Me, the Laatha :D

When my brother calls me ‘laatha’ in front of others, many think that it is my name.. 🙂 He once came looking for me in the terrace, shouting ‘laatha, laatha’, and a thaatha who was relaxing in the other side of the building thought he was calling him.. 😀 And there were many kids near my grany’s home who used to call me ‘laatha akka’!!! I know you would have guessed by now what it means, if not, it is elder sister.. 😀

It is a painstaking task to explain many of my friends some of the words that we use at home. Though I consciously try to avoid using them, sometimes it gets out of my control and I have to spend a lot of time explaining to them what is what. The first and the foremost things are how we call our relatives.

Thanks to the Tamil cinema, atleast a handful are aware of what ‘vaappa’ means. For others who do not know, that is how we call our father (some even call ‘atthaa’, if you had seen Kalloori you will know better). This has often been a great topic for my friends to tease me, one of the best examples being, ‘appava vaappanu sonnanna, ammava ‘vaamma’ nu solluvia??. And there was another friend of mine who asked ‘vappava, ‘vaa’ppa nu sollalaam, appa ‘po’paa nu unga vaappa va eppadi solluve’. And this continues even now. Here is the list of how we call our relatives:

  • Father= Vaappa
    Mother= Mma
  • Grandmother, paternal= Vaapcha/vaapma/aacha(thats how I call her :D)
  • Grandmother, maternal= Kamma/Kanma/Mamma
  • Grandfathers= Appa (aamaa, appa thaan.. appa naa thaatha ok a? 😉
  • Aunt (Athai)=Maami
  • Uncle=Maama
  • Aunt (Chithi)= Chachi, Chinnamma
  • Uncle (Chitappa)= Chacha, Chinna vaappa
  • Elder sister= Laatha
  • Elder brother= Kaaka
  • Cousins= Machan, machi

While I used to wonder about the usage of a lot of Arabic words when we speak at home, I got to know the history of how Muslims came to India. Unlike the common misconception that Islam first came to India via the Mughals, it had actually spread to Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka well before the mughals invaded. It is a common belief Muslims from Arab countries came as traders, got settled here, mixed with the local people and here we are. I was reminded of the Chola kings who had trade relationships with foreign countries. Little do many of us, including muslims know that the mosque constructed by the Chera king, Cheraman Perumal in Kerala is the oldest Jummah mosque in India, and there is a 1200 year old mosque in a place called Thengapattinam near Kanniyakumari district in Tamil Nadu.

Here are the few Arabic word that we use commonly:

  • Mawth=death. I remember telling my neighbour cum friend ‘enga mama pirandha udane mawth a poitaanga) that one of my mamas, who was one of the triplets died after a few days he was born. She had thought that mawth means some foreign country. 😀
  • Hayath=life
  • Dunia=world
  • Rizk=Food
  • Barakath=Blessings, prosperity
  • Rahmath=Blessings
  • Zeenath=Beauty
  • Miskeen=Poor people

And there are many more. Apart from these, we use certain Tamil words which are not commonly used (some are used by most people belonging to Tirunelveli or Tuticorin)

  • Thozhugai (even to my tamil speaking friends, I have to say ‘namaz’ for prayers)
  • Nonbu=fasting
  • Eranam=food
  • Mayyathu, mayyam=deadbody
  • Yaanam=Utensils
  • Salli=Money, etc

What do I intend putting all these here? I don’t know, may be I can give my friends this link next time, instead of explaining them.. 😀


29 Responses to “Me, the Laatha :D”

  1. சுல்தான் Says:

    This is சுல்தான் (Sultan) with you. Could you please visit my site
    and update me with your comments.
    Also I left a comment on my சுல்தான் site for you – as reply.

  2. rahman Says:

    Wa alikum as salaam.

    Two things:
    1. Sorry for the delayed salaams. I saw your comment on my blog ages ago, but like I said on my blog, I’m extremely lazy.

    2. Your post makes a lot of sense. Incidentally I use most of those words at home too…but strictly at home only 😀
    Great blog you have there. Rock on, Jazakallah!

  3. pithan Says:

    More than tamil, Arabic has contributed so many words to English, which we almost use without knowing that their source.

