Western Visayan languages

Visayan languages

The Visayan languages of the Philippines, along with Tagalog and Bikol, are part of the Central Philippine language family. Most Visayan languages are spoken in the Visayas region but they are also spoken in the Bicol Region (particularly in Sorsogon and Masbate), islands south of Luzon such as those that make up Romblon, most of the areas of Mindanao, and the province of Sulu located southwest of Mindanao. Some residents of Metro Manila also speak Visayan.

Over thirty languages constitute the Visayan language family. The Visayan language with the most speakers is Cebuano, spoken by 20 million people as a native language in Central Visayas, northern and eastern parts of Mindanao. Two other well-known Visayan languages are Hiligaynon, spoken by 7 million in western Visayas and Waray-Waray spoken by 3 million in eastern Visayas.


Native speakers of Visayan languages, especially Cebuano, Hiligaynon, and Waray-Waray not only refer to their language by their local name, but also by Bisaya or Binisaya, meaning Visayan language. This is misleading or may lead to confusion as different languages may be called Bisaya by their respective speakers despite their languages being mutually unintelligible. However, languages that are classified within the Visayan language family but spoken natively in places outside of the Visayas do not use the self-reference Bisaya or Binisaya. To speakers of Butuanon, Suriganon, and Masbatenyo, the term Visaya usually refers to Cebuano. Since Tausugs are mostly Muslims, they view the term Bisaya as a religious term referring to Christian Filipinos (mostly referring either to Cebuano or Hiligaynon as they are the neighboring languages). One must also recognize the distinction between this Bisaya language and people and that of the Malaysian Bisaya.

Geographic distribution

The Visayan languages are further divided into five subfamilies. The list below is by no means exhaustive. Asi and Cebuano constitute their own subfamilies.

Table of speakers

Language ISO 639
Lang Code
Aklanon akl 394,545 (1990 census)
Ati ati 1,500 (1980 SIL)
Bantoanon (or Asi) bno 200,000 (2002 SIL)
Butuanon btw 34,547 (1990 census)
Caluyanon clu 30,000 (1994 SIL)
Capiznon cps 638,653 (2000)
Cebuano ceb 20,043,502 in the Philippines (1995 census)
Cuyonon cyo 123,384 (1990 census)
Hiligaynon hil 7,000,000 in the Philippines (1995)
Inonhan loc 85,829 (2000 WCD)
Kinaray-A krj 377,529 (1994 SIL)
Malaynon mlz 8,500 (1973 SIL)
Masbatenyo msb 350,000 (2002 SIL)
Porohanon prh 23,000
Ratagnon btn 2 to 3 (2000 Wurm) (Nearly extinct)
Romblomanon rol 200,000 (1987 SIL)
Sorsogon, Masbate bks 85,000 (1975 census)
Sorsogon, Waray srv 185,000 (1975 census)
Surigaonon sul 344,974 (1990 census)
Tausug tsg 900,000 in the Philippines (2000 SIL) (Population total all countries: 1,022,000)
Waray-Waray war 2,437,688 (1990 census)
. . Total 33,463,654

List of visayan words

kaon-eat damgo-dream

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