List of Sinhala words of Tamil origin

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Sinhala words of Tamil origin came about as part of the more than 2000 years of language interactions between Sinhala and Tamil in the island of Sri Lanka. Sinhala is classified as an Indo-Aryan language and Tamil is classified as a Dravidian language. Separated from its sister Indo-Aryan languages such as Hindi and Bengali by a large belt of Dravidian languages, Sinhala along with Dhivehi of the Maldives evolved somewhat separately.

Close interaction with the Tamil language and the assimilation of Tamil immigrants from South India into Sinhalese society contributed to the adoption several Tamil origin words into the Sinhalese language. It is important to note that the range of borrowings goes beyond the scope to be expected for a situation where two neighbouring peoples exchange material goods: Firstly, there are many Tamil loanwords pertaining to everyday and social life (kinship terms, body parts, ordinary activities). Secondly, several lexical words (nouns, adjectives and verbs) along with interjections (ayiyō), (aḍō) have also been borrowed. This - along with the impact Tamil has had on Sinhala syntax (e.g. the use of a verbal adjective of "to say" as a subordinating conjunction meaning "whether" and "that") - is suggestive of not only close coexistence but the existence of large numbers of bilinguals and a high degree of mixing and intermarriage.

Kinds of loanwords[edit]

Borrowings

The words pertaining to the fields of commerce, administration, botany, food and military are the most numerous; this is to be expected because

  • new innovations and goods usually reached the Sinhalese via the Tamils whose area of settlement separates them from the rest of South Asia and
  • Tamil-speaking Muslims conducted most of the island's foreign trade since the 10th century.

The borrowing process[edit]

Tamil loanwords in Sinhala can appear in the same form as the original word (e.g. akkā), but this is quite rare. Usually, a word has undergone some kind of modification to fit into the Sinhala phonological (e.g. paḻi becomes paḷi(ya) because the sound of /ḻ/, [ɻ], does not exist in the Sinhala phoneme inventory) or morphological system (e.g. ilakkam becomes ilakkama because Sinhala inanimate nouns (see grammatical gender) need to end with /a/, [ə], in order to be declineable).

These are the main ways Tamil words are incorporated into the Sinhala lexicon with different endings:

  • With an /a/ added to Tamil words ending in /m/ and other consonants (e.g. pālam > pālama).
  • With a /ya/ or /va/ added to words ending in vowels (e.g. araḷi > araliya).
  • With the Tamil ending /ai/ represented as /ē/, commonly spelt /aya/.
  • With the animate ending /yā/ added to Tamil words signifying living beings or /yā/ replacing the Tamil endings /aṉ/, /ar/, etc. (e.g. caṇṭiyar > caṇḍiyā).

It can be observed that the Tamil phonemes /ḷ/ and /ḻ/ do not coherently appear as /ḷ/ in Sinhala but sometimes as /l/ as well. This is because in Sinhala pronunciation there is no distinction between /ḷ/ and /l/; the letter /ḷ/ is merely maintained as an etymological spelling.

Time of borrowing[edit]

In many cases, the appearance of a loanword in a language indicates whether the borrowing is old or more recent: The more a word deviates from the "original" one, the longer it must have been a part of the respective lexicon, because while being used, a word can undergo changes (sometimes regular sound changes along with the native words). The inversion of this argument is not possible since loanwords already matching the linguistic requirements of the target language may remain unchanged. Thus, the word täpäl (Tamil tapāl) gives away its old age because the respective umlaut processes took place before the 8th century; iḍama (Tamil iṭam) however needn't be a recent borrowing, because no sound changes that could have affected this word have taken place in Sinhala since at least the 13th century.

List of words[edit]

In the following list, Tamil words are romanized in accordance with Tamil spelling. This results in seeming discrepancies in voicing between Sinhala words and their Tamil counterparts. Sinhala borrowing however has taken place on the basis of the sound of the Tamil words; thus, the word ampalam, [ambalam], logically results in the Sinhala spelling ambalama, and so forth. However, the Tamil language used here for comparison is Tamil as spoken in Sri Lanka.

Note: For information on the transcription used, see National Library at Calcutta romanization and Tamil script. Exceptions from the standard are the romanization of Sinhala long "ä" ([æː]) as "ää", and the non-marking of prenasalized stops.

