Essential Tamil Words to Impress Your Family & Friends

Tamil is considered a classical language of India. Its ancient origins and substantial body of literature put it in the same league as Ancient Greek or Latin.

However, unlike these languages, Tamil is far from being dead. Today, it is spoken by more than 66 million people in the world. It is the official language of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and it is widely spoken in two sovereign nations, Singapore and Sri Lanka.

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Would you like to visit any of these wonderful places or be able to interact with Tamil-speaking family members? With our list of essential Tamil words, you won’t just be able to get by. You might even impress the locals!

Tamil Greetings

How many languages can you say “Hello” in? If you stop to think about it for a minute, the answer might surprise you. The reason why we all know so many foreign greetings (the reason why every language course starts with a lesson on greetings, in fact) is that language is a means for communication. It’s a powerful tool to interact with people whose lives are so vastly different from ours. It’s no wonder, then, that we have decided to kick off this list with a few Tamil words for saying Hello.

Vaṇakkam – Hello

Now, after such a long flight (and such a big investment!), why not make a bit of an effort and learn a few more greetings? For example, you can change the way you greet people depending on the time of day!

Kālai vaṇakkam – Good morning

Did you wake all energetic and in the mood for conversation? Use this phrase to start the day!

Matiya vaṇakkam – Good afternoon

Use this one between noon and sunset. (Just in case you’re wondering, “sunset” is cūriya astamaam in Tamil.)

Mālai vaṇakkam – Good evening

Did you just walk into a restaurant wearing your best clothes? Say this phrase to get yourself noticed. And if you get a compliment, say Naṉṟi, which means “thank you.”

Iṉiya iravu – Good night

As in English, the Tamil phrase for “Good night” is similar to “goodbye.” So, say this one only when you’re going to bed (try not to yawn, though).

Now that you know how to greet people, the next step is to ask them how they are.

Eppaṭi irukkiṟīrkaḷ? – How are you?

Hopefully, you will get one of these answers:

  1. nalam – I’m fine.
  2. ciantatai ceytu koṇṭirukkiṉṟē – I’m doing great.
  3. Arumai, kaā?– Awesome, and you?

However, if you get Atu uka vēlai illai, it might be time to terminate the conversation, as it means “It’s none of your business.”

Basic Tamil Words & Phrases for Every Day

Now, if you really want to engage in conversation, “Hello” or “Good morning” won’t do. Do you want to get your interlocutor’s attention? Then, say one (or a few) of the following phrases.

  • Uṉ peyar eṉṉa? – What’s your name? / Eṉ peyar… – My name is…
    Asking for somebody’s name is always a good way to show interest and friendliness. Sometimes, however, you will find yourself in situations in which you’ll need to be courteous rather than friendly.
  • Tayavuceytu – Please.
  • Naṉṟi– Thank you.
  • Uṅkaḷaivaravēṟkiṟōm – You’re welcome.
    It’s also very important that you learn Tamil expressions for asking for help in case you’ve lost track of a conversation. (True, a confounded face might do, but it’s always better to use language to show that you’re making an effort.)
  • Eṉakkupuriyavillai – I don’t understand
  • Ataimīṇṭum colla muṭiyumā? – Could you repeat that, please?
  • Iṉṉummetuvāka colla muṭiyumā? – Can you say that more slowly?

Basic Tamil Words for Travellers

The state of Tamil Nadu has the third-longest coastline in India at about 907 km. Also, the western, southern, and northwestern areas are known for their beautiful hills and rich vegetation. It’s no wonder, then, so many people want to learn Tamil to visit this fascinating place.

If you’ve decided to travel to a Tamil-speaking spot, make sure you write down the following expressions.

  • Nīṅkaḷāṅkilam pēcukiṟīrkaḷā? – Do you speak English?
  • Itaṉvilai evvaḷavu? – How much does this cost?
  • Kaḻippaṟaikaḷeṅkē? – Where are the toilets?
  • Tayavuceytuoru pīr – One beer, please.
  • Tayavuceytu racītu koṭukka muṭiyumā? – Can I have the bill, please?
  • Arukiluḷḷa maruttuvamaṉai/vaṅki/hōṭṭal eṅkē? – Where is the nearest hospital/bank/hotel?

Tamil Words for Members of Your Family

No matter what their first language is, family is very important for Indian people (you might even be learning Tamil words to talk to your Indian relatives!). Therefore, if you’re feeling confident about your speaking skills and you want to have a long conversation with someone from Tamil Nadu, asking them about their relatives or telling them about yours is a great place to start! (Just make sure you don’t get too forward!)

The first thing you’ll need to do is Tamil words for family members. Here are a few:

  • Amma– mother
  • Appa– father
  • Thaatha – grandfather
  • Paati– grandmother (Wait, doesn’t this one sound more like Grandpa?)
  • Chithi– mother’s sister
  • Mama– uncle (Nope, we didn’t make a mistake here!)
  • Athai – (aunt)
  • Akka – elder sister
  • Thangai/thangachi– younger sister
  • Anna– elder brother
  • Thambi – younger brother

As you can see, there are different Tamil words for siblings depending on their position in the family.

With these Tamil words and expressions, we hope you can do more than ask for a beer in a pub or find the nearest bank. By memorizing a few of the phrases above, you can show Tamil-speaking people that you appreciate their language and culture and that you’ve made an effort to communicate with them on their own terms (literally!).

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Do you want to go beyond the word level and start working on your speaking skills? Impress your friends and relatives and bond with them at a whole new level by becoming fluent in Tamil! Learn Tamil with the best qualified native teachers in your city or online. Explore our tailor-made Tamil courses or send us a quick message on our website!