The Iyengar Vocabulary by Neharika

Blog post by Neharika Rajagopalan
Frankly speaking, there should be a dictionary for the standard vocabulary used by Tamizh Brahmins. But, here is a short list of popular words used by the Brahmin community in Tamilnadu. This list is more customised to suit the Iyengar community, since the author of this list is more proficient with the language used by them.
DISCLAIMER: This post is simply a statement of facts, and not directed at anyone or intended to be derogatory towards anyone or anything.
Well, here goes nothing (Note: the words aren’t in any particular order):
1) Theertham/Jalam (n): usually refers to drinking water. Also pronounced as Dhaertham (“There-tham”) in some other dialects in this lingo. No, this is not only the water we get in temples as sacred offerings to the deity. It also refers to normal drinking water that we use at home.
Synonym in regular Tamizh: Thanni.
2) Aan (n): This is usually the suffix which S.J. Surya uses at the end of every sentence he speaks. But, in the TamBrahm lingo, it means “house”.
v. “aathuku” (to/for the house), “aathula” (in the house).
Synonym in regular Tamizh: Veedu.
3) Thirukannamudhu (n): A word popularly known to be the cause of  TamBrahm Tamizh-dyslexia in the younger crop of the Iyengar community, it refers to a sweet dish (made of milk) served at the end of every meal.
Synonym in regular Tamizh: Paayasam.
4) Bhakshanam (n): All the delicious stuff prepared during Pongal/Avani Avittam/Rama Navami/Janmashtami/Deepavali/Kaarthigai which we eat faster than we can say Bhakshanam.
Synonym in regular Tamizh: Prasaadham.
5) Pannindrikkae/Saaptundrukkae (v): “ndrukkae” (the suffix) is the feature unique to this lingo. Replaces “trukkae” in regular Tamizh. Use of this suffix generally triggers the following symptoms among friends:
a) Pointing finger at person using this suffix
b) Laughing loudly
c) Saying “Hey!!! Maami Maami!”
Groan. Seriously, people. Lame.
6) Umachi (n): Refers to the supernatural being that some of us believe in and worship. Ease of pronunciation has made it a hit among toddler “maamis” and “maamas”.
Synonym in regular Tamizh: Kadavul.
7) Saathamudhu (n): The divine drink of “rasam”, a beverage made of tomato and dal, generally mixed with rice. Symptoms of reaction to use of this word similar to those in number 5, leading to the *trying-to-make-lame-jokes-about-TamBrahm-language-and-failing-miserably* disease.
8) Karimedhu (n): It does NOT mean a lump of coal. It refers to any cooked vegetable(WITHOUT onion and/or garlic) which accompanies rice in a meal.
Synonym in regular Tamizh: Poriyal.
9) Thaligai (n): “Hahaha, it sounds like a jewellery shop, Thanga Maaligai. Do you cook gold in your kitchen?”. Noooooo. Please. Mokkai. It means cooking, or the product of cooking.
Synonym in regular Tamizh: Samayal.
Now that this list is available for viewing by the general public, (guys, in particular), please use this and update your knowledge. Because, seriously:
1) Other girls generally do not mock a Brahmin girl’s language (there might be exceptions).
2) There is nothing else which puts off a girl using this language than a guy trying to make lame jokes about her pronunciation/language.

22 thoughts on “The Iyengar Vocabulary by Neharika

  1. I am born in a Vadagalai Iyengar family. I live in Singapore, a country with many Thamizhans, but where there are very few TamBrahms. In my childhood, my mother made sure I speak the Iyengar language. However, when I speak ‘Tamizh’ (Iyengar actually), I was both ridiculed and one man took it offensively. He said “Nee pannu nu sollakoodaathunga.. Pannunga nu sollanum.Pinnaala ga pottu pesu. Moothavarkitta mariyaadhaiyoda pasonom.” After that I permanently changed gear to Tamizh. However, now I am 19 and I realised how important it is to spaek my mother dialect. நா இப்போ ஐயங்கார் பாஷய அழிவுலேர்ந்து காப்பாத்தற்துக்கான எல்லா முயற்சிகளையும் பன்னின்ட்ருக்கேன்.


  2. Ah, thanks for posting this! I have been mocked my entire life for ‘-drukkae’, ‘aathuku poren’, etc.,
    This reminds me a lot of my time in school


  3. Good Post.Further there are still some more tambrahm delicacies which are missing from the list.
    Thathyonnam – The typical name for thayir saatham.
    Vaangi Baath – Kathirikkai saatham
    Bagala Baath – Again another name for thayir saatham
    Bisibela Baath – Sambar saatham
    Akaravadisal – Chakkara(sakkara) Pongal.


  4. Awesome post!! Brings back memories of me in school when I said saathumadhu by mistake indtead of rasam which led me to explain what the hell saathumadu was to my other (regular Tamil speaker) friends and how they used to try to say the word and laugh about it…


  5. Very interesting, The corrections that I wanted to make have been done by others. I enjoyed going through the posts and comments. The additions are also very appropriate. Thanks for sharing.


  6. Nice job…Will add few that I can quickly think of..

    Amudhu – Means Cooked Rice
    Kuthu – means pour . Alternate of ‘oothu’ which is considered crude in Iyengar slang
    Saadhikardhu – means to serve. In mainstream tamil it means ‘to succeed’
    Sayanam- means ‘to sleep’
    Thiruthuzhaai – Tulasi – Holy Basil
    Yadheshtam- means adequate or sufficient
    Rasaabaasam – means untoward or confused state…
    Saathu – close… Another word for ‘moodu’ which sounds rude.
    Azhachinduvardhu- bring / pick someone… In tamil they say kootitu varadhu or ittukinu vardhu…
    Thirumanjanam – means Abhishegam
    Mangli poondu – means sumangali prarthanai
    Dhraabai – means poor quality


    1. What about “Kozhambu”? Isn’t that tambrahm too, for the very popular ” Sambhar”? Never heard the word outside home and family.


  7. Good read 🙂 Here are some more Iyengar-ness
    1. Karigaai ( as opposed to kaaigari) for vegetables
    2. Thiruthardhu (same as narukardhu) for chopping vegetables
    3. Sevikardhu, synonymous to namaskaram panradhu


  8. Neharika, 2 comments:
    1: Bhakshanam is not equal to prasadam it is paniyaram (not kuzhi paniyaram). All bhakshanams are paniyarams.
    2: its Thannir not thanni(this is a colloquial slang). There is a difference between Theertham & Jalam. Ideally Jalam translates to Thannir. Theertham, signifies a divinity that is not translated to tamizh directly. “Punitha Neer” is a close translation. Even in Tamizh there is a difference between Thannir & Neer. Thannir is drinkable. Neer may not be(like sea water).


  9. Nice to finally see an iyengar-based dictionary. Nothing against iyers, just the same feel-good factor magnified when in proximity with iyengar tambrahm!

    Having grown up in Delhi, I knew wonly this language and was in for a rude shock when I stayed in Chennai for a few years. Faced this finger pointing and conversation stopper “Oh, Brahmin, ah?” at the mere mention of theertham and aam/aathu. Frantically changed gears to thanni and veedu overnight, thankfully parents understood. Else you’ll be shown to the bathroom if you ask for thanni lol!

    P.S. I thought home was ‘Aam’. Correct me if I’m wrong.



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