Sri Lankan English
Learning Sinhala
Learning Tamil
Contact Us


























Sri Lankan English - Updates M

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


machal: female cousin or sister-in-law (Tamil) (> machan)
“Of course machchal, … What’s it machchal? Ask me,” … (The Whirlwind, by Ayathurai Santhan, page 158)

Devika’s Machal (Cousin) was in an educated youths’ scheme, … (Palmyra Fallen, by Rajan Hoole, page 471)

madati: a tree (Adenanthera pavonina) with small, bright red seeds, similar to olinda seeds, formerly used as jewellers’ weights (Sinhala) (known in the Carribean as jumbie beads?)
(Click here to see a photograph)

Searching for seeds strewn among the fallen fruit. The smooth lacquer red-black of maditchi, … (A Nice Burgher Girl, by Jean Arasanayagam, page 126-7)
“You are sure it was not Madatiya?” (Sinhala Only, by Manuka Wijesinghe, page 328)
It is said that the good old matron used to collect the bright red seeds of the Madatiya (Coralwood tree) then strewn all over the front garden of the college to use as boot button eyes for her soft toys. (Accha House and Umma House, by Asiff Hussein, page 144-5)
“But what I remember most is the Madati tree in the garden to which I ran the moment I arrived there,” … (Sunday Leader 17/03/02)
Large coconut shell knick knack box with madati seed detail. (

maendiya: a pose in Kandyan dancing (Sinhala)
… walking in the maendiya of a Kandyan dancer … (Theravada Man, by Manuka Wijesinghe, page 152)

Maha Mudaliyar: (hist.) honorary title of a senior mudaliyar in colonial times (> Gate Mudaliyar)
[Solomon] Bandaranaike was subsequently made a Gate Mudaliyar in 1894, Maha Mudaliyar in 1895, and for his unwavering loyalty to the British, he was given the CMG … while in London in 1902. (Nobodies to Somebodies, by Kumari Jayawardena, page 314)

Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike had ridden a wave of Sinhalese nationalism to power, but the son of the Maha Mudaliyar and former Secretary of the Oxford Union was no revolutionary chauvinist. (Ceylon Tea: The Trade that Made a Nation, by Richard Simon, page 163)

mala batha: traditional funeral meal (Sinhala)
“The flowers are paid for, the caterers are setting up the mala batha on the back verandah.” (The Good Little Ceylonese Girl, by Ashok Ferrey, page 67)

Thereafter they had their meals together. Be it Ramazan, Thai Pongal, Christmas or ‘mala batha’. (Sinhala Only, by Manuka Wijesinghe, page 309)

malkoha: a large bird of the cuckoo family (Sinhala); the red-faced malkoha (Phaenicophaeus pyrrhocephalus) is endemic to Sri Lanka

… painted storks, eagles and malkohas among others. (Sunday Leader 20/12/09)
A single Red-faced Malkoha flew and perched high over us, providing a good view. (Wild Sri Lanka, by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, page 184)

mana grass: a tall variety of grass (Cymbopogon confertiflorus) (Sinhala)
In the tall mana grass, barely visible, were stone slabs … (Sigiriya & Beyond, by Neranjana Gunetilleke et al, page 246-7)
The trail goes through villages as well as stretches of teak forests and mana grass. (Sigiriya & Beyond, by Neranjana Gunetilleke et al, page 345)

manel: water lily (Nymphaea) (Sinhala) (> nil manel)
Red lotuses, white water lilies and bluish purple manel, … (Sam’s Story, by Elmo Jayawardena, page 131)
The backdrop to the temple is the Madawala Wewa, famed for being covered with nelum and manel during the season. (Sigiriya & Beyond, by Neranjana Gunetilleke et al, page 220)

Marie biscuit: a plain biscuit used to make chocolate biscuit pudding
… five slightly soft Marie biscuits from Premawathi’s private biscuit tin … (The Flower Boy, by Karen Roberts, page 119)
“How about a Marie biscuit or two with that …?” (Serendipity, by Ashok Ferrey, page 62)
They drink tea, nibble Marie biscuits and pinch Visaka’s cheeks. (Island of a Thousand Mirrors, by Nayomi Munaweera, page 55)
My grandmother waited as Rosalind brought out two cups of tea and some Marie biscuits and put the tray on a table in front of her. (The Hungry Ghosts, by Shyam Selvadurai, page 7)

