct Tagalog word which meant “a piece of land cutting into the junction of two rivers
2. Infimus, a Latin for “lowland”. Imus is geographically lower compared to its surrounding towns.
3. Spanish word Centimus, the lowest monetary unit.
4. Limos, or begging in English.
57. Iriga
Camarines Sur (Bicol)
Derived from iraga, a Bicolano word which means “possessors of many lands“.
58. IsabelaBasilan (Mindanao)Named after the Queen of Spain, Isabella II, who reigned from 1833 to 1868.
59. KabankalanNegros Occidental (Western Visayas)Literally translated as “a place with a lot of bangkal trees“. Bangkal is a leichhard tree.
60. KidapawanCotabato (Mindanao)Derived from tida pawan, a Manobo word for “highland spring“. There are also other 12 versions of the name’s origin.
61. Koronadal
South Cotabato (Mindanao)
Derived from two Blaan words, kalon (grass) and nadal (plain) or “grass plain
62. La CarlotaNegros Occidental (Western Visayas)Named after La Carlota, a municipality in Spain. Charlotte in English, a type of cake or dessert.
63. LamitanBasilan (Mindanao)Derived from a Yakan word “lami-lamihan“, which means “festivity“.
64. LaoagIlocos NorteAccording to tradition, a group of Spaniards and some Ilocano natives were wandering through a thick dark forest, and as they reached the edge, the natives exclaimed, “laoag!”, meaning “light“.
65. Lapu-LapuCebuNamed after Lapulapu, the historically famous chieftain of Mactan.
66. Las PiñasMetro ManilaLas Piñas means “the pineapples“, but the original name was spelt “Las Peñas” or “the rock” probably because of the rock quarry to be used in several church constructions.
67. LegazpiAlbay (Bicol)Named after the first Governor-General Miguel López de Legazpi.
68. LigaoAlbay (Bicol)There are three variations of the name’s origin, but the majority of Ligaoenos could arrive in consensus that the city’s name came from “licau“, which means “take the longer route“.
69. LipaBatangas (Luzon)Early Catholic believers thought God wanted to name the place Lipa after the stolen St. Sebastian idol was found on top of a lipa tree.
70. LucenaQuezon (Luzon)Named after a municipality in Spain with the same name, Lucena which means “light“.
71. MaasinSouthern Leyte (Eastern Visayas)According to tradition, the name was based after the “salty” water of Canturing River. Maasin is the Cebuano word for salty.
72. MabalacatPampanga (Central Luzon)Named after the balacat tree. Mabacalacat is literally translated as “abundance of balacats“.
73. MakatiMetro ManilaDerived from “kumakati“, a Tagalog word for “the flowing back of the water“, in reference to the tide along the shores of the Pasig River.
74. MalabonMetro ManilaAccording to tradition, Malabon is a shortened word for “maraming labong“, or abundant in bamboo sprout in English.
75. MalaybalayBukidnon (Mindanao)Translated as “house of the Malays“. Balay is a Cebuano word for house, while Malay is an ethic group native to Southeast Asia.
76. MalolosBulacan (Luzon)Derived from “paluslos“, a Tagalog word for downward or downstream describing the flow of water in Calumpit River.
77. MandaluyongMetro ManilaThere are 3 famous versions of the origin. First, from anahaw, which used to be called luyong. Second, daluyong which means waves of the sea
78. MandaueCebuMandaue is the Spanish version of Mantawi, a plant common in the area.
79. ManilaMetro ManilaDerived from a shrub named nilad or nilar, or known in scientific term Scyphiphora hydrophyllacea. In old writings, authors wrote it Maynila, not Maynilad.
80. Marawi
Lanao del Sur (Mindanao)
From the word rawi, which means reclining in description of the plants found along the Agus River.
81. MarikinaMetro ManilaNamed after Félix Berenguer de Marquina, the Governor-General of the Philippines in 1788 to 1793.
82. Masbate CityMasbate (Visayas)Still subject for verification, but according to tradition, the city is named after the Bicolano word masabat, which means “to meet along the way“.
83. MatiDavao Oriental (Mindanao)Derived from the Mandayan word maati, in reference to a creek that drains during heavy rains.