    Almost all the words whcih starts with Al – Almirah, Algorithm, Almanac, Alchohol, Admiral, Adobe, chemistry (Al Chemy), cotton, cork, magazine, nadir, satin, syrup,zero.

    Even in Tamil, Ameena – is from Arabic.

    At the same time, from tamil Arabic has borrowed some terms.

  4. the victorious.. Says:

    @ Br.Sultan,
    I have left a reply there.. Unga azhaippu blog, paarthen, innum muzhuvadhaga padikkavillai.. Insha Allah, kandippa padikren, Jazakallah for sharing it here,…

    @ Br.Rahman,
    Wa iyyakum,
    Hey no problem, idhukellam oru sorry a.. 😀
    and, thanks for visiting my blog 🙂

  5. the victorious.. Says:

    @ Senior,

    That was a wonderful piece of info, thanks for that.. 🙂
    I am reminded of Kaviko Abdul Rahman’s essay where he discusses about the roots of the name Hawwah(Eve), peace be upon her and Avvai, I’m not sure if it is from Tamil to Arabic or Arabic to Tamil. He had also linked this to a common belief that Adam, peace be upon him, first lived in Sri Lanka when it was a part of a big continent called ‘Lemuria gandam’

  6. hussain Says:

    Assalamu alaikum wr wb sister !!

    Mashallah ! Thats an awesome blog and nice to see the propagation of Arabic – Tamil something that I take pride in as well !! 🙂

    There’s a side track to that as well . Till my granny’s time ..most of the muslims were educated in madrassas and their command over Arabic was awesome ! Our forefathers could recite Arabic without the harakka(zabur, pesh etc).

    Words like Ummah and laatha are so distinct only to the Muslim community in southern India clearly pointing to our Arab roots . If you read Abur Rahim’s Islamiya Kalai kalanjiyam in that he explains beautifully , when the first Muslims set foot in Tamil Nadu. He states close to around 800AD!!! So thats quite a long time and we still have our culture and roots intact !!
    It indeed is a miracle of Allah … one man who started the revolution in the deserts of Arabia …..which reached the remotest corners of Tamil Nadu…. Indeed glory be to Allah!!

    some more special words we use :
    Bangu – Adhaan (call for prayer)
    Odhudal – Recitation (Quran odhuvadu is the most common reference)

  7. Raz Says:

    insha allah! 🙂

    i studied in crescent n i am well versed with most of the terms…

    infact… i use insha allah so commenly nw.

  8. Arun Sundar Says:

    Elder sister = Laatha was new to me. I knew everything else.

  9. the victorious.. Says:

    @ Hussain Kaaka,
    Wa alaikum assalam, wa rahmathullahi wa barakaathuhu.. 🙂

    You take pride in the Arab-Tamil lineage? Well, I don’t, and that is not my intention here too.:)

    And thanks for those words, type pannumbodhu niraya words nenaivukku varadhilla.. 😀 I even missed words like ‘harathu’ 😀

  10. the victorious.. Says:

    @ sis Razu (enaku ore Rasukuti nu sollanum pola iruku, I cant help it.. hihi),

    It is really nice to know that you use Insha Allah often. I hope you know meaning. I will anyways leave it here. It means ‘God Willing’ or ‘Iraivan Naadinaal’. Allah is the name of God in Arabic, and Muslims prefer using ‘Allah’ instead of ‘God’ because it perfectly describes the attributes of the Almighty. I should also mention that Allah is not any separate God for Muslims alone. For more info, please visit

    @ Br Arun,
    You knew all these already? I’m glad this post was at least useful to u in learning what ‘ laatha’ means.. 😀

    And I have addressed both of you as sister and brother here. Even if I hadnt mentioned that in the earlier posts, tht is what I’ve always believed. Thideernu enna maatramnu ninaikaadhinga 😀

  11. hussain Says:

    Jazkallah khairan thangatchi 🙂

    Comment nalla padchu parunga . I never said lineage . I said Language only !! 🙂

    You cant take pride in lineage 🙂 ..thats unislamic and racist .
    Its only an identity and Allah himself has stated this in the Quran :

    O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).

  12. hussain Says:

    Another verse that points to Allah’s mercy :
    And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colours. Verily, in that are indeed signs for men of sound knowledge.