At teatime … we had this habit of dipping buttered bread or Marie biscuits in our milk tea … (Accha House and Umma House, by Asiff Hussein, page 179)

masala vadai (= parippu vadai): a vadai made with dhal (Tamil)
She made thosas and coconut chutney and masala vadas ... (July, by Karen Roberts, page 190)
… a small boy with a laden wicker basket on his shoulder passed through the carriage, which instantly filled with the delicious scent of hot masalavadai. (The Sweet and Simple Kind, by Yasmine Gooneratne, page 209)

mee haraka (= buffalo): (coll.) fool, idiot (Sinhala) (> booruwa, gona)
Hajj rituals CANNOT be stopped by mee harakas. (comment on 30/08/12)
Another PR statement designed to appease the YP mee harakas who voted for them! (comment on 09/08/16)

mid-country: between upcountry and low country
mid-country tea
Tea was mainly a British preserve, but some of the wealthy Sri Lankans started tea planting in the low and midcountry regions of Kelani Valley and Sabaragamuwa; … (Nobodies to Somebodies, by Kumari Jayawardena, page 147)
Land degradation is also common in the mid-country districts such as Badulla, Matale, Kandy and Kegalle where crops such as tea, rubber, vegetables are cultivated. (Island 25/06/10)

mid-grown, medium-grown: (of tea) grown at an elevation of 600-1200m (2000-4000 ft) (> high-grown, low-grown)
Kandy and Matale districts fall in to the middle-elevation zone (600 and 1200 m) and teas that are grown are known as Mid grown or Mid country tea. (
Extreme weather conditions continue to beat at high and mid grown tea production, with the sectors output dropping 10.27 percent since August 2003. ( 22/09/04)

milk wine: a homemade drink made with arrack, milk, fruit juice, sugar and spices (a Burgher speciality)
Auntie Tommy prepared for Christmas by making milk wine. The milk was boiled and the potent arrack spiced with crushed cardamoms, cloves and nutmeg added to it with burnt sugar syrup. It had to be filtered through fine muslin or filter paper for hours and hours. (A Nice Burgher Girl, by Jean Arasanayagam, page 362)
“We’ve sent up a complimentary love cake, … Also a bottle of milk wine. Enjoy.” (Serendipity, by Ashok Ferrey, page 92)
Tuesday was the day Father Rosario arrived for his weekly drink (two shots, no more, of milk wine measured out into thimble-sized glasses). (The Ceaseless Chatter of Demons, by Ashok Ferrey, page 74)

mohottala: (hist.) a traditional Kandyan chief (Sinhala)
“Sir, the subordinate powers as the Adikars, the Disaves, the Mohottalas, the Korales and the Vidanes have a reserved right to execute the powers within their respective ranks.” (Sinhala Only, by Manuka Wijesinghe, page 24)
This was done in the presence of the Mohottalas, Korales, Vidanes and the other subordinate headmen from the several provinces and the people there assembled. (Island 01/03/08)
In the Udarata, mohottalas maintained registers of the soldiers under their command. (Daily News 29/03/11)
Except for three Mohottalas, Menikrala, Ganangamuwe and Moragane all other Mohottalas had gone against him … (Sunday Observer 24/08/14)

mother tongue: the language associated with one’s ethnic group (i.e. Sinhala or Tamil); often the language one learnt as a child; but not necessarily one’s first language (for example in the case of Sri Lankans who were educated in English and speak English as their first language)
She came from one of those families that spoke, thought and dreamt in English. Sinhala or Tamil might be their mother tongue but it was very much a second language, a language used only to speak to the servant classes. (Serendipity, by Ashok Ferrey, page 188)

moulavi: Muslim religious scholar (from Arabic mawlawi) (SAE, esp. Bangladesh)
Also active were the moulavis of the Puttalam Grand Mosque. … Moulavis are also probably a more earthy lot compared with middle class church leaders … (Palmyra Fallen, by Rajan Hoole, page 433)

movement: the movement: the LTTE
Distraught parents became a regular sight around L.T.T.E. camps crying and begging for their children who had run away and joined the movement. (The Broken Palmyrah, by Rajan Hoole et al, page 78)
Dedication to the slogan of Tamil Eelam, and more so to the “Movement” was the central axis of the organisation. Anything could be justified in the name of the sacred “Movement”. (The Broken Palmyrah, by Rajan Hoole et al, page 360)
My mother was in the movement too, she said. (Love Marriage, by V.V. Ganeshananthan, page 40)
The first to be killed were Tamil opponents of the movement. (Love Marriage, by V.V. Ganeshananthan, page 170)
While helping my uncle out in his farm, I have seen fighters of the movement walking around with guns. (Time Will Write a Song for You: Contemporary Tamil writing from Sri Lanka, page 237)
“The allure of the Movement from outside is not what it really is inside.” (Palmyra Fallen, by Rajan Hoole, page 147)

The movement would shoot if they caught anyone escaping, … (The Story of a Brief Marriage, by Anuk Arudpragasam, page 10)
One visit was to a distant aunt. She was widowed and had sons. One died in the ‘movement’, another was in India, … (Daily Mirror 08/06/06)

MR: (former President) Mahinda Rajapaksa
Dulanjalee Premadasa tells MR where to get off (Daily Mirror 03/02/16)
MR visits Gammanpila, Muzammil in prison (Ceylon Today 24/06/16)

Mrs B: (former Prime Minister) Sirimavo Bandaranaike
Mrs. B's government of 70-77, gave us the real freedom from our colonial masters. …
I saw Mrs. B at her best during the coalition government's stewardship which was her second tenure. … Mrs. B among all was the supreme leader and it was again her charisma, decisiveness, unwavering commitment to the cause and her caring nature that always caught my young mind's attention. (Daily News 17/04/04)

