Saturday, August 23, 2008

Malayalam Words of Foreign Origin

Growing up in a polyglot environment was quite confusing at times. During our schooldays, we used to look forward the summer vacations in Kerala - the two-day train journey from Hyderabad to Chanaganaserry; the endless hours spent in catching fishes, splashing in the pond, hunting for fruits, and playing with cousins. But after spending two months in Kerala, my Deccani Hindi vocabulary would get completely swamped by Malayalam, resulting in strange conversations as soon as we got back to Hyderabad:
Friend - कहाँ था बे? तेरेको इतना बुलारे थे..(Where the heck were you? We had been calling out..)
Me - में तो कक्कूस में था..(Oh, I was in the "Kakkoos"/Toilet)
Friend - कक्कूस?? वो क्या बे?(Kakkoos?? Whats that??)
And that would be the exact moment when a new nickname was born. I would be heartily called "Kakkoos" for a few days until all strange new words were badgered back into the confines of our home.

It now turns out that "Kakkoos" is not even a Malayalam word - it is originally Dutch!

This and many other surprises tumbled out of a PDF file that Dr. Jayathilak sent me sometime back. The file is an appendix to an unknown book and contains a long list of Malayalam words from European languages. Here are some of the more commonly used borrowed-words:
Malayalam words from the PORTUGUESE language -
  • Alumaari - അലമാരി - Cupboard - "Armario"
  • Amara - അമര - Mulberry tree - "Amora"
  • Aaspatri - ആസ്പത്രി -Hospital - "Hospital"
  • Chaavi - ചാവി - Key - "Caave"
  • Govi - ഗോവി - Cabbage - "Couvre" (also in Hindi)
  • Iskuul - ഇസ്കൂള് - School - "Escola"
  • Istri - iസ്ത്രി - Smoothing iron - "Esterar"
  • Jennal - ജെന്നാല് - Window - "Jenala"
  • Kamis - കാമിസ് - Shirt - "Camiso" (also in Hindi, Urdu)
  • Kurisu - കുരിശു - Cross - "Cruz"
  • Laelam - ഈലം - Auction - "Leilac"
  • Mesha - മേശാ - Table - "Mesa"
  • Maestri - മെസ്ത്രി - Foreman - "Mestre"
  • Naranja - Lemon / Citrus fruit
  • Paadhiri - പാധിരി - Clergyman - "Padre"
  • Paappa - പാപ - The Pope - "papa"
  • Pena - പേന - Pen - "Pena"
  • Pera - പേര - Guava - "Pera"
  • Pikkassu - പിക്കാസ് - Pick-axe - "Picao"
  • Tambloor - തമ്ബ്ലൂര് - "Tambler"
  • Teila - റെഇല - Tea leaves - "Tea"
  • Tuuvala - തൂവാല - Towel, handkerchief - "Toalha"
  • Vattakka - വട്ടക്ക - Watermelon - "Pateca" (can also mean "the round fruit" in Mal.)
  • Vatteri - വട്റെരി - Battery, a set of guns - "Bateria"

Malayalam words from the DUTCH language
  • Kakkoos - കക്കൂസ് - Latrine - "Kakhus"

If so many common words have been borrowed from the European traders and colonizers who came a few centuries ago, there must be a much bigger collection of words that came from the Arabs. Wonder where I could find some papers on this...

Related Links -
English words with Malayalam origin


Fuad said...

Hello Dinakar,
I am from Kerala and currently working on a malayalam wikipedia article മലയാളത്തിലെ പോർച്ചുഗീസ് പദങ്ങൾ

I have found a few words from this post of yours. I would very much appreciate if you could mail me the pdf file you mentioned your friend sent you. Thanks

Fuad said...

Hello Dinakar, I am from Kerala and am currently working on a malayalam wikipedia article മലയാളത്തിലെ പോര്‍ച്ചുഗീസ് പദങ്ങള്‍. I have verified a few of your entries and added them.I would very much appreciate if you could send me the pdf file mentioned in this post that your friend send you I know it has been many years. Do you still have it by any chance?

Dinakarr said...

Hi Fuad,
Thanks for getting in touch.Its great to know that you're writing an article on Mal-Portuguese words!
I am trying to retrieve the PDF file from my archives...pls give me a few days time.
Meanwhile, pls send me your email id.

mit said...

narangi is and old fruit mentioned in indian documents. In fact naranga = nara + kaya where naru = fragrance. In malayalam it is naranga which is converted to naranja and then into orange.
The variety of orange introduced that is popular today is from Europe, but the word definitely is not.

diov said...

List_of_loanwords_in_Malayalam wikipedia

Dinakarr said...

Thanks, Diov!