Madras Bashai

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Madras Bashai is a cockney of Tamil language and English language spoken in the city of Chennai (previously known as Madras) in Tamil Nadu, India. The word bashai derives from the Sanskrit word bhasha, meaning "language". Madras Bashai is a loose polyglot blend of Tamil with Indian English, Telugu and Hindustani language. Madras bashai has been largely popularized by autorickshaw drivers and fishermen from the northern parts of the city.

Madras Bashai evolved largely during the past three centuries. It grew in parallel with the growth of cosmpolitan Madras. After Madras Bashai became somewhat common in Madras, it became a source of satire for early Tamil films from the 1950s, in the form of puns and double entendres. Subsequent generations in Chennai identified with it and absorbed English constructs into the dialect, making it what it is today.

Due to immigration and cultural exchange, terms from Madras Bashai are also used sometimes in other cities and towns of South India.


Madras Bashai evolved largely during the past three centuries. Madras was founded in 1640 by the British East India Company, and with its emergence as an important city in the British Empire and as the capital of Madras Presidency, contact with the western world increased and a number of English words crept into the vocabulary. Many of these words were introduced by educated, middle class Tamil migrants to the city who borrowed freely from English for their daily usage.[1] Due to the presence of a considerable population of Hindustani-speakers, especially, the Gujaratis, Marwaris and some Muslim communities, some Hindi words, too, became a part of Madras Bashai. At the turn of the 20th century, the Tamil spoken by the Brahmins of Madras city was considered to be standard spoken Tamil. Though preferences have since shifted in favor of the Central and Madurai Tamil dialects, the English words introduced during the early 20th century have been retained.[1]

Madras Bashai is generally considered a dialect of the working class like the Cockney dialect of English. Lyrics of gaana songs make heavy use of Madras Bashai.


A few words unique to Madras Bashai are given below; an Internet project, urbantamil, has set out to collect urban Tamil vocabulary.[2]

Standard Tamil Madras bashai Meaning
appuram (அப்புறம்) Appālikā,appāllē (அப்பாலிகா, அப்பாலே) Afterwards[3]
anñkē (அங்கே) Annanṇṭa (அந்நாண்ட) There
kōpam (கோபம்) Gaandu (காண்டு) Anger
Mosamana (மோசமான) Attu (அட்டு) Worst (Derived from Burmese word "attu" - meaning duplicate)
bayam (பயம்), achham (அச்சம்) mersu (மெர்சு) Fear
nandraga Illai (நன்றாக இல்லை) mokka (மொக்கை/மொக்க) Derived from Burmese word "macaunbu" meaning not good
dhurnātṟam (துர்நாற்றம்) Gabbu (கப்பு) Bad Smell
dhaṭavai (தடவை) Dhabā (தபா) times- Derived from Hindustani - Dafa (number of times)
ēmatṟukiṟatu (ஏமாற்றுகிறது) Dabaikirathu (டபாய்க்கிறது) Fooling
kiṇṭal seivathu (கிண்டல் செய்வது) Kalāikirathu (கலாய்க்கிறது) To tease- Derived from Malayalam - Kali aakunnu.
amaithi (அமைதி) Gammu (கம்மு) Silent, peaceful
makizhchi (மகிழ்ச்சி) Gūjjāallu (குஜ்ஜால்லு) Happy
kaal saṭṭai (கால் சட்டை) Nijāru (நிஜாரு) Trouser
viraivil viṭṭu(விரைவில் விட்டு) Apeetu (அபீட்டு) To exit quickly/Vanish from the spot. Derived from English word abate
Nalla irukku (நல்லா இருக்கு) Sokkha irukeethu(ஸோக்கா இருகீது ) Looking good - Derived from Urdu- Shauq- Passionate
Words borrowed from other languages
Madras bashai Meaning Source
Dūbaakoor (டுபாக்கூர்) Fraudster From the English word dubash which, itself, is a derivative of the Hindusthani word "Do bhasha", usually, used to refer to interpreters and middlemen who worked for the British East India Company. As in the early 19th century, dubashes such as Avadhanum Paupiah were notorious for their corrupt practices, the term "dubash" gradually got to mean "fraud"[4]
Nainā (நைனா) Father From the Telugu word Nāyanāh[3]
Bēmānī (பேமானி) Swearword; meaning unclear Derived from the Urdu word Bē Imān meaning "a dishonest person"
Bīscōthū Sub-standard Derived from the English word "biscuit"
Kūchū (குச்சு,குந்து) Sit down Derived from Telugu & Kannada
Dhūddū (துட்டு), Dabbū (டப்பு) Money Derived from Telugu[3]
Galeeju (கலீஜு) Yucky Derived from the Urdu word, Galeez
Kasmalam (கஸ்மாலம்) Dirty Derived from the Sanskrit word "Kasmalam" meaning dirty, discardable
Yegīrī (யெகிரி) To jump Derived from Telugu[5]
Bējār (பேஜாறு) Problem Derived from Hindusthani
Figure (பிகர்) A beautiful girl From English. Used by youngsters
Virching (விற்சிங்) Thing to be done after searching(Opener)
Correct (கரெக்ட்) (as a verb) To Impress A Girl. From English. Used by youngsters
O. C. (ஓ.ஸி) Free-of-cost From English. During East India Company rule, official communication was stamped "Os or stamps. The word "O. C." gradually got to mean something which was offered free-of-cost[3][6]

In film[edit]

Madras Bashai is used in many Tamil movies after the 1950s. Actors such, Manorama, J. P. Chandrababu, Loose Mohan, Thengai Srinivasan, Janagaraj, Cho Ramaswamy, Kamal Haasan, Dhanush are known for using it. Representative films are Maharasan, Michael Madana Kama Rajan, Thirumalai, Vasool Raja MBBS, Pammal K. Sambandam, Chennai 600028, Attakathi, Idharkuthane Aasaipattai Balakumara, Ai, Madras, Kasethan Kadavulada and Anegan.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Vijayakrishnan, K. G. (1995). "Compound Typology in Tamil". Theoretical perspectives on word order in South Asian languages. Centre for Study of Language. pp. 263–264. ISBN 1881526496, ISBN 9781881526490. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d Pillai, M. Shanmugham. Tamil Dialectology. pp. 34–36. 
  4. ^ Guy, Randor (June 15, 2003). "Inspiration from Madras". The Hindu. 
  5. ^ Randor Guy (August 31, 2010). "Jagathalaprathapan 1944". The Hindu. 
  6. ^ "Footprints of the Company". The Hindu. 28 August 2005. 
  7. ^