Indo-Aryan loanwords in Tamil

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The Tamil language has few words common in Indo-Aryan, Prakrit, Pali and Sanskrit,[1][2] ever since the early 1st millennium CE, when the Sangam period Chola kingdoms became influenced by spread of Jainism, Buddhism and early Brahmanism. Many of these loans are obscured by adaptions to Tamil phonology.[3]

This is an illustrative list of Tamil words of Indo-Aryan origin, classified based on type of borrowing. The words are transliterated according to IAST system. All words have been referenced with the Madras University Tamil Lexicon, which is used as the most authoritative and standard lexicon by mainstream scholars.[4][5] In the examples below, the second word is from Tamil, and its original Indo-Aryan source is placed to the left.

Change of final retroflex to dental[edit]

  • ambara - ampala[6]

Loss of initial s[edit]

  • samayaṃ - amaiyam[7]
  • sabhā - avai[6]

Loss of initial complex consonant (retaining initial vowel)[edit]

  • śṛavaṇa - Āvaṇi[6] (also note loss of initial complex consonant Śr

Loss of initial complex consonant (introduction of vowel)[edit]

  • ḥṛdaya - itaya[6] (also loss of voicing)

Loss of voicing[edit]

  • agati - akati[6]

Loss of voiced aspiration[edit]

  • adhikāra - atikāra[6]
  • adhika - atika

Tatsama borrowing[edit]

  • aṇu - aṇu[6]
  • nīti - nīti[6]

Change of final sibilant to semivowel[edit]

  • Ākāśa - Ākāya

Change of medial sibilants to stops[edit]

  • aśuddha - acutta[6]

Split of complex syllables[edit]

  • agni - akkini[6] (gni to kini, also note loss of voicing)


  • ahaṃkāram - akankāram[6]
  • agastya - akattiya[6]
  • ahambhāva - akampāvam[6]
  • Āṣāḍha - Āḍi[6]
  • Ārambha - Ārampam[6]
  • kāvya - kāppiyam[6]
  • kārttika - kārttikai[6]
  • śvāsa - cuvācam[6]
  • śani - cani[6]
  • chitra - cittirai[6]
  • budha - putan[6]
  • phalguna - pankuni[6]
  • manas - manatu[6]
  • mārgaśīrSa - mārkazhi[6]
  • māgha - māci[6]
  • vaiśākha - vaikāci[6]



  1. ^ Zvelebil, Kamil (2002). Companion studies to the history of Tamil literature. E.J. Brill Press. p. 143. ISBN 9004093656. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Michael Witzel [1]
  4. ^ Harold Schiffman in his official website says of the Madras University Tamil Lexicon "most comprehensive and authoritative."
  5. ^ Another source asserting the status of the Madras University Lexicon is this page where it is called "still the most comprehensive and authoritative Tamil dictionary."
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Madras University Tamil Lexicon
  7. ^ Burrow, Thomas (1947), "Dravidian Studies VI - The loss of initial c/s in South Dravidian", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Cambridge University Press, 12 (1): 132–147, doi:10.1017/s0041977x00079969, JSTOR 608991  at p. 133


  • S Vaidyanathan, Indo-Aryan loanwords in old Tamil, Rajan Publishers (1971), ASIN B0000CQQI3 [2]
  • Chandran Tucker, A dictionary of English loan-words in modern Tamil: Contributions towards a modern Tamil-English dictionary , Biblia Impex (1986), ISBN 81-85012-14-8
  • R Wallden, Hidden Indo-European and/or Indo-Aryan "Loanwords" in Old Tamil?, Orientalia Suecana Uppsala 1980, vol. 29, pp. 140–156 - [3]

External links[edit]