Saturday, February 24Not Your Ordinary English-Tagalog Dictionary

What is Pencil in Tagalog? History, Types, and Grades

A pencil in Tagalog is called “lapis” but a lot of Filipinos also call it a pencil. This versatile tool for drawing and writing is widely used worldwide, particularly by architects, artists, fashion designers, and students. There is a wide variety of pencil types and brands available. Unlike ballpoint pens, pencils are more commonly used in both writing and drawing.

Mongol pencils
Mongol pencils in the Philippines

The origin of the pencil dates back thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians and Romans used a stylus, a slender metal stick typically made of lead. They etched the words onto papyrus, an early form of paper. In the early 1500s, a large deposit of pure graphite was discovered in Borrowdale, a civil parish in England. This leads to the production of graphite pencils.

The credit for the invention of the wooden pencil goes to Simonio and Lyndiana Bernacotti in 1560. They inserted and glued a graphite stick into two halves of juniper wood. This process is still used by pencil manufacturers today. However, these pencils had an oval shape to prevent them from rolling away and were primarily used by carpenters.

The modern pencil, as we know it today, was invented by a French scientist named Nicholas-Jacques Conte in 1795. The world’s first pencil company is Faber-Castell, followed by the Staedtler Pencil Factory, both located in Germany. In 1858, the first patent for a pencil with an eraser was awarded to Hymen Lipman of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Apart from graphite pencils, there are various other types available. These include carbon pencils (a blend of charcoal and graphite), charcoal pencils (mainly used by artists), colored pencils, solid graphite pencils (or woodless pencils), and grease pencils (wax pencils). This kind of pencil is often used in chemistry labs or as a handyman’s tool for writing on glass.

Pencils feature markings to indicate their hardness. The letter “H” represents “hard,” “B” stands for “black” (soft), “HB” denotes “hard black” (medium hard), and “F” signifies “firm” (fine). Additionally, most pencils have numbers that indicate their hardness grade, such as 2H and 3B. A higher number corresponds to a harder pencil and produces lighter marks.

For decades, the most popular pencil brand in the Philippines has been Mongol. It was introduced to the country before World War II by an American named Rolland E. Thompson through his company Rennolds Enterprises, Inc. Mongol pencils were later manufactured in the Philippines by Amalgamated Specialties Corporation (AMSPEC).

When AMSPEC ceased production, Star Paper Corp took over the distribution of Mongol pencils from Venezuela. In 2008, a legal dispute arose between AMSPEC and Berol Corporation, a US-based company and the trademark owner of Mongol. Despite the availability of other pencil brands, Mongol remains the preferred choice among Filipino grade school students. On the other hand, college students and professionals tend to favor Staedtler.

Use lapis in a sentence.


Ibinili kita ng maraming lapis. Gamitin mo ng maayos para hindi maputol.


I bought you a lot of pencils. Use them properly so they will not easily get broken.

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