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Sri Lankan English - Updates K

This page contains updates to the dictionary beginning with the letter K. 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.

Latest update: September 2014. New additions are in red.


kachchaal (= karachchal): (coll.) problem, trouble (Sinhala/Tamil)
If I didn’t leave at that point the secret would have become a kachchaal and I knew that my mother, she just wouldn’t have been able to deal with it. (The Moon in the Water, by Ameena Hussein, page 73)

kade paan: normal white bread from a kade (Sinhala)
They had taken a packed lunch of chicken roast, kadé paan, pol sambol and beer. (The Moon in the Water, by Ameena Hussein, page 69)

kadu faculty: (coll.) English department at university (from Sinhala kaduwa = sword)

Kaffir: a member of a small community of African origin, brought to Sri Lanka by the Portuguese and still living as a distinct community mainly based in the Puttalam area
> The word ‘kaffir’ is derived from the Arabic word ‘qafir’ meaning non-Muslim or non-believer. It was used for several centuries as a term for black South Africans, but in Africa is now considered a racist term. The Sri Lankan Kaffirs are Catholics and their traditional language is Portuguese Creole, which is still spoken by some elders of the community.
The saxophonist went under the name of Freddie Fonseka, but his flat nose and woolly hair branded him a Kaffir. The Dutch had brought them over from Africa to deploy against the island’s kings. (The Hamilton Case, by Michelle de Kretser, page 102)
It is then that I notice that her features are almost African; maybe she has Kaffir blood. Kaffirs are descendants of Africans, brought here by the Portuguese. (Chinaman, by Shehan Karunatilaka, page 400)
... like the old-time Kaffirs already in his employ ... (Beggar’s Feast, by Randy Boyagoda, page 222)
“But his hair, dear. Awfully curly, don’t you think? Kaffir hair?” (The Professional, by Ashok Ferrey, page 74)

kaffringna: a type of baila, a popular traditional Portuguese-style dance music (Portuguese)
> The name kaffringna clearly derives from the Kaffir community, which has a rich Portuguese/African musical tradition (also called Manja). However, the word is now used more loosely to refer to a variety of baila. Alternative spellings include kaffrinja, kaffringa, kaffringha, kaffringna, and the same spellings with an extra i (kaffirinja, kaffiringa, kaffiringha, kaffiringna). It is spelt kaffrinja in The Jam Fruit Tree by Carl Muller, and kaffringa in The Sweet and Simple Kind by Yasmine Gooneratne (see below):
The rhythm of baila and kaffringa, Latha found, was yet another of those traditions of the maritime provinces, inherited from the island’s European conquerors, that had been hidden from her by her mother’s prejudice against all things ‘Western’. … All around the room the most dignified of men and prudent of women were rocking within seconds to the energetic, compelling beat of baila and kaffringa, the men in mock-amorous pursuit, the women flashing coy, side-long glances while pretending to retreat. (The Sweet and Simple Kind, by Yasmine Gooneratne, page 196-7)

“But you just put some Kaffringha music on, he’ll be down here before you can say Robertson’s Marmalade.” (The Professional, by Ashok Ferrey, page 74)

kahata: (= stainy) astringent (one of the 6 tastes described in ayurveda) (Sinhala)
> Kahata refers to the bitter taste (caused by tannin) in strong tea (especially plain tea without sugar), in herbal remedies such as kasaya, and in certain fruits such as uguressa (especially when unripe). The Sinhala word kahata is much more common than the English equivalent ‘astringent’, so kahata is also used in English-speaking contexts.

kambi: steel rods used in reinforced concrete (Sinhala/Tamil = wire)

Kandyan chief: a former chief or headman in the Kandyan kingdom

Kandyan law: a traditional legal system relating to marriage, divorce and inheritance, which applies to Sinhalese of Kandyan descent

kankun: water spinach, water morning glory (Ipomoea aquatica), a green leaf used in cooking (Malay)
We always ate gotukola and kankun that grew wild on the riverbank. It was free. That was what we had with our rice at most times, gotukola and kankun. (Sam’s Story, by Elmo Jayawardena, page 45)
… the vegetable-hawker who had stacked her kankun and mukunuvanna miti in neatly tied bright green bundles. (Rainbows in Braille, by Elmo Jayawardena, page 111)
Finally it arrived – vegetable fried rice, cuttlefish in butter sauce, sweet and sour chicken, kankung beef, prawns in batter, and vegetable chow mein. (The Mango Tree, by Anthea Senaratna, page 96)
Or it might have been the extra strength garlic in the kang-kung. (Serendipity, by Ashok Ferrey, page 207)
Renu and I would often find her in the kitchen, … peeling onions and garlic or sorting through kankong leaves. (The Hungry Ghosts, by Shyam Selvadurai, page 73)

