List of English words of Dravidian origin

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This is a list of English words that are borrowed directly or ultimately from Dravidian languages. Dravidian languages include Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, and a number of other languages spoken mainly in South Asia. The list is by no means exhaustive.

Some of the words can be traced to specific languages, but others have disputed or uncertain origins. Words of disputed or less certain origin are in the "Dravidian languages" list. Where lexicographers generally agree on a source language, the words are listed by language.

Dravidian languages[edit]

  • Betel, a leaf of a vine belonging to the Piperaceae family; from Portuguese betel, which probably comes from Tamil or Malayalam.[1]
  • Candy, crystallized sugar or confection made from sugar; via Persian qand, which is probably from a Dravidian language, ultimately stemming from the Sanskrit root word 'Khanda'.[2]
  • Coir, cord/rope, fibre from husk of coconut; from Malayalam kayar (കയർ)[3] or Tamil kayiru (கயிறு).[4][5][6][7] The origin of this word cannot be conclusively attributed to Malayalam or Tamil.
  • Congee, porridge, water with rice; uncertain origin, possibly from Tamil kanji (கஞ்சி),[8] Telugu or Kannada gañji, or Malayalam kaṇni[9]
  • Coolie, a labourer or slave, a South Asian person; possibly from Tamil cooli (கூலி) "labour",[10] or possibly from Koḷī "Gujarati people" in Gujarati,[11] which is not a Dravidian language
  • Cot, a bedstead or a portable bed; via Hindi from Sanskrit,[12] which in turn may have come from a Dravidian source such as Tamil kattil[13]
  • Cowry, the shells of certain sea snails, or the snails themselves; via Hindi and Urdu from Sanskrit kaparda (कपर्द),[14] which may be related to Tamil kotu (கோது) "shell"[15]
  • Curry, a variety of dishes flavored with a spicy sauce; cognates exist in several Dravidian languages,[16] but it should also be noted that the word cury was found in Middle English in the 14th century to mean any hot food, from French cuire, see The Forme of Cury
  • Ginger, a fragrant spice; exact route from Dravidian is uncertain, but possibly from Tamil inchi (இஞ்சி) or Malayalam inchi (ഇഞ്ചി)[17]
  • Hot toddy, beverage made of alcoholic liquor with hot water, sugar, and spices; from Hindi tari "palm sap", probably from a Dravidian language[18]
  • Jaggery, coarse brown sugar made from palm and sugarcane; from Malayalam sharkara (ശർക്കര)[19] or Kannada sharkare, having its origins in Sanskrit,[20] ultimately originating from Tamil sakkarai (சக்கரை) - meaning sugar in modern use.[21]
  • Mango, A tropical fruit;origin probably from Malayalam[22][23] or Tamil[24]
  • Mongoose, a small carnivorous mammal from southern Eurasia or Africa, known for killing snakes; probably ultimately from a Dravidian language, with spelling influenced by the English word goose[25]
  • Mung, a type of bean; ultimately from Sanskrit mudga (मुद्ग), which is the name of the bean and the plant, perhaps via Tamil mūngu (முங்கு) "soak",[26] or perhaps from mũg (मूँग), the name of the bean in Hindi,[27] which is not a Dravidian language
  • Orange, a citrus fruit, or a color named for the fruit; cognates exist in several Dravidian languages[28]
  • Pagoda, a religious building; etymology uncertain but perhaps influenced by Tamil pagavadi (பகாவடி) "house belonging to a deity"[29]
  • Pariah, an outcast; from Tamil paṟaiyar (பறையர்) or Malayalam paṟayan, "drummer"[30]
  • Peacock, a type of bird; from Old English pawa, the earlier etymology is uncertain, but one possible source is Tamil tokei (தோகை) "peacock feather", via Latin or Greek[31]
  • Sambal, a spicy condiment; from Malay, which may have borrowed the word from a Dravidian language such as Tamil or Telugu[32]
  • Teak, a tropical hardwood tree; called tekku (தேக்கு) in Tamil, tekka in Malayalam, Telugu teku, and Kannada tegu[33]
  • Godown, Synonym to Warehouse; from Telugu called ((Telugu giḍ (ḍ) angi, Tamil kiṭanku)), which may have borrowed the word from a Dravidian language such as Telugu[34]


