Loan words in Sri Lankan Tamil

Loan words in Sri Lankan Tamil came about mostly due contact between colonial powers and the native population. Linguists study a language's lexicon for a number of reasons. Languages such as Tamil with centuries of literature and multi-cultural contact offer the chance to compare the various processes of lexical change. The words of foreign origin or loanwords illustrate those processes: calques, loanwords, the distinction between function words and content words.

"Note: For information on the transcription used, see National Library at Calcutta romanization and Tamil script.

European contribution

Sri Lankan Tamil dialects are distinct from the Tamil dialects used in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and other states of India. They are used in Sri Lanka and in the Tamil diaspora. Linguistic borrowings from European colonizers such as the Portuguese, English and the Dutch have also contributed to a unique vocabulary that is distinct from the colloquial usage of Tamil in the Indian mainland. Furthermore, a form of Tamil spoken by Sri Lankan Moors has been strongly influnced by Arabic.Words that are peculiar to Sri Lankan Tamil dialects are marked with an asterisk (*).


Most Portuguese loan words are for item the native population lacked when the encounter happened circa 1505. Some are administrative terms, others are personal usage terms as well as items directly introduced from South America via the Portuguese traders. Most of these words are also shared with Sinhalese language users.

Civil conflict terminology

Black July induced civil conflict has introduced number of English and international words to the native population.


The Arabic language contributes a large number of words into a dialect form of Tamil that is spoken exclusively by ethnic Sri Lankan Moors.

ee also

*Sri Lanka Indo-Portuguese language
*List of borrowed words in Indonesian


* [ Portuguese cultural imprint in Sri Lanka]
* [ Tamil - A historical and linguistic perspective]
* [ Portuguese words in Sinhala]

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