karachchal (= kachchaal): (coll.) problem, trouble (Sinhala/Tamil)
If the Minister in-charge of SLBC cannot stop the karachchal in the SLBC’s news bulletin, will the President be powerful enough to do it? (Island 02/05/06)

kasippu den: a place where kasippu is made and sold illegally
Weligama kasippu den raided (Daily Mirror 31/07/10)
After she died, he went on a binge and spent almost a month living in a kassippu den, drinking day and night. (The Lament of the Dhobi Woman, by Karen Roberts, page 28)

katta: (= shrewd, kapati) (coll.) crafty, cunning (Sinhala)

kaviya (plural kavi): poem, verse, traditional ballad (Sinhala)
“Why do I have to waste my time studying Sinhala kavi, Miss?” (The Sweet and Simple Kind, by Yasmine Gooneratne, page 55)
Worse, at times: he got them to read out the kavi in the Selalihini Sandheshaya, and the Guththilaya: … He knew it too well that … they weren’t the kavi type. (Stable Horses, by Vihanga Perera, page 71)
The astrologer … recollected the words of a kaviya he had once heard from his father’s lips. (Theravada Man, by Manuka Wijesinghe, page 147)
“I did not know she could recite kavi so well.” (Theravada Man, by Manuka Wijesinghe, page 250)

Far away I hear the cook and Nizam singing kavi, each outdoing the other in the bawdiness of their rhyming couplets. (Serendipity, by Ashok Ferrey, page 200)

keep: to keep somebody: to put somebody up, to host somebody in your house
We had to keep her for 3 weeks.

kehel kana: a whole branch of bananas, the full crop from a single tree (Sinhala)
(Click here to see a photograph)
“Two full kana on any given day, …” (Rainbows in Braille, by Elmo Jayawardena, page 30)

kekka: a long stick or bamboo pole with a hook on the end, used for picking fruits (Sinhala)

kenda: a type of leaf (Macaranga peltata) used to wrap jaggery, halapa, etc. (Sinhala)

kerosene oil: kerosene (US), paraffin (UK)

kidney patient: a person suffering from kidney disease (> heart patient)

kids: children (restricted to informal colloquial contexts in BSE, but sometimes used in more formal contexts in SLE)

Kili: (coll.) Kilinochchi

kirala: mangrove apple (Sonneratia), a type of fruit used to make juice (Sinhala)

knock off: knock out
… knowing very well that Stanley's small arracks were enough to knock off a horse. (July, by Karen Roberts, page 21)
“Our air force will knock them off easily.” (Arathi, by Nihal de Silva, page 128)

konde kurulla (= kondaya, bulbul): a small bird with a crest (konde) on its head; the most common variety is the red-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer) (Sinhala)
It was full of birds – mynahs, sparrows, konde kurullas. (All is Burning, by Jean Arasanayagam, page 91)
… the parrots, squirrels, konda kurullas, the koha, the shikra, the pol kitchas, the mynahs, the sunbirds, … (The Moon in the Water, by Ameena Hussein, page 229)

kottamba (= kottan): tropical almond (Terminalia catappa), a tree with spreading branches and edible seeds (Sinhala)
… and the leaves shaking in the Kottamba tree as the bats flew in and out for their evening meal. (Rainbows in Braille, by Elmo Jayawardena, page 48)
Mythil hid behind a big kottamba tree near the stream … (Mythil’s Secret, by Prashani Rambukwella, page 9)

kudda: (coll.) drug addict (Sinhala)

kutti: monk’s cell (Sinhala)
Some of the caves are divided by brick walls to be made into kutties for monks. (Shirley Perera, in The Nature of Sri Lanka by Luxshmanan Nadaraja, page 95)

… little mud kooties to which once in a while could be seen a yellow robed figure walking sedately. (Somewhere, by Vijita Fernando, page 12)


kaneru: yellow oleander, a plant with poisonous seeds (Sinhala)

kavadi dancer: Hindu devotional dancer (not ‘traditional’ Hindu dancer)
(Click here to see a photograph)

kohomba: margosa, neem (Sinhala)

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