Loan words in Malayalam, excluding the huge number of words from Sanskrit and Tamil, originated mostly due to the centuries long interactions between the native population of Kerala and the trading (predominantly, spice trading) powers of the world. This included trading contacts with Arabia, Persia, Israel and China spanning millennia, and with European Colonial powers for several centuries.
Most of the loan words from Portuguese language are for items which the native population lacked when the encounter with Portuguese empire happened from around the final years of the 15th century.
Portuguese was the lingua franca in Africa, Brazil, South Asia and parts of South East Asia during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The Portuguese Empire was the major ruling colonial power in South India during this period, they were first modern European power to encounter India on a large scale, and thus their language had a strong influence on Malayalam (similar to many other Indian languages).
foreman, supervisor of (e.g. construction) workers
Luso Indian lady
Sacramental bread/ wafer
Fabrication works (Sheet metal works)
Christmas Father (Santa Claus)
praakk (noun), praakuka (verb)
curse, to curse
a Pound (1 lb.), weight of sixteen ounces (16 oz.)
cemetery, burial ground
page of a book
anchor (of ships)
A measure (= 1 yard or 3 feet); Original meaning: rod, stick
wooden cask, barrel
The Portuguese language had also taken some words from Malayalam, and they should not be confused vice versa.
Some examples are jaca for Jack Fruit (from Chakka / ചക്ക in Malayalam), manga for mango (from Mangaa / മാങ്ങ) in Malayalam.
The Arabic language contributes a large number of words into a dialect form of Malayalam that is spoken by the Muslim Mappila community of North Kerala.
There are also some common words which are used throughout Kerala.
There are more than 900 words taken from Arabic and commonly used in Malayalam.
Derived from "Firangi" or "Frank" (a Germanic tribe - that gave their name to France), a term that was used to denote all Europeans. Used however almost exclusively for the Portuguese in Kerala, probably because Parangi was mistaken for Portugali as they sound similar. Might have also been used for the Dutch initially