Sri Lankan English
Learning Sinhala
Learning Tamil
Contact Us


























Sri Lankan English - Updates I

This page contains updates to the dictionary beginning with the letter I. It is divided into 2 parts: New Entries, and Comments and Corrections. Click here to return to the main updates page, or on the links on the left side of the page to go to another letter.

These pages are updated regularly; please contact me if you have any suggestions or feedback which can be included.


idda: the traditional mourning period for a Muslim widow, lasting 4 months and 10 days from the death of her husband (Arabic) (SAE)
RaushenGul had to begin her idda straightaway. (The Moon in the Water, by Ameena Hussein, page 25)

She had put on some weight during the idda and her tight sari blouse created a fold of flesh at her waist. (The Moon in the Water, by Ameena Hussein, page 150)

idiappam (= stringhoppers) (Tamil; Sinhala indiaappa)
“I know your uncle wants your mother’s cooking, but you can get everything here: fish cutlets, vadai, mutton rolls, dosai, pittu, idiuppum, everything.” (Love Marriage, by V.V. Ganeshananthan, page 146)

Generally vegetarian fare was wholesome, with items like … idiappam, stringy circular cakes … (Accha House and Umma House, by Asiff Hussein, page 183)
… iddiyappam or pittu for dinner. (A Long Watch, by Ajith Boyagoda and Sunila Galappatti, page 84)

ilapotha: ekel brush (without a handle) (Sinhala)
At least his perethayas could be pounded with the molgaha, chased with the ilapotha, cut with a mammoty or pacified with some food. (Theravada Man, by Manuka Wijesinghe, page 69)

“… I’ll whack you with the ilapotha.” (Maudiegirl and the von Bloss Kitchen, by Carl Muller, page 160)

Indian Tamil (= upcountry Tamil): a member of the Tamil community brought from South India to Sri Lanka by the British in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to work on the tea estates (> Sri Lankan Tamil)
A few of the ‘Indian Tamil’ community went in for higher education and the professions; … (Nobodies to Somebodies, by Kumari Jayawardena, page 208)

Hardly anyone is prepared to spare a thought for the Indian Tamils. (Palmyra Fallen, by Rajan Hoole, page 30)
Under the terms of the proposed Ceylon Citizenship Act (No. 18 of 1948), almost the entire Indian Tamil population – whose ill-paid labour, lest we forget, was the foundation of the country’s economy – were summarily disenfranchised. Since the government of India did not recognize them as citizens either, the Act would render the ‘Indian’ Tamils of Ceylon stateless. … Only about five thousand Indian Tamils qualified for citizenship under its provisions. (Ceylon Tea: The Trade that Made a Nation, by Richard Simon, page 155-7)

interpreter mudaliyar: official court interpreter (> mudaliyar)
Last week’s court proceedings at the Embilipitiya Magistrate Courts began on a subdued note as usual with the Interpreter Mudaliar calling out the names of witnesses, accused and complainants gathered before court to testify. (Sunday Observer 27/02/05)
He served variously as Kachcheri Mudaliyar of Ratnapura and Nuwara Eliya, and as the Court Interpreter Mudaliyar at Matale and Matara. (Sunday Times 24/09/06)
Eight persons, including an Interpreter Mudaliyar of a Court in Anuradhapura and an employee of the Anuradhapura Municipality were taken into custody by the Nochchiyagama Police while they were engaged in a treasure hunt atop an ancient rock in the Periyanagalle tank in Adampane. (Island 22/05/07)
None of them could speak Sinhalese or English. The Interpreter Mudaliyar did not know Tamil either. ( 02/07/12)

invitation card: invitation (SAE)
The wedding of Sharon Shokman and Ahmed Hassan was expected to be a ‘most joyous occasion’, as the invitation cards had stated. (The Mirror of Paradise, by Asgar Hussein, page 55)
So they made phone calls, flashed a torch on to the invitation card to check its authenticity, … (Playing Pillow Politics at MGK, by Lal Medawattegedara, page 15)