  13. the victorious.. Says:

    @ Br Hussain,

    There is absolutely nothing to debate about Allah’s mercy. He has made us into nations and tribes to identify among ourselves and not to take pride in language or lineage..

    From the last sermon of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

    All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.

    Jazakallah for the verses..

  14. Ela Says:

    Hmmmmm….it’s always amazing how words unfold their meaning when people from different parts sit and discuss together…as i do with my friends from Germany and one of my Turkish friend…we have quite a lot of words that have the common root…not to mention my surprise at hearing for ex. Briyani, halva, almond stands for the same in Turkey also…..

    Two days ago i was again surprised when one of the shastri who came to our house told that the word ‘German’ itself has been derived from sanskrit and means ‘to be complete, perfect’!

    I know most the words that u have mentioned, as i had a friend during my high school-Uma Hanima but Laatha…i didn’t know!

  15. Ponnarasi Kothandaraman Says:

    That was a nice post and many words were new 2 me being born and brot up in chennai 😀
    Thanku for sharing 😉

  16. the victorious.. Says:

    Now I’m reminded of sanskrit words like ‘rasam’ (in Tamil it is ‘charu’ and in our dialect it is ‘puli aanam’) and ‘rasi’ used in the language Thai, when I was talking to my friend in school.

    Hey naanum chennai than pa.. 😉 Wait for more …:D

  17. Raz Says:

    hey ponnu 🙂 i know the meaning. god willingly. never use the word without kowing the meaning.. is one lesson i learnt 😀

  18. Reach Out For Skies Says:

    all these effort of explaining our words, our ways and ourselves is this a way to prove again and again we are and we want to be in the mainstream with the Tag of “tamil muslims” but at the same time we never cared about all the precious tamil muslim literature which were all bygone due to our carelessness …???

    muslim’s contribution to tamil literature is more enormous

    …umaru pulavar,to kunangudi appa to sathavathani seygu thambi pulavar to name a few have contributed lots and lots of work in tamil..???

    but nothin was preserved for future generations by ourselves and also by our government…

    you can count the number of people having even some of these personality’ work’s in home…

  19. the victorious.. Says:

    @ raz,
    ha ha,, I’ve had a similar experience too… 😉

    @ reach out for skies,
    There was a Thamizh Thaatha who took all the pains to collect precious Tamil literature. In our case, there was none.

    Br Hussain, who has even left a comment here has the same concern. It seems there were books of huge sizes written by his forefathers lying in his native, but they parted away with it without knowing its worth.

    Had those collections been there, atleast we wouldn’t have had this many faces raising eyebrows about Muslims who speak Tamil and ask questions like ‘hey you’re a Muslim, how come you speak Tamil?’

    But for me, it is good to an extent that it has not resulted in new form of bidaath like darga and mawlid. I remember reading a few passages from ‘seerapuranam’ in school and found many falsely spun stories about our Prophet Muhammed SAS.

    Khair.. 🙂

  20. The Maverick Blog Says:

    //Miskeen = Poor People//

    Miskeen ngaradhu “Anjadhe” padam director illa? 😀

    Good info.. thanks for the clarifications 🙂


  21. the victorious.. Says:

    @ maverick,

    Thanks for visiting.. Anjaathe padam director peru Miskeenu therinjadhum enga veetula ellarum vilundhu vilundhu sirichom..

    I wonder if he knows the meaning.. 😀

  22. Reach Out For Skies Says:

    Seerapuranam doesn’t contains any false stories.. first that is a புராணம் and then athoda சொல்லாடல் will be like that only.

    It was written not from the view point of a literary genius but as a humble peasant/poet who follows and believes his great leader prophet Muhammad (pBUH)..

    if you do a little bit research on உமர் அப்பா who wrote seeraapurnam you will find lot of astonishing things about him.

    if ppl turn their intelectuallness towards anything and everything towards the spiritual side of ISLAM (Avliaas, Darghas and prophets), it should all start from QURAN.

    but i see no one is daring to do that becuase it will affect their status quo as a MUSLIM

    now a days modernists or the Islamic revivers are destroying all the simple man’s pleasure towards a religion and making ISLAM as a rigid religion.

    but prophet said ISLAM is a Simple religion.