84. MeycauayanBulacan (Central Luzon)From the Tagalog word “may kawayan“, in literal English “there are bamboos“.
85. MuñozNueva Ecija (Central Luzon)Called Muñoz in 1886 in honor of its mayor Francisco Muñoz.
86. MuntinlupaMetro ManilaA combination of two Tagalog words, munti (small) and lupa (land or soil).
87. Naga (Camsur)Camarines Sur (Bicol)Named after the narra tree which is naga in Bicolano.
88. Naga CebuNaga is also the Cebuano word for narra.
89. NavotasMetro ManilaNavotas is the Spanish spelling of the Tagalog word nabutas, meaning breach in reference to the Navotas river.
90. OlongapoZambales (Central Luzon)Derived from the Sambal phrase “Olo nin apo” (head of the elder). According to the legend, the head of a tribal leader was decapitated, when the boy found the head, he screamed “ulo nin apo!”
91. OrmocLeyte (Visayas)From the Cebuano word “ogmok“, meaning lowland.
92. OroquietaMisamis Occidental (Northern Mindanao)There are two versions, first is it was named after a barrio in Spain with the same name. Second version is from oro, Spanish for gold, and kita, Cebuano word for find or found.
93. OzamizMisamis Occidental (Northern Mindanao)Named after Jose Ozamiz, a former senator who was a native of the city.
94. PagadianZamboanga del Sur (Mindanao)Derived from padian, a Iranun word meaning market.
95. PalayanNueva EcijaFrom the Tagalog word for rice paddies.
96. PanaboDavao del NorteLiterally translated as marketing, while taboan means marketplace.
97. ParañaqueMetro ManilaIt has 3 versions of its origin. First is Palanyag, referring to the sail of a ship. Second is taga-palayan for people living near the rice fields. Third is from Spanish word “para qui” for “stop here“.
98. PasayMetro ManilaThere are two versions of the origin. First it was named after a prince of a chieftain in the area. Another is named after the daughter of Raja Sulayman.
99. PasigMetro ManilaDerived from pasi, a Sanskrit word for riverbank.
100. PassiIloilo (Visayas)From the Kinaray-a word, passi, meaning unmilled or unhusked rice.
101. Puerto PrincesaPalawanNamed after the Spanish princess Infanta Eulalia (1864-1958). Shortened from the Spanish word Puerto de la Princesa, which is Port of the Princess in English.
102. Quezon CityMetro ManilaNamed after the former president Manuel L. Quezon (1935-1944).
103. RoxasCapizCalled after the fifth president Manuel Acuña Roxas, the grandfather of failed presidential candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas.
104. SagayNegros Occidental (Western Visayas)Derived from sigay, which is shell in Hiligaynon (Ilonggo).
105. SamalDavao del NorteDerived from Sama-Badjao ethnic group.
106. San CarlosNegros Occidental (Western Visayas)Named after the Catholic saint Carlo Borromeo. Carlos is the Spanish equivalent.
107. San Carlos Pangasinan (Ilocos in Luzon)Named after the king of Spain Carlos Sebastian who ruled in 1759–1788.
108. San FernandoLa Union (Ilocos in Luzon)Named after Fernando III, a Spanish king who reigned in 1230 to 1252. He was also a saint.
109. San FernandoPampanga (Central Luzon)Also named after Fernando III.
110. San JoseNueva Ecija (Central Luzon)Named after Saint Joseph, the father of Jesus.
111. San Jose del MonteBulacan (Central Luzon)Translated in English as Saint Joseph of the Mountain. Named after the father of Jesus Christ.
112. San JuanMetro ManilaNamed after Saint John the Baptist.
113. San PabloLaguna (Luzon)Named after Saint Paul of Thebes (227-342 AD).
114. San PedroLaguna (Luzon)Originally named as San Pedro de Tunasan. Tunasan means a place full of tunas, a medicinal plant. Pedro, the apostle of Jesus.
115. Santo TomasBatangas (Luzon)Named after Saint Thomas Aquinas born in 1225 AD in Italy.
116. Santa RosaLaguna (Luzon)Named after Rose of Lima, a Peruvian saint born in 1586.
117. SantiagoIsabela (Luzon)Named after Apostle James.
118. SilayNegros Occidental (Western Visayas)It’s a shortened name of Kansilay, a flower plant.
119. SipalayNegros Occidental (Western Visayas)Name was derived from paray, Hiligaynon for rice, which evolved into palay by the Chinese settlers.