IP: Inspector of Police (> SI)
Mount Lavinia HQI IP Mahesh Perera had a word of caution for residents. (ST 05/09/10)
But I saw that the IP was trying to explain that it is the courts that released this man; … ( 06/08/12)

ipil-ipil: a type of tree with long brown pods (Leucaena leucocephala) (Sinhala; also Philippines, from Tagalog/Maranao)
The mound of earth under the ipil-ipil tree was small. (Can You Hear me Running, by Lal Medawattegerera, page 40)

issaraha kaema: food considered superior to everyday fare and therefore served on formal occasions (Sinhala)
The Rest House Keeper, RHK, had flexible menus, depending on the customer’s choice. Usually, it was ‘buth-curry’ for lunch and ‘Issaraha Kema’ for dinner. ( 02/07/05)
… she produced chicken á la king, rissoles, seer fish mouille, sausage in onions and other items of issara kema that was usually served for dinner. (Island 25/05/08)
At formal dinners or lunches there was invariably, the issaraha kema, the first serving consisting of British style soup followed by boiled vegetables, fish and meat, dish served first, then ‘passe kema’, Sinhala meal of rice and curry. (Island 18/09/08)
Now, as a single-household individual and a pensioner, subsisting on a minimum vegetarian diet and avoiding even Issaraha-kema vegetables like carrots, beetroot and beans, but living on the passe-kema (old servants fare or Hean-elavalu) like ‘wambottu’, ‘bandakka’, ‘pathola’ and ‘wattakka’, ‘mae-karal’ … and the cheapest ‘Keera’, I know it is impossible to manage with Rs. 2500. (Island 27/04/12)

isso vadai: prawn vadai (Sinhala)
Groups of families and friends sat in little clumps chatting and eating isso vadais and kadale from paper cones. (The Moon in the Water, by Ameena Hussein, page 163)

Isso vade salesmen did good business. (Chinaman, by Shehan Karunatilaka, page 157)


interior: not only inland (away from the sea), but also off the main road
You have to go a few hundred yards interior.

is it?, isn’t it?: In the dictionary, these two question tags are presented as equivalents, but in fact they are used differently. Isn’t it? is more common, and is used in the same way as the even more common question tag no?, to confirm information that the speaker assumes to be true; it is normally pronounced with a rising and falling intonation (pitch rising on isn’t and falling on it). Is it? is less common, and functions as a genuine question, where the speaker is less sure of his/her information; it is normally pronounced with a rising intonation. The following examples illustrate the way they are used:

“Had a good time at home, is it, Mala?” (The Banana Tree Crisis, by Isankya Kodithuwakku, page 87)
“Mala’s got back at last, is it?” (The Banana Tree Crisis, by Isankya Kodithuwakku, page 88)
“And that somehow makes you more intelligent, is it?” (Learning to Fly, by Shehani Gomes, page 144)

“Now y’all are following football, is it?” (Chinaman, by Shehan Karunatilaka, page 308)

"You are forgetting the presumption of innocence, isn't it." (The Hamilton Case, by Michelle de Kretser, page 110)
“Now changed your mind, isn’t it?” (The Banana Tree Crisis, by Isankya Kodithuwakku, page 158)
“Those suddhis gave the boats on that rule, isn’t it?” (The Banana Tree Crisis, by Isankya Kodithuwakku, page 190)
“You’re wanting to go back prawning, isn’t it?” (The Banana Tree Crisis, by Isankya Kodithuwakku, page 196)
“Early birds catch all the worms, isn’t it!” (The Sweet and Simple Kind, by Yasmine Gooneratne, page 539)
“We have all had a shock, isn’t it?” (Homesick, by Roshi Fernando, page 161)

“Every man needs a name, isn’t it?” (Beggar’s Feast, by Randy Boyagoda, page 74)
“They are keeping the economy on a firm rein, isn’t it?” (Questions of Travel, by Michelle de Kretser, page 409)
“You know my address, isn’t it?” (Rails Run Parallel, by Ayathurai Santhan, page 99)

Click here to return to the main updates page, or on the links on the left side of the page to go to another letter.



Copyright © Mirisgala