Sinhala Meaning Tamil Meaning Type
ādāyama Income ādāyam Profit Trade
akkā Elder sister akkā Elder sister Kinship
ambalama Way-side rest ambalam Public place Daily
ämbäṭṭayā Barber ampaṭṭaṉ Barber Trade
āṃgāṇiya Stall (in a market) aṅgāṭi Market Trade
ānā Man ān Man Daily
āṇḍuva Government āṇṭāṉ Rich man with many slaves Administration
appā Father (regional/colloquial) appā Father Kinship
āppa Hoppers āppam Hoppers Food
araliya Oleander araḷi Oleander Botany
avariya Indigo plant avuri Indigo plant Botany
ayyā Elder brother aiyā (see also Ayya) Sir, father Kinship
Come Come Daily
caṇḍiyā Bandit, rowdy saṇdiyar Bandit Daily
cīttaya Chintz cīttai Chintz Trade
ediriya Opposition, hostility edhiri Opponent, enemy Military
galkaṇḍuva Sugar-candy kaṟkaṇdu Sugar-candy Food
iccāva Flattery iccakam Flattery Daily
iḍama Site, land idam Place, site Construction
īḷa Asthma īḷai Asthma Daily
ilakkaya Target ilakku Target Military
ilakkama Number ilakkam Number Trade
iḷandāriyā Young man iḷandāri Young man Daily
iḷavuva Death, funeral iḻavu Death Daily
iraṭṭa Double, even number iraṭṭai Double, even number Trade
īyam Lead īyam Lead Daily
jāḍiya Jar cāṭi Jar Daily
jōḍuva Pair jōdi/cōdi Pair Daily
hodi Gravy soti Daily
kaḍalē Chickpea kadalai (paruppu) Chickpea Food
kaḍasarakkuva Spice, curry stuffs kadai + sarakku Shop + Goods Trade
kaḍaya Shop kadai Shop Trade
kaḍinama Haste kathi speed Daily
kaḍiyāḷama Bridle kadivāḷam Bridle Military
kaṃkāṇiyā Overseer kaṅkāṇi Foreman Administration
kalanda A small measure of weight kaḻañcu Weight of 1.77 grams Trade
kalavama Mixture, blend kalavai Mixture Daily
kālaya Quarter kāl Quarter Trade
kaḷudäävā Donkey kaḻudai Donkey Daily
kambiya Wire kambi Wire Trade
kāndama Magnet kāandam Magnet Trade
kaṇisama Size kaṇisam Size, amount Daily
kaṇṇāḍiya Mirror, spectacles kaṇṇāadi Mirror, spectacles Daily
kappama Tribute kappam Tribute Military
kappara Small ship kappal Ship Trade
kappi Grit, bruised grain kappi Coarse grits in flour Daily
kappiya Pulley kappi Pulley
kāvala Protection
kayippu Catechu
kayitālama A type of cymbal
kāppuva Bracelet kāappu Bangle Daily
kärapottā Cockroach karappaāṉ Cockroach (SL) Daily
karavaḷa Dried fish karuvāadu Dried fish Food
kāsiya Coin kāasu Small change, coin Trade
kasippu Illicit liquor kacippu Illicit liquor Trade
kaṭṭumarama Catamaran kaṭṭumaram Catamaran Trade
kayiyeliya Cloth with coloured border kaili Multicoloured cloth worn by Muslims Daily
keṇḍa Calf keṇdai(kkāl) Calf Daily
keṇḍiya Pitcher keṇṭi Pitcher Daily
kiṭṭu Close, near kiṭṭa Close, near Daily
koḍiya Flag kodi Flag Administration
kollaya Plunder, pillage koḷḷai Plunder Military
kombuva Name of the sign ෙ kombu (lakaram) Name of the sign ள Daily
kōn Part of a name kōṉ(ar) Name pertaining to members of the Iṭaiyar caste ("shepherd, king") Personal name
kōṇama A loin cloth for men kōvaṇam A loin cloth for men Daily
koṇḍaya Plait/bun of hair koṇdai Bun/plait of hair Daily
kottamalli Coriander koṭhamalli Coriander Botany
koṭṭaya Pillow koṭṭai Nut, round shape, pillow Daily
kōvila Hindu temple kōyil Temple Daily
kūḍama Shed, Resthouse kūḍaram Tent Daily
kuḍaya Umbrella kudai Umbrella Daily
kūḍaya Basket koodai Basket Daily
kūḍuva Nest, cage koodu Nest, small box Daily
kulala/kuḷala Pipe kuḻal Tube, musical pipe Daily
kulappuva Confusion kuḻappu- to confuse Military
kūlama Pond kulam- Pond Agricultural Term
kurumbā Young coconut kurumbai Young coconut Food
kuliya Rent kooli Rent, pay Administration
kuṭṭama A Pair Daily
machan Term of endearment along males machan Daily
Malaya Hill country malai Hill Place name
māmā[citation needed]. Maternal uncle māmā Maternal uncle Kinship
marakkalaya Boat, Ethnic Moor, Sampan marakkalam (Sailing) Boat Fishing
massinā Brother-in-law machiṉaṉ Brother-in-law Kinship
mayil Fur, any hair other than on the head/face mayir Daily
mella Gentle, tame, obedient Daily
mudala Money mudhal Capital Trade
mudalāli Merchant, owner of a shop mudhalāḷi Merchant Trade
mudali Part of a name mudhaliyār Name of a caste Personal name
muḍukkuva Narrow street, slum Daily
mulu whole, entire mullu Daily
muranḍu Obstinate, wanting to fight muranḍu Daily
muruṃgā "Drumsticks", the edible fruits of the Drumstick tree (Moringa oleifera) muruṅgai Horse-radish tree Food
mūḍiya lid mūḍi Daily
mūṭṭi Earthen cooking pot Daily
mūṭṭuva bale/bagful mūṭtai Daily
nāḍagama Stage-play naādagam Drama, stage-play Culture
nōṃjal, nōṃcal feeble, unsteady Daily
naṃgī Younger sister naṅgai Young girl Kinship
nōnḍi, nonḍi lame nonḍi Daily
nūla String/Thread nūl Daily
oppuva Proof oppu Administration
ottē Odd number otṟai Odd number Trade
ottuva Espionage otṟu Espionage Administration
padakkama Medal padhakkam Medal Administration
pāḍama Lesson pāadam Lesson Culture
paḍiya Wage paṭi Extra pay Administration
pālama Bridge pāalam Bridge Construction
paḷiya Revenge paḻi Guilt, revenge Daily
palliya Church/Mosque palli Church/Mosque Daily
pandalama Bower, shady place pandhal Bower, shady place Daily
pandama Torch pandham Torch Religious
peruṃkāyam Asafoetida peruṃkāyam Asafoetida Daily
parippu Lentils paruppu Lentils Food
piṭṭu A rice dish piṭṭu A rice dish Food
poḍi Small, little podi Small Daily
poṭṭuva Bindi pottu Daily
poraya Fight pōr Fight Military
poronduva Agreement, promise porundhu- To fit, to agree Daily
porottuva Delay, waiting poṟutthu Having waited Daily
pūccama Boast, brag Daily
pullē Part of a name Pillai Part of a name (originally a Hindu title) Personal name
pūṇa nūla Sacred string/cord that Brahmins wear over their shoulder poo-nool Daily
saiva, sāiva Shivaite saiva Daily
salli Money salli Coin Trade
saṇḍuva Fight saṇdai Fight Military
sekkuva Oil mill sekku Daily
sembuva Small metal pot sembu Daily
seṃkamālaya jaundice Daily
sereppuva Sandals seruppu Sandals Daily
sotti Crippled, deformed sothhai Emaciated person, defect Daily
suli whirl, vortical Daily
suruṭṭuva Cigar suruṭṭu Cigar Daily
takkāli Tomato thakkaāḷi Tomato Food
talluva A push thaḷḷu- To push Daily
tambiyā Derogatory term for a Muslim man tambi Younger brother Daily
tani Alone taṉi Alone Daily
täpäl Postal tabaāl Postal, mail Administration
tarama Size, position, quantity tharam Quality, sort Trade
taṭṭa Bald thaṭṭai Baldness Daily
tāliya A necklace signifying marriage tāli Daily
tāttā Father thāathaā Grandfather Kinship
taṭṭuva A knock thaṭṭu- To knock Daily
tōḍuva A hollow cylindrical earring tōḍu Daily
tunḍuva bit/scrap tunḍu Daily
uḍäkkiya A narrow drum udukkai A narrow drum Daily
udavva Help udhavi Help Daily
ulukkuva Sprain (of a joint) suḷukku Sprain Daily
ūḷiyama Tax payable by foreigners ooḻiyam Service Administration
uraya Covering/Case Daily
vaṭṭiya Type of shallow basket Daily
veri Drunk veṟi intention, madness Daily