  23. Reach Out For Skies Says:

    anjathey padathoda director name Mysskin… not miskeen.. it is a russian character name in one of the novles written by tolstoy (i’m n’t sure abt author )…

    idhu konjam ungalukku overaa theriyalai 🙂

  24. the victorious.. Says:

    @ reach out for skies,

    brother, avliyas, dargas and adhae line le prophets ? I must say I’m taken aback seeing this.
    one humble request from my side. please have a look at materials on innovations in religion and its dangerous impacts.

    About putting the intellectual minds at work, if you read the Quran you will know how many times God has asked mankind to ponder over his creations and understand what he intends from that.

    “sindhithu unarum makkalukku idhil padippinai ulladhu” — indha porul padum vaakiyathai ninga adikadi Quran tamilakathula paakalam. Indha oru vaakiam podhum, Islam arivaarndha seyalgaluku evvalavu mukkiyathuvam kodukiradhendru. Apart from this, you have numerous scientific facts from the Quran, right from embryology to water cycle to geography to economic system to what not?!

    But it doesnt mean one can use his imaginations with the religion and spun stories and epics based on that. Astagfirullah.

    If something is rigid, it doesn’t mean that it is not simple. We call something water only if it holds the property of water.


  25. the victorious.. Says:

    Mysskin o Miskeen o … Tamil le eppadi eludhuvinga? 😀 Ellam onnu thaan… 😀

  26. Reach Out For Skies Says:

    avaliya’s is not a specific name or some category who belong outside islam having some magical power .. they are the descenders of prophets who has understood islam and practice islam as their way of life…

    Islam in India flourished through spirituality not much by the modernists who tend to be pompous about a fingerfull numbers pulled by them into islam

    as prophet said “i am the seal of prophets” and no more prophets will come hereafter..

    hearing this sahabas were worried about the fate of islam , prophet again said ulamas are the righteous descenders of prophets …

    by ulamas he doesn’t mean someone guys pondering over religious texts for years without understanding what is Islam…

    he meant ulamas for the Akirath…

    quran doesn’t has only things about science…it has so many things about spirituality,astronomy,mathematics etc etc….

    for example take “shakir” surahh has the scietifical fact that our solar system is made up of 11 planets and at the same time spiritually it says that all the 11 planets done sajthaa for yousuf (ahs)…

    you can apply the same process of thinking which allah asks us to do quran..

    I know that when intellectuals think in their own plane about these they way of understanding is different…

    but as einstein said always start your process of thinking like a Child questioning about different things…be sometimes imaginative…

    start from this … “y sajdah is meant for yousuf?? he is just one more prophet..Not surely greater than Sallalah alahivasallam who doesn’t said about anything or anybody doing sajdha to him… And why allah said about this in this surah which was highly scientifical by saying there were 11 planets when before 1400 yrs there was no much astronomy or no much things known about planets and their numbers “

    iMPOSING RIGIDity into islam is highly disliked by prophet muhammad (pbuh).. he hated it very openly

    if you want some reference about this see the prophets sayings in “buhari” or “muslim”

    finally it’s prophet’s prophecy that ISLAM will be divided into more than 70 groups each which believes themselves as true believers and simply demeans others..



    and mysskin is written in tamil as
    மிஷ்கின் whereas our’s is மிஸ்கீன்


  27. the victorious.. Says:

    @ reach out for skies,

    brother, there is no denial on Prophet’s words on our Ummah being divided into 72 sects and none of them go to heaven except the ones who follow the Quran and his traditions alone.

    And of course, Quran just doesnt talk about science alone, a lot of many other things, be it economics or astronomy.

    What Prophet Muhammed SAS said was not about rigidity, but extremism. He condemned extremist attitude and ordered us only what we are able to do, whether it is prayer or fasting.

    I think you got me wrong while talking about intellectuals. What I don’t agree is the spinning of stories in the name of Islam, as in the case of mawlids and books like ‘amalgalin sirappugal’…


    Irundhaalum Mysskinku romba thaan support panringa.. 😀

  28. Ankur Says:

    when i was a kid and one of my aunts visited my home, everybody started calling my father with his pet name….
    i used my deductions to conclude that my aunt was Cuckoo Bua (cuckoo being my father’s name)

  29. Pradeep Kumar TR Says:

    I have been reading your blog for quite some time….just wanted to show you this post…


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