A few Words and Phrases to get you through Sri Lanka Looking like a Total Local!

සිංහල ඉගෙනගැනීම

Learning Sinhala

Sinhala is a complicated language and those that say it is is easy are bloody liars, if you haven’t got the pronunciation down they will never guess what you mean. We have been here 8 months and have picked up a few handy words and phrases that will not only give you more respect in the community but may even reveal a double take or cause the recipient to burst into fits of laughter in pure disbelief. It’s a bloody good feeling!

Spelt phonetically:


Ayu-Bowen – Welcome

Ko-hom-i-da – Hello, how are you?

This is used as the greeting in pretty much all cases, they should answer with good but we have found a number of Sri Lankans just repeat it back to you)

Hon-die – Good

Oya-teh Ko-hom-i-da – and how are you?

This would be said if someone firstly asked you how you are and you then wanted to ask them, Oya-teh is asking them

Godac Hon-die – Very Good 

If you raise the pitch of your voice at the end of this sentence it becomes a question, for example if someone answered Hon-die, you could then ask Godac hon-die?

Bo-homo Hon-die – Very Good

Bo-homo is used more commonly than Godac and can be put in front of any adjective

Hon-di-neh – Not Good 

Literally translates as good no

Nari-kai – Terrible/ Very Bad 

If you are describing a very bad person you would say narakai, it means very bad indeed

Ing-al-an-teh – England 

Being English this is the only country we know

Lanka Ko-hom-i-da? – How is Sri Lanka?

La-son-eye – Beautiful


Pat-i-gini – Hungry (Give me rice)

Rass-i – Tasty

Wadi – These are deep fried lentil cakes basically, if you ever travel on a train you will hear this word over and over

Channa – Chickpeas

Wam-bat-au – Aubergine

Pap-a-nini – Cucumber

Camera-Cider – How is the food?


Monera – Peacock

Aliya – Elephant

Ali Pet-i-ya – Baby Elephant

Eta – Tusked Elephant

Baa-la – Dog

_MG_0344Family – 

Sri Lankans use these words for friends, you often here Uncle and Auntie as it is a sign of respect but young boys often call each other Mali.

Amma – Mum

Tada – Dad

Aya – Older Brother

Aka – Older Sisiter

Mali – Younger Brother

Nangi – Younger Sisiter

Uncle/Auntie – Older man or woman 



Ecka – 1

Deckai – 2

Tuni – 3

Hat-er-ai – 4

Baa – 5

Saya – 6

Hat-ah – 7

A-tah – 8

Nav-aya – 9

Dasa – 10


General Words & Sayings

Tika Tika pul-eh-wah – I can a little

This is what you answer when asked if you speak Sinhala, you can change Tka Tika for:

Podi Podi/Chu-teh Chu-teh – Small/Little

Mata Sat-a-two-ee – I am happy

Mata Sal-in-neh – I have no money

Mama Du-pad – I am poor

Hat-teh Vat-teh Hon-die/Nari-kai/Pos-ad – Good/bad/rich heart

Oya – You

Mama – I

Mama Yan-oh-wa – I leave now Good Bye if you were by yourself

Api Yan-oh-wah – We leave now Good Bye if there is a group

Api Yam-oo – Shall we go?

sani-pie – good feeling

Same-e-veh-vah – same to you

Mama Ador-eh Oya-teh – I love you

Oya Ma-gay-ya-lu-wah – You are my friends

Pissu – Foolish/Crazy You can call people this without offending them, it is a jokey insult

Kel-eh – girl

Col-eh – boy

Bad Words

These next 2 words are very bad words in Sinhala and should never be spoken unless to a close friend as a joke, however, it is good to know in case you are being called them. We have been called them before by a very rude man, he didn’t realise we knew how offensive he was being towards us, which meant we had reason to never speak to him again and be rude back.


Mata Houk-an-ah

I repeat, do not call people these unless they are your good friend as they will be very offended indeed.

These words will get you through most conversations without any hassle and it really is a wonderful feeling when you speak the language as the locals really do not expect you to and their looks of astonishment are worth the hard work!


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