Glossary

Several readers suggested that I post a glossary of the Sinhala terms used in the book on my website. Here it is, in alphabetical order. I have also translated the longer sentences.

Aanamaalu
Type of large plantain, usually not favored by children because of its pasty texture.

Achchi
Grandmother

Ahiguntakayo
Gypsies

Aiyya
Older brother

Aiyyo
Oh no!

Akka/Akki
Older sister

Albeesia
A reedy, leafy, fast-growing plant

Almirah
Wardrobe made of fine wood

Amar chitra katha
Trade name for a type of Indian comic book depicting tales from Indian mythology

Ambul
Sour

Ambul plantain
Sour plantains

Ammé
Mother but used with the “é” at the end refers to someone else’s mother, usually, for whom you use the term as a form of respect/affection. It’s a recognition of motherly qualities.

Aney
Oh (but as in pleading. Eg. “Oh, please don’t ask me to do that”)

Annasi
Pineapple

Araliya
Name of a flower, frangipani

Asoka
Middle name of Biso’s son, Raji Asoka. It is also the name of a white flower that grows on a tree.

Astra
Poduct name for a type of South Asian margarine

Auw
Ouch!

Avurudhu
New year

Badagini
Means hungry, but the direct translation means “stomach on fire”

Beedi
Cheap version of an unfiltered cigarette

Bilinda nalave ukule
Lyrics from a song. The translation is “the newborn sleeps in its mother’s lap”

Bo tree
The name of the type of tree under which the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment

Bombai mutai
Hot pink candy floss. Bombai mutai is usually only found at Galle Face Green by the ocean in the city, or near city parks.

Buriyanis
A way of serving rice: the rice is cooked almost all the way through, and wrapped in a banana leaf along with its accompany curries which usually involve three types of meat, a boiled egg, spicy sambols, and then steamed! Of Muslim origin.

Buth
Rice

Butterick
Name of a British fashion magazine which contains sketched designs and measurements

Cadju
Cashew

Chee
A sound which is an expression of disgust

Chooti Duwa
Younger of two daughters

Dagaba
Part of a temple – the white domed section of it.

Dantha Buktha
Product name for a tooth-powder (used for brushing teeth)

Deiyyo sakki!
may the gods be witness!

Deiyyo
Oh god!

Dhal
Lentils

Dhobi
Laundry-man/woman

Duwa
Daughter

Eka thamai
“That’s the thing” literally. What you say when you are agreeing with someone but don’t really want to be very clear about degree of agreement.

Eka
One

Ekak
One of those

Ekel
The thin woody part of the middle of one leaf of a frond from a coconut tree. You strip the green leafy part off and take the spine (the woody part), bind them together and make a stiff broom used to sweep gardens and the outdoors.

Enava
Coming

Gehenu lamayek
A female child

Geneng
Bring (derogatory conjugation)

Goday
Derogatory term for rural/backward

Godhamba
Name of a type of stretchy bread

Gotukola mallum
A type of salad made from small leaves. “Gotukola” is the name of the leaf. “Mallum” means to chop finely.

Guipure
A type of lace

Guvanviduli Sevaya
Radio Broadcasting Service

Haal pettiya
A large dark wood chest which contains rice and dried goods like spices, dried fish etc.

Hah ehenang
Okay then

Harischandra
Brand name

“Hondha mahaththayek ehenang ingreeesi ugannulath dheela nedha”
“He’s a fine gentleman then, he has even taught you English”

Ice palam
Iced popsicles

Ixhora
Name of a flower

Indul
Stuff left on your fingers when you have finished eating rice and curries with your fingers – before you wash them!

Irasevaya
The shadow of the sun

Ispili & Papili
Curves/accents added to letters in Sinhala to change their sound. Eg. P as in ‘pumpkin’ could be turned into ‘p’ as in ‘puny’ ‘p’ as in ‘pinnacle’ with the addition of the ispili and paplili.

Issa vadai
A type of deep fried fast food made with prawns (teeny tiny shrimp), and lentils with green chillies and spices

Jenction Violet
Product name for a disinfectant

Jungen
Boy (German)

Kadalai
Roasted chickpeas

Kade
Shop

Kahata
A textured aftertaste. Used with reference to tea it means without milk. Otherwise it means the sap that coats ones mouth when eating a type of fruit

Kalu dodol
A black, sticky, Sri Lankan sweet made out of treacle and coconut

Kapumahaththaya
Matchmaker

Kapuru
Camphor

Karawa
Fisher caste

karawala
A type of fish

Kasa-kasa
The name of a gelatinous seed used in sweet drinks that are made in Muslim stores

Kasaya
Herbal medicinal portion

Kellek
a young girl

Kesel
Plantains

kiribut
Milk rice

Kiri-hodi
White coconut gravy

Kohl
Type of eye liner applied by women

Kohomada?
How are you?

Kohomba
Kohomba is the name of a tree. In Hindi, the Neem tree.

Kolang
Stupid stuff

Kollo
Boy!

Koththamalli
Coriander

Kovils
Hindu temple

Kuda Ella
Little falls (as in water falls)

Kumari
Princess, and is the middle name of Biso’s youngest daughter.

