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.
Type of large plantain, usually not favored by children because of its pasty texture.
A reedy, leafy, fast-growing plant
Wardrobe made of fine wood
Amar chitra katha
Trade name for a type of Indian comic book depicting tales from Indian mythology
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.
Oh (but as in pleading. Eg. “Oh, please don’t ask me to do that”)
Name of a flower, frangipani
Middle name of Biso’s son, Raji Asoka. It is also the name of a white flower that grows on a tree.
Poduct name for a type of South Asian margarine
Means hungry, but the direct translation means “stomach on fire”
Cheap version of an unfiltered cigarette
Bilinda nalave ukule
Lyrics from a song. The translation is “the newborn sleeps in its mother’s lap”
The name of the type of tree under which the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment
Hot pink candy floss. Bombai mutai is usually only found at Galle Face Green by the ocean in the city, or near city parks.
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.
Name of a British fashion magazine which contains sketched designs and measurements
A sound which is an expression of disgust
Younger of two daughters
Part of a temple – the white domed section of it.
Product name for a tooth-powder (used for brushing teeth)
may the gods be witness!
“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.
One of those
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.
A female child
Bring (derogatory conjugation)
Derogatory term for rural/backward
Name of a type of stretchy bread
A type of salad made from small leaves. “Gotukola” is the name of the leaf. “Mallum” means to chop finely.
A type of lace
Radio Broadcasting Service
A large dark wood chest which contains rice and dried goods like spices, dried fish etc.
“Hondha mahaththayek ehenang ingreeesi ugannulath dheela nedha”
“He’s a fine gentleman then, he has even taught you English”
Name of a flower
Stuff left on your fingers when you have finished eating rice and curries with your fingers – before you wash them!
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.
A type of deep fried fast food made with prawns (teeny tiny shrimp), and lentils with green chillies and spices
Product name for a disinfectant
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
A black, sticky, Sri Lankan sweet made out of treacle and coconut
A type of fish
The name of a gelatinous seed used in sweet drinks that are made in Muslim stores
Herbal medicinal portion
a young girl
White coconut gravy
Type of eye liner applied by women
How are you?
Kohomba is the name of a tree. In Hindi, the Neem tree.
Little falls (as in water falls)
Princess, and is the middle name of Biso’s youngest daughter.
An oil lamp with a wick
A long shirt with a Nehru collar worn mostly by men
Kurumba – Tender coconuts
Lanka Handloom Emporium
Name of a store
A derogatory name used to describe the descendants of people who inter-married with the British/Dutch/Portuguese colonists
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.
Big falls (as in waterfalls)
Name of Biso’s oldest daughter
Salad – see “gotukola mallun”
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”
The Queen, used in Sri Lanka to refer only to former PM, Sirimavo Bandaranaike
Come here but using a derogatory conjugation of verbs like the French use of ‘tu’ and ‘vous’
Describes the sound made by the train when it stops
A vegetable. The English term is “Ladies’ Fingers”
Name of a radio program
Na is the name of Sri Lanka’s national flower – the blue lotus.
Younger of two sisters
Putting an end to
A grooved bowl used to sift stones from rice before cooking
Product name for a drink
Type of plant that folds its leaves when you touch it.
Nilame is a title for an aristocratic appointee – sort of like an English Count/Earl/Lord
Wait right there
The way the sari is draped by upper caste Sinhalese women
“You are the bitch”
Go (derogatory conjugation) closest to “get out”
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.
Product name of a pain reliever like asprin
A type of gourd like vegetable
Narrow pavement found at the back of a house
Product name of a drink
Buddhist alter built for weddings
Of aristocratic lineage
Name of a school
Name of Biso’s oldest son
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”
A type of bread with coconut and green chillie
A roadside stall usually run by Tamil people
A pickle. But sambol can be used by itself.
The fall of a sari
Sathya Sai Baba
Name of a Hindu religious figure living now in India
Name of a particular dish: onions tempered with spices and sugar
Sil describes the practice of going to a Buddhist temple and spending the day – sometimes day and night – in prayer and silent meditation
Name of a Sinhala language newspaper
a varietal of coconut called King Coconut which is orange and grown only for its liquid nectar
A spicy broth made to clean the digestive system and usually eaten before dinner.
“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.”
Name of a train means ‘Upcountry Princess’
Term of respect for a man without having to elevate them to the status of “sir”
Come (derogatory conjugation)
Name of a flower (meaning: the flower that lightens a garden)
Women who sell vegetables in the village markets
Vesak is a Buddhist holiday and pandal is a giant collage depicting scenes from Buddhist history/texts illuminated by hundreds of lights.
Product name for a scouring powder.
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