Madras Bashai

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Madras Bashaiii (Tamil: மெட்ராஸ் பாஷ, romanized: Meṭrās pāṣa, lit. 'Madras slang') is a pidgin language or a dialect of Tamil language influenced by Indian English, Urdu and Hindi language spoken in the city of Chennai (previously known as Madras) in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu; it is not mutually intelligible with any of those except for Tamil, to a certain extent. The word bashai derives from the Sanskrit word bhasha, meaning "language", which means Mozhi (மொழி) in Tamil.

Madras Bashai evolved largely during the past three centuries. It grew in parallel with the growth of cosmopolitan Madras. After Madras Bashai became somewhat common in Madras, it became a source of satire for early Tamil films from the 1950s, in the form of puns and double entendres. Subsequent generations in Chennai identified with it and absorbed English constructs into the dialect, making it what it is today.


Madras Bashai evolved largely during the past three centuries. Contrary to popular belief, Madras was not founded in 1640 by the British East India Company, but by the Medeiros family of San Thome, the wealthiest merchants of the Portuguese settlement and who were locally known as the Madra family. It was that family who lent their name to the new town of Madraspatnam, founded near two fishing kuppams on a stretch of coast along which all fishing villages paid to the church and a return to the Madeiros family on the financial backing it provided them. With its emergence as an important city in the British Empire when they recovered it from the French and as the capital of Madras Presidency, the contact with western world increased and a number of English words crept into the vocabulary. Many of these words were introduced by educated, middle-class Tamil migrants to the city who borrowed freely from English for their daily usage.[1] Due to the presence of a considerable population of Telugu, Hindi and many other language-speakers, especially, the Gujaratis, Marwaris and some Muslim communities, some Hindi words, too, became a part of Madras Bashai. At the turn of the 20th century, though preferences have since shifted in favor of the Central and Madurai Tamil dialects, the English words introduced during the early 20th century have been retained.[1]

Madras Bashai is generally considered a dialect of the working class like the Cockney dialect of English. Lyrics of gaana songs make heavy use of Madras Bashai.


A few words unique to Madras Bashai are given below; an Internet project, urban Tamil, has set out to collect urban Tamil vocabulary.[2]

Standard Tamil Madras bashai Meaning
appuram (அப்புறம்) Appālikā,appāllē (அப்பாலிகா, அப்பாலே) Afterwards[3]
anñkē (அங்கே) Annanṇṭa (அந்நாண்ட) There
kōpam (கோபம்) Gaandu (காண்டு) Anger
Mosamana (மோசமான) Attu (அட்டு) Worst (Derived from Burmese word "attu" - meaning duplicate)
bayam (பயம்), achham (அச்சம்) mersu (மெர்சு) Fear
nandraga Illai (நன்றாக இல்லை) mokka (மொக்கை/மொக்க) Derived from Burmese word "macaunbu" meaning not good
dhaṭavai (தடவை) Dhabā (தபா) times- Derived from Hindustani - Dafa (number of times)
ēmatṟukiṟatu (ஏமாற்றுகிறது) Dabaikirathu (டபாய்க்கிறது) Fooling
kiṇṭal seivathu (கிண்டல் செய்வது) Kalāikirathu (கலாய்க்கிறது) To tease- Derived from Malayalam - Kali aakunnu.
makizhchi (மகிழ்ச்சி) Gūjjāallu (குஜ்ஜால்லு) Happy
kaal saṭṭai (கால் சட்டை) Nijāru (நிஜாரு) Trouser
viraivil viṭṭu(விரைவில் விட்டு) Apeetu (அபீட்டு) To exit quickly/Vanish from the spot. Derived from English word abate
Nalla irukku (நல்லா இருக்கு) Sokkha irukeethu(ஸோக்கா இருகீது ) Looking good - Derived from Urdu- Shauq- Passionate
Words borrowed from other languages
Madras bashai Meaning Source
Dūbaakoor (டுபாக்கூர்) Fraudster From the English word dubash which, itself, is a derivative of the Hindusthani word "Do bhasha", usually, used to refer to interpreters and middlemen who worked for the British East India Company. As in the early 19th century, dubashes such as Avadhanum Paupiah were notorious for their corrupt practices, the term "dubash" gradually got to mean "fraud"[4]
Nainā (நைனா) Father From the Telugu word Nāyanāh[3]
Bēmānī (பேமானி) Swearword; meaning unclear Derived from the Urdu word Bē Imān meaning "a dishonest person"
Gabbu (கப்பு) Bad Smell Derived from colloquial Telugu Gobbu
Gammu (கம்மு) Silent, peaceful Derived from colloquial Telugu gommuni
Bīscōthū (பிஸ்கோத்து) Sub-standard Derived from the English word "biscuit"
Kūnthu (குந்து) Sit down Derived from ancient Tamil
Dhūddū (துட்டு), Dabbū (டப்பு) Money Derived from Telugu[3]
Galeeju (கலீஜு) Yucky Derived from the Urdu word, Galeez
Kasmalam (கஸ்மாலம்) Dirty Derived from the Sanskrit word "Kasmalam" meaning dirty, discardable
Yegīrī (யெகிரி) To jump Usual Tamil word
Bējār (பேஜாறு) Problem Derived from Hindusthani
Figure (பிகர்) A beautiful girl From English. Used by youngsters
Correct (கரெக்ட்) (as a verb) To Impress A Girl. From English. Used by youngsters
O. C. (ஓ.ஸி) Free-of-cost From English. During the East India Company rule, letters posted on behalf of the East India Company did not bear postage stamps, but had the words 'On Company's Service' or 'OC' written on them. The word "O. C." gradually got to mean something which was offered free-of-cost[3][5]

In film[edit]

Madras Bashai is used in many Tamil movies after the 1950s. Actors such, Manorama, J. P. Chandrababu, Loose Mohan, Thengai Srinivasan, Janagaraj, Cho Ramaswamy, Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Vijay Sethupathi, Dhanush, Suriya, Santhanam, Vikram, Attakathi Dinesh, Vijay and Ajith Kumar are well known for using it. Representative films are Maharasan, Michael Madana Kama Rajan, Thirumalai, Vasool Raja MBBS, Attahasam, Pammal K. Sambandam, Chennai 600028, Siva Manasula Sakthi, Saguni, Attakathi, Theeya Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru, Idharkuthane Aasaipattai Balakumara, Ai, Madras, Kasethan Kadavulada, Anegan, Vedalam, Maari, Maari 2, Aaru,Sketch, Vada Chennai.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Vijayakrishnan, K. G. (1995). "Compound Typology in Tamil". Theoretical perspectives on word order in South Asian languages. Centre for Study of Language. pp. 263–264. ISBN 9781881526490.
  2. ^ Developers, Open Tamil. "Open Tamil Web- Indic Language Computing Platform". Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Pillai, M. Shanmugham. Tamil Dialectology. pp. 34–36.
  4. ^ Guy, Randor (15 June 2003). "Inspiration from Madras". The Hindu.
  5. ^ "Footprints of the Company". The Hindu. 28 August 2005.
  6. ^ "Language Found in Transition". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 8 June 2018.