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The following glossary includes words in Sinhalese and South Indian usage in the early C18th (in italics), English language words (excluding military terms), or words coined and/or derived from other languages.



adigar (abbr. adigarama): chief officer in the Kandyan Kingdom, chief minister.

angula: flat-bottomed boat.

arrack: spirit distilled from coconut palm sap; highly alcoholic (from Arabic araq=juice).

atapattuwa (also atapattu) : name of a class of militia who acted as the king’s bodyguard (see also: maduva)

ayuveda: indigenous system of medicine.


batta: rice; extra allowance of pay granted to troops in India.

bo-tree (also bodhi): a tree sacred to Buddhists (ficus religiosa).

burgher: person of European ancestry.


cadjan: palm leaves matted or plaited together to form a thatch or roof.

caffree (also kaffir): African native, brought to Ceylon as a slave or mercenary soldier by Portuguese, Dutch or British.

Candia: variant term for Kandy.

chalia: caste mainly employed in collecting cinnamon.

chetty (also chitty, chettiar): individual of any of the South-Indian trading castes; merchant, banker, money-lender, broker.

cinnamonchena: high land used for shifting cultivation.

Cingalese (also Cinglasse) - early variant spelling for Sinhalese people.

coir: rope or cordage made from the fibrous husks of the coconut.

conocopolly: personal secretary - a person responsible for paying accounts, supervising servants, and assisting in buying, selling and debt collection.

coolie: person who carries a load.

creese (also kris): dagger or knife with a curved blade used by Malays.

crore: numerical value of ten million.


dagoba: a solid hemispherical dome enshrining religious relics or the remains of kings.

Dalada: tooth-relic of the Buddha.

Dalada Maligava: Temple of the Tooth Relic (in Kandy).

deniya: low, marshy ground.

devale (or devala): temple or shrine (Buddhist or Hindu).

disava (also disawa): governor of a province or disavane in the Kandyan Kingdom.

dhony (also dhoney or dony): a small sailing vessel or ferry boat.

disavane (also disawane): province.

dooly (also dhooly): a covered chair or palanquin, often used to carry a sick person.

Dutch Burgher: (primarily) the descendants of the Dutch who came to Sri Lanka in C16th-C18th.


elephant rupee: British silver rixdollar.

Esala Perahera: festival of the full moon in the month of Esala (July-August).


fanam: small coin, one-twelfth of a rixdollar.


gabadagama: royal village.

gama (pl. gam): village.

gamika: village headman.

grog: mixture of rum and water


half-pay: pay accorded to an officer who held a commission but had no employment.

HEIC: Honourable East India Company [English], established in 1600.

havildaru (also havildar): Sepoy non-commissioned officer, corresponding to a sergeant.

hevaya: native soldier [named lascarin by Europeans].


jaggery: brown sugar made from palm sap.

jawas: Malays brought to Ceylon as soldiers by the Dutch; some were in the Kandyan service.

jungle: originally meant waste-land or uncultivated ground; later, ground covered with shrubs, trees or long grass; Anglo-Indian application is to a forest, thicket, or tangled wilderness.


kadawatu: thorn gates used for closing and guarding public thoroughfares.

katcheri (also cutchery, kachcheri): local government office.

korala: official responsible for the administration of a pattuva.

korale (also korle ): territorial division, unit of administration.


lakh: numerical value of 100,000.

Lanka: Ceylon.

lascar: deck-hand on board ship; also labourer employed in dragging artillery or pitching military tents ( i.e. ‘gun-lascar’).

lascarin (also lascareen): term used by Europeans to describe Sri Lankan auxiliary troops; inferior in discipline to a sepoy.


maduva: Kandyan military force - divided into several departments to form a small standing army or militia.

Malays: originally came to Sri Lanka as soldiers of the Dutch army in the C18th.

modelliar or modliar: a native headman or chief military officer.

mohindiram: a title of rank - a senior official.

moonstone: the semi-circular stone step at the entrance to a shrine; also a gemstone.

Moors: Muslim traders from the Arabian peninsular and South India - first mentioned in Ceylon in early C8th. To the Kandyan Sinhalese those Muslims domiciled in the Kingdom were known as marakkalayo and those on the coast as hanbankarayo; known by the Portuguese as Moors.

mudaliyar: chief military officer commanding hevaya or Sinhalese militia; higher in rank than a mohindiram.

muncheel (also monchiel): a type of hammock-litter slung on long poles, used as a substitute for a palanquin or dooly.


Nayakkars: last ruling dynasty of Sri Lanka. Founded in 1739 by Sri Vijaya Rajasingha, who ascended the Kandyan throne. The Nayakkars were of Telegu origin from Madurai, South India; integrated themselves fully into Sinhalese-Buddhist society - all of them were keen patrons of Buddhism. Last king: Sri Vikrama Raja Sinha (1780-1832) was captured by the British in 1815 and exiled to Vellore, India.

nulla [also nullah]: watercourse.


ola: palm-leaf on which writing is inscribed with a stylus and afterwards rubbed with lamp-black and gum.

oya: seasonal river.


paddy: rice in the husk.

paduva: caste of palanquin bearers.

pagoda: gold coin current in South India and Ceylon. Two kinds: (1) Star pagoda, coined by the East India company at Madras and worth 8 shillings; (2) Porto Novo pagoda, coined by the Dutch at Tuticorin and by the Nawabs of Arcot. 100 Star pagodas were worth 120 Porto Novo pagodas.

palanquin (also palankin): a box-shaped litter with poles attached (for a single person), carried on men’s shoulders (see: paduva).

pattamar: a lateen-rigged ship, with one, two or three masts. Common on the western coast of India.

pattuva (pl. pattu): subdivided district within a korale.

peon (also pion): orderly or messenger.

perahara: procession, pageant; the most important of which is the Kandy Esala Perahera.

pettah: town attached or adjacent to a fortress; pettah was sometimes separately fortified.

punkah: fan-like device for circulating air in a room, operated by a cord pulled by hand.

pura: city, town.

putrid fever: early colloquialism for typhus.


raj: rule.

raja: king, ruler; prefix maha means great.

rata: district.

rixdollar: name of the Spanish dollar (peso) struck by the British East India Company for Ceylon from 1803. The value of the coin in 1814 was equivalent to 21/2 English shillings. The name is part-copy, part-translation of the Dutch coinage rijksdaalder, consisting of 12 fanams or 48 stuivers.


salver: tray used for handing out refreshments, or presenting letters, visiting cards etc.

sepoy: Indian private soldier (of infantry), commonly used as an adjective (e.g. 'sepoy regiment') or in the plural to describe Indian soldiers in general.

Sinhala: language of the Sinhalese people.

stiver: British coin issued in Ceylon in early C19th; English spelling of Dutch coin stuiver.

subedar: officer rank corresponding to lieutenant.


tank: lake or artificial pond created for irrigation or bathing.

tappal: courier post.

tiffen: midday meal.

toddy: lightly-fermented drink from coconut palm sap.

tope: grove of trees, commonly of coconut or palmyras.

toni or tony (also dhoney or dony): a small native sailing vessel; a ferry boat.


Veddas: aborigines of Sri Lanka who inhabited the island prior to the arrival of immigrant settlers from India; remnant tribal group who lived in the forest/jungle area in northern and eastern Sri Lanka in C19th.

vihar: Buddhist place of worship.

VOC (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie): Dutch East India Company; established in 1602.

Military Terms
Place Names
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73rd Regiment

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