English word Word Transliteration Meaning in Malayalam
Coir കയർ kayar fibre from the husk of a coconut[3]
Copra കൊപ്ര kopra copra; coconut kernel[35]
Jackfruit ചക്ക Chakka jackfruit tree or fruit[36]
Mango മാ‍ങ്ങ Maanga Mango tree or fruit[37]


Gregory James, a professor with the language center of Hong Kong university believes that more than 100 words in the Oxford English Dictionary have Tamil origin, and there could be even more.[38] The third edition of the OED, published online since 2000, contains approximately 400,000 words.[39]

English word Tamil word Transliteration Meaning in Tamil
Cash காசு kāsu coin money[40]
Catamaran கட்டுமரம் kattumaram tied wood[41]
Cheroot சுருட்டு suruṭṭu roll[42]
Corundum குருந்தம்/குருவிந்தம் kuruntham/kuruvintham ruby[43]
Curry கறி kari sauce[44]
Mulligatawny மிளகுத்தண்ணி Milaguthanni pepper water[citation needed]
Patchouli பச்சை இலை pachchai ilai green leaf[45]
Pandal பந்தல் pandhal temporary shelter[46]


English word Telugu word Transliteration Meaning in Telugu
Bandicoot పందికొక్కు pandi-kokku "pig-rat"[47]
pitta పిట్ట pitta young bird
Mongoose ము౦గిస mungeesa -

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Betel;at". 
  2. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  3. ^ a b "Coir;at Etymonline". 
  4. ^ "Coir". Retrieved 2015-07-26. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Congee". Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 2012-08-31. Retrieved 2014-04-19. 
  9. ^ "conjee, congee n.". Oxford English Dictionary (second ed.). 1989. ISBN 9780198611868. 
  10. ^ "Coolie; Define Coolie at". Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  11. ^ "coolie n.". Oxford English Dictionary (third ed.). 2008. ISBN 9780199571123. 
  12. ^ "cot n.4". Oxford English Dictionary (second ed.). 1989. ISBN 9780198611868. 
  13. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  14. ^ "cowry n.". Oxford English Dictionary (second ed.). 1989. ISBN 9780198611868. 
  15. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  16. ^ "Curry; Define Curry at". Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  17. ^ Origins of Plant Names-D.A. Patil. 
  18. ^ "toddy". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2014-03-06. 
  19. ^ "Jaggery Etymology". 
  20. ^ "jaggery, n.". Oxford English Dictionary (second ed.). 1989. ISBN 9780198611868. 
  21. ^ Achaya, K.T. (2003). The Story of Our Food. Universities Press. p. 7. ISBN 9788173712937.
  22. ^ "Mango; Define Mango at". Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  23. ^ "Mango;at Merriam Webster". 
  24. ^ "mango (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2014-07-19. 
  25. ^ "mongoose". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2014-03-06. 
  26. ^ "Mung bean | Define Mung bean at". Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  27. ^ "mung n.2". Oxford English Dictionary (third ed.). 2008. ISBN 9780199571123. 
  28. ^ "orange n.1 and adj.1". Oxford English Dictionary online. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-30. (subscription required)
  29. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  30. ^ "pariah, n. and adj.". Oxford English Dictionary (third ed.). 2008. ISBN 9780199571123. 
  31. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  32. ^ "Sambal; Define Sambal at". Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  33. ^ "teak". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2014-03-06. 
  34. ^
  35. ^ "Copra;at Etymonline". 
  36. ^ "Jackfruit; at Merriam Webster". 
  37. ^ "mango; at Merriam Webster". 
  38. ^ "For this professor, tracking Tamil words in English is a passion". Times of India. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  39. ^ Simpson, John (2000). "Preface to the Third Edition of the OED". Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  40. ^
  41. ^ "Catamaran; Define Catamaran at". Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  42. ^ "Cheroot; Define Cheroot at". Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  43. ^ "Corundum; Define Corundum at". Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  44. ^ Define Curry at Hobson Jobson; Define Curry at Hobson Jobson. Retrieved 2015-01-16.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  45. ^ "patchouli". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2014-04-19. 
  46. ^ "Pandal; Define Pandal at". Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  47. ^ "bandicoot". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2014-03-06.