40 awesome words from Tamil and Malayalam

Tamil and Malayalam have a very old relationship. Both are languages of southern states of India Tamil Nadu (Madras) and Kerala. Malayalam and Tamil Scripts look similar (some 15-20 letters or so) but are actually very different. Malayalam is a mix of Ancient & Coarse Tamil, Regional and Sanskrit.

Tamil is a Dravidian language with origins in the south of the Godavari and is one of the longest surviving classical languages in the world. Not only is it the official language of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry it enjoys the same official status in Singapore and Srilanka. Tamil is also widely spoken in Phillipines, Mauritius, Africa, France, Canada courtesy the Tamil speaking immigrants who migrated to these countries long back.

Malayalam also referred to as Kairali owes its lineage to both Tamil and Sanskrit. This Dravidian language is the official language of Kerala and Union Territories of Lakshadweep and Pondicherry. Large numbers of Malayalee(s) have settled in rest of India and abroad especially the Gulf countries. Malayalam has been influenced by Portuguese, Arabic and Hebrew as a result of colonisation.

Being old classical languages Tamil and Malayalam have influenced many languages including everyday English. English has borrowed directly or ultimately from many Dravidian languages including Tamil and Malayalam. If you find these south Indian languages quite a tongue twister you would be surprised by the number of English words used in daily conversation which actually owe their roots to Tamil/Malayalam. The list can run into hundreds so we’l keep it short and cite the commonest and least disputed words below.

40 awesome words from Tamil and Malayalam that we didn’t know about

No English Word Transliteration Meaning in Tamil
1 Anaconda Anai-kondra Elephant killer
2 Alvar Arvar Sink/be absorbed
3 Anicut Anaikattu Dam structure
4 Betel Vetelai Plant leafy vine
5 Candy Khanda
(Sanskrit origin)
Confectionery made from sugar
6 Cash Kasu Money
7 Cheroot Suruttu Roll
8 Coir Kayiru Rope / fibre from coconut husk
9 Congee Kanji Porridge
10 Coolie Cooli Labourer / hire
11 Cot Kattil Portable bed / bestead
12 Cowrie Kotu Shell
13 Corundum Kuruntham Tied wood
14 Culvert Culvettu Stone Inscription
15 Curry Kari Spicy flavoured dishes/gravy
16 Ginger Inchi Fragrant spice
17 Godown Kitanku Warehouse
18 Jaggery Sakkarai Coarse brown sugar from sugarcane and palm
19 Kabaddi Kai pidi Holding Hands
20 Mango Maangai Tropical fruit
21 Mongoose Mangus Small carnivorous snkae killing mammal
22 Moringa Murungai Drumstick
23 Mung Mungu Type of bean
24 Pagoda Pagavadi Buddhist religious building
25 Pandal Pandal Temporary shelter
26 Pariah Paraiyar Social Outcast
27 Patchouli Pachchai Ilai Green Leaf
28 Peacock Tokei Peacock feather
29 Poppadom Pappadam Flat crispies
30 Sambal Sambal Chilli based sauce
31 Tamil Tamil Language
32 Teak Tekku Tropical hardwood tree
33 Vetiver Vettiver Tropical Indian grass
34 Hot Toddy Tari
Alcoholic Liquor
No English Word Transliteration Meaning in Malayalam
35 Congee Kann Porridge
36 Copra Kopra Coconut kernel
37 Jackfruit Chakka Tropical fruit
38 Jaggery Sharkara Coarse brown sugar from sugarcane and palm
39 Pariah Parayan Drummer
40 Teak Tekka Tropical hardwood tree

There’s a lot of Tamil and Malayalam in all our candies, mangoes and jackfruits. The beauty of the unifying nature of diverse languages is epitomised in these awesome words. Would you like to add some more to our kitty? We would be happy to hear from you!

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