Verbs[edit]

Several verbs have been adopted into Sinhala from the Tamil language. The vast majority of these are compound verbs consisting of a Tamil origin primary verb and a Sinhala origin light verb.

Sinhala සිංහල Meaning Tamil Meaning
iranavā ඉරනවා To tear
kiṭṭu venavā කිට්ටු වෙනවා To get close, to near
kolla karanavā කොල්ල කනවා To plunder Koḷḷai
nōnḍi venavā නෝන්ඩි වෙනවා To be humiliated/embarrassed
parakku venavā පරක්කු වෙනවා To be late/delayed
pattu karanavā පත්තු කරනවා To light, to set on fire patṟu- To catch fire
pēru väṭenavā පේරු වැටෙනවා To fall to someone by chance pēṟu Luck ll
poḍi venavā පොඩි වෙනවා To be crushed/crumpled
pūṭṭu karanavā පූට්ටු කරනවා To splice, to fasten together
tallu karanavā තල්ලු කරනවා To push thaḷḷu- To push
taṭṭu karanavā තට්ටු කරනවා To knock thaṭṭu-
udav karanavā උදව් කරනවා To help Utavi
veḍi kanavā වෙඩි කනවා To have been shot vedi Shot, dynamite
veḍi tiyanavā වෙඩි තියනවා To shoot, to fire vedi Shot, dynamite
veri venavā වෙරි වෙනවා To become drunk veri

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Coperahewa, Sandagomi and Arunachalam,Sarojini Devi Sinhala Bhashave Demala Vacana Akaradiya[Dictionary of Tamil Words in Sinhala] (Colombo: S.Godage, 2002).
  • Gair, James (1998). Studies in South Asian Linguistics. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 368. ISBN 0-19-509521-9.
  • Geiger, Wilhelm: Linguistic Character of Sinhalese, in: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (Ceylon), Vol. XXXIV
  • Gunasekara, A.M.: A Comprehensive Grammar of the Sinhalese Language, Colombo 1891 (reprint New Delhi 1986), ISBN 81-206-0106-8 (§234: Naturalised and derived words from Tamil)

External links[edit]