Kuppi
An oil lamp with a wick

Kurta
A long shirt with a Nehru collar worn mostly by men

Kurumba – Tender coconuts

Lanka Handloom Emporium
Name of a store

Lansi
A derogatory name used to describe the descendants of people who inter-married with the British/Dutch/Portuguese colonists

Lathava
A girl

Loku Duwa
Older daughter

Loku Putha
Older son

Ma-dal
Fishing nets that are taken out at night and left in the ocean and dragged bag to shore early the next morning. It’s a particular type of fishing that is done.

Magul bera
Wedding drums

Maha Ella
Big falls (as in waterfalls)

Mahajana
National

Mahaththaya
Sir

Mala
Name of Biso’s oldest daughter

Malli
Younger brother

Mallung
Salad – see “gotukola mallun”

Malu
Fish

Malu, Malu, thoramalu,balamalu, kumbalava, karalla, hurulla
The call of a vendor “Fish! Fish!Seer fish! Tuna!” Etc. etc.

ManipuriMata choo barai
I need to pee. The direct translation is “the pee is heavy in me”

Mathiniya
The Queen, used in Sri Lanka to refer only to former PM, Sirimavo Bandaranaike

Mehe vareng
Come here but using a derogatory conjugation of verbs like the French use of ‘tu’ and ‘vous’

Modaya
Fool/idiot

Mphghhww..hiss..
Describes the sound made by the train when it stops

Mudalali
hop Owner/manager

Murunga
A vegetable. The English term is “Ladies’ Fingers”

Muwan Palessa
Name of a radio program

Na mal
Na is the name of Sri Lanka’s national flower – the blue lotus.

Nangi
Younger of two sisters

Nathikireema
Putting an end to

Nebiliya
A grooved bowl used to sift stones from rice before cooking

Necto
Product name for a drink

Nidikumbha
Type of plant that folds its leaves when you touch it.

Nilame
Nilame is a title for an aristocratic appointee – sort of like an English Count/Earl/Lord

Nona
Mistress

Ohoma inna
Wait right there

Osariya
The way the sari is draped by upper caste Sinhalese women

Oyay balli
“You are the bitch”

Palayang
Go (derogatory conjugation) closest to “get out”

Palu
The part of the sari that is particularly beautifully decorated and usually draped in front of the body or over the shoulder. Sometimes referred to as the fall.

Panadol
Product name of a pain reliever like asprin

Para balla
Stray dog

Pathola
A type of gourd like vegetable

Patiya/Petiyo
Little one

Pilikanna
Narrow pavement found at the back of a house

Pissa
Fool/idiot

Pooja
Religious offering/pledge

Pori
Popped rice

Porinersla
Foreigners

Portello
Product name of a drink

Poruwa
Buddhist alter built for weddings

Radala
Of aristocratic lineage

Rahula
Name of a school

Raji
Name of Biso’s oldest son

Ralahamy
Constable

Rampe
Name of a sharp-edged, long leaved herb used when cooking meat and to add fragrance to rice.

Renu renu mite renu
Line from a song which says “petals, petals, in the fist of a flower there are petals”

Roti
A type of bread with coconut and green chillie

Saiwar Kade
A roadside stall usually run by Tamil people

Samawenna
Forgive me

Sambol
A pickle. But sambol can be used by itself.

Sari pota
The fall of a sari

Sathya Sai Baba
Name of a Hindu religious figure living now in India

Seeni sambol
Name of a particular dish: onions tempered with spices and sugar

Seeya
Grandfather

Sil
Sil describes the practice of going to a Buddhist temple and spending the day – sometimes day and night – in prayer and silent meditation

Silumina
Name of a Sinhala language newspaper

Siri Mama
Uncle Siri

Srimathi nenda
Aunty Srimathi

Suddahs
White people

Suddho
white people

Sudhu mamas
white uncles

Sukiri
Rock sugar

Thambi house
Muslim house

Thambili
a varietal of coconut called King Coconut which is orange and grown only for its liquid nectar

Thambung hodi
A spicy broth made to clean the digestive system and usually eaten before dinner.

Thaththa
Father

Thok
“thok” is a sound like “plop”

Thunuruvange saranai mage duwa, Budhu saranai mage duwa
Buddhist blessing: “blessings of the Triple Gem, my daughter, may the blessings of the Buddha be upon you, my daughter.”

Udarata Menike
Name of a train means ‘Upcountry Princess’

Unnahe
Term of respect for a man without having to elevate them to the status of “sir”

Vareng
Come (derogatory conjugation)

Vathu-suddha
Name of a flower (meaning: the flower that lightens a garden)

Vati-Amma
Women who sell vegetables in the village markets

Vesak pandal
Vesak is a Buddhist holiday and pandal is a giant collage depicting scenes from Buddhist history/texts illuminated by hundreds of lights.

Vesi
Whore

Vidyalaya
school

Vim

Product name for a scouring powder.

Yanna
Go away (not derogatory)

Pujemi buddham kusumena’ nena/ punnena ‘metena ca hotu mokkham/ puppham milayati yatha idam me/ kayo tatha yati vinasabahavam
Buddhist prayer about impermanence: “this flower I offer is beautiful and fragrant/but it will lose its fragrance and die/in that same way, I and all living things too will lose our fragrance and pass away”

Bahoong sahassa mabinim…mitha sa yundanthang…
Beginning of a Buddhist (Pali) chant at weddings

The Disobedient Girl
A thrilling debut: Ru Freeman has given us a wonderfully bold and determined protagonist in a richly drawn, complex, fascinating story. I loved it.— Lynn Freed, author of The Servants' Quarters.