Tamil and Singlish: here you are explained the top 5 words of Tamil origins you might hear in Singapore while visiting “Little India”

Singlish lexicon, Tamil, Singapore, Little India

A valuable contribution to the enrichment and development of Singlish lexicon, especially for what concerns the entry of new loan words coming from all other contextual languages in Singapore, finds its roots in Tamil Language1.

In fact, right to Tamil Language are attributable the origins of these five typical Singlish words you might easily hear while visiting that colourful and charming quarter of Singapore named Little India:

  • Goondu (leterally translated from Tamil Language into Italian, it corresponds to to the Italian adjective grasso (fat into English), but in Singapore it often replaces the English adjectives idiot [idiota] and moron [ritardato, deficiente], as you can notice in a sentence like: «Why are you such a goondu?» [«Perchè sei così deficiente?»]);


  • Munjen (literally translated from Tamil Language into English it means “yellow”, but within Singlish or Singapore Colloquial English sometimes its meaning unfortunately acquires a racial derogatory connotation, are in fact anything but rare those cases in which this term is used in a pejorative sense in particular for pointing out people of Chinese origins in sentences like: «I hate when these apu neh neh call us munjens!» [ITALIAN: «Odio quando quegli “apu neh neh” (termine dispregiativo riferito agli indiani) ci chiamano “munjiens”!»])2;


  • Tambi (transliteration of the Tamil word “தம்பி“, whose literal meaning is younger brother; it is a term of endearment used with reference to a male younger cousin, especially in those cases in which the latter is the son of the speaker’s paternal uncle or aunt);


  • Appom (translitteration of the Tamil word “அப்பம்“, it is the name of a typical indian round shaped sweet obtained from a mixture of sugar and rice flour fried into the typical Indian clarified butter better known as “ghee”) and


  • Murukku (transliteration of the culinary term “முறுக்கு“, in Tamil Language it may mean both “twist” and “spin” end it is the name of another characteristic snack coming from Southern India, which is very popular and widespread in the countless stalls of Singapore. This typical snack of Tamil traditional cuisine is made from a dough made of chickpea flour and wheat flour or sometimes rice flour flavoured with different spices to which it is given a spiral shape before being immersed into the boiling oil where it is fried)3.

Further Readings and Recommended books

1Ochterbeck Clayton Cynthia, Michelin Green Guide Singapore, Michelin Apa Publications Ltd., Greenville, South Carolina, 2008, United States of America.


Dr. Biagio Faraci, traduttore tecnico, interprete di trattativa ed international web business consultant

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