120. Sorsogon CitySorsogon (Bicol)Hispanization of a Bicolano word sogsogon, meaning to “tread on a downward trail“.
121. Surigao CitySurigao del Norte (Mindanao)There are two versions. First is it have could derived from Surigaonon word suligao (spring water). Another version is from the Visayan word surogao (water current).
122. TabacoAlbay (Bicol)Spanish word for tobacco.
123. TabukKalinga (Coldillera)Derived from the Ilocano word tobog, meaning “living stream”.
124. TaclobanLeyte (Visayas)Derived from the word tarakluban a place to catch crabs. The root word taklub means a trap device used to catch crabs.
125. TacurongSultan Kudarat (Mindanao)Hispanization of Maguindanoan word talakudong which means head covering.
126. TagaytayCaviteTagalog word for ridge, in reference to the mountains in the surrounding area.
127. TagbilaranBohol (Central Visayas)Spanish version of Tagubilaan, a combination of two words tagu (to hide) and Blaan (Moro tribe in Mindanao). The place was under constant attack by the Blaan, thus the word was born “hide from the Blaan” or Tagubilaan.
128. TaguigMetro ManilaDerived by the Spanish from taga-giik meaning rice thresher, because the place used to be a community of farmers and fishermen.
129. TagumDavao del NorteThere are two probable origin of its name. First from an indigo plant called tagum. The other probable origin is from magugpo, a combination of two words mago (tree) is ugpo (tall).
130. TalisayCebuNamed after a tree known in English as Country Almond.
131. TalisayNegros Occidental (Western Visayas)Similar to Talisay City in Cebu, the Talisay tree is common in the tropical regions in Asia.
132. TanauanBatangas (Luzon)Spanish spelling for the Tagalog word tanawan, which means view or vision, in reference to the towers looking out for Moro invaders.
133. TandagSurigao del Sur (Mindanao)There are three versions of the city name’s origin. First is tamda (look down), a variety of fish. Second is tangad, Cebuano word for lemongrass. The Spanish mispronounced it as tandag.
134. TangubMisamis Occidental (Mindanao)Derived from the Subanon term tangkob, a rice container made of rattan materials.
135. TanjayNegros Oriental (Central Visayas)Hispanizaion of taytay, a Cebuano term for a small bridge usually made of bamboo.
136. Tarlac CityTarlac (Central Luzon)Spanish spelling of an Aeta word tarlak, a cogon grass.
137. TayabasQuezon Province (Luzon)Derived from the fruit, bayabas or guava in English.
138. ToledoCebuNamed after the city in Spain, Toledo. The meaning and origin of the name is unknown.
139. Trece MartiresCaviteThirteen martyrs in English, as tribute to the 13 martyrs in Cavite, who were executed in September 12, 1896.
140. TuguegaraoCagayan (Luzon)It is believed that it came from the Ibanag word “Tuggi gari yaw“, which means “put out by the fire
141. UrdanetaPangasinan (Luzon)Named after Andrés de Urdaneta, a Spanish friar and explorer who arrived in the Philippines in 1559.
142. ValenciaBukidnon (Northern Mindanao)In 1911, Leon Galorport, a teacher who hailed from Valencia, Bohol, named the school he worked at as Valencia School.
143. ValenzuelaMetro ManilaNamed after one of the Katipunan leaders,  Pío Valenzuela. Valenzuela is translated as “little valencia“. Valence means power.
144. VictoriasNegros Occidental (Western Visayas)Named after the Catholic saint “Nuestra Señora de las Victorias“, or “Our Lady of Victories” in English.
145. ViganIlocos Sur (Luzon)There are two versions of the city’s name origin. First, from Bee Gan (beautiful shore), a Chinese Hokkien language because the early inhabitants were from China. Second version is from Biga’a plant.
146. Zamboanga CityZamboanga del Sur (Mindanao)In the pre-Spanish era, the place used to be called Samboangan, a Sinama word meaning “a place for mooring boats“. To fit the Spaniards’ tongue, they modified it to Zamboanga.

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