“He likes Mrs. B. Since Mrs. B is not there now I don’t think he cares.” (On Sal Mal Lane, by Ru Freeman, page 257)

MS: (President) Maithripala Sirisena
MS to be nominated for Nobel Peace Prize (Daily Mirror 27/11/15)
MS Approves MR – Chief Ministers Meeting (Sunday Leader 22/01/17)
MR thanks MS for appointing Presidential Committee (Daily News 01/03/17)

mudaliyar (2) (= court mudaliyar): court official (> interpreter mudaliyar)
The Mudliyar realizing that something was amiss shushed the court sternly. (Zillij, by Ameena Hussein, page 8)

muhurath: a ceremony to mark the start of something, e.g. the filming of a film or teledrama (SAE)
… the Muhurath ceremony of the movie was held at the Punchi Theatre recently. (Sunday Observer 18/10/09)

mulgedera (= ancestral home): the original home of one’s parents or grandparents; not necessarily the same as mahagedera, which might be the current main family residence (Sinhala)
A diga married daughter who left the mulgedera and returned as a widow or divorcee was entitled to rights of family support and inheritance. (Island 30/04/11)

mulligatawny: a spicy soup (from Tamil milagu tanni = pepper water) (SAE)
> Mulligatawny originated as a colonial adaptation of a simple Tamil rasam. It now has many manifestations around the world, often including chicken.
… between the mulligatawny and the fish course, … (The Sweet and Simple Kind, by Yasmine Gooneratne, page 24)
There were chatty roasts and mulligatawny, made of beef or chicken stock, tempered and flavoured with cumin and coconut milk. … Mulligatawny and rice was the all-in-one meal, sustaining yet not leaving one uncomfortably overfull. (A Nice Burgher Girl, by Jean Arasanayagam, page 246)
The cook managed the food of the house, those various nursery dishes so beloved of memsahibs and Sri Lankans of a certain class: the mulligatawny, the beef olives, the rhubarb crumble. (Serendipity, by Ashok Ferrey, page 49)

murunga leaves: leaves of the murunga tree used in cooking
“Superbly cooked, I must say,” observed Vijay, working through his fourth crab-belly. “The murunga leaves make all the difference.” (When Memory Dies, by A. Sivanandan, page 347)
Jane-Nona made her famous crab curry in honour of Niresh’s visit, with her own combination of roasted spices ground into a paste, coconut milk, murunga leaves, and tamarind to give it a nice tang. (Swimming in the Monsoon Sea, by Shyam Selvadurai, page 113-4)
… and crabs cooked into a red-hot curry with murunga leaves. (A Nice Burgher Girl, by Jean Arasanayagam, page 371)

Musaeite: a student or former student of Musaeus College, Colombo (> Bishopian, Bridgeteen, Familian, LC-ite, Shepherdian, Visakhian)
BG, Colombo respectable business family seeks professionally qualified kind hearted partner for their eldest daughter 23, slim, 5'3", attractive, very fair, pretty musaeite doing her final exams at ACBT in Business Administration. (Sunday Observer 26/04/09)
She was trailed in the same event by a fellow Musaeite, … (Sunday Times 19/09/10)
They were indeed extremely proud that they were Musaeites. (Island 14/01/13)

Muslim law: the Muslim legal system, one of several systems still in operation in Sri Lanka (SAE) (> Roman-Dutch law, quazi)
“Does this mean Suresh uncle, that the estate falls under Muslim law?” (The Moon in the Water, by Ameena Hussein, page 50)

Under Muslim (Islamic) law, women could inherit, but their share was less than that of men; they could, however, dispose of their own property without their husband’s consent. (Nobodies to Somebodies, by Kumari Jayawardena, page 285)

muster shed: (on a tea estate) a place where tea pluckers bring the tea they have picked to be weighed
(Click here to see a photograph)

Transportation of plucked green tea leaves from the plantation to the muster shed and then from there to tea factories have to be handled with utmost care to minimize post harvest damage of the crop. (Daily News 06/01/14)
Along this road you will pass a row of houses and a muster shed. (

must-ma: (coll.) really must (Sinhala suffix -ma added for emphasis)
> The ending -ma can also be added to other words (sitting in the front-ma front seat)
… and his wifey and kids now “must-ma go to Los Angeles” twice a year ist class. (comment on 13/01/12)
Cricket board must ma do something like that to raise funds. (comment on 24/01/12)
While the team suggests ‘must-ma-go’ places, the book is a ‘must-ma-read’. (Sunday Times 28/02/16)
You ‘must-ma go’ before this viharaya becomes too popular. (Sigiriya & Beyond, by Neranjana Gunetilleke et al, page 204)

Mw (= mawatha): abbreviation used in street names
S de S Jayasinghe Mw, Kohuw


maaduru (or maduru): fennel, sweet cumin (Sinhala) (suduru = cumin)

melodica: add: (of German origin)

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