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candy — Thanks to Tamil for this sweetness! Originally there was the phrase sugar-candy, from French sucre-candi, from Italian zucchero candi, from Arabic sukkar qandî. It meant 'candied sugar', i.e. sugar that, when cooked at the right temperature, forms a ball when dropped into cool water, as candymakers know. The Arabs got the word from Persian qand, from SanskritkhaNDu. Sanskrit got the word from Tamil kaNTu, meaning a ball of candied sugar, related tokuNTu, 'ball', the origin of the word kundalini. The word kaNTu may have originated in the autochthonous MuNDa languages of India, belonging to the Austroasiatic family.

catamaran — the light watercraft that is nowadays so popular wherever water sports abound is named from the Tamil words kaTTu 'tie' and maram 'wood, tree': simply two trees tied together. 

chapati — the name of the Indian whole-wheat tortilla came through Hindi, but its origin is TamilcappaTTai, from cappa 'thin, flattened out'. It may be coincidental, but it also looks similar to the Tamil word câppiTu 'eat'! 

cheroot — this variety of cigar is called by the Tamil word curuTTu meaning 'rolled up', from the word curuL 'roll, scroll, curled leaf'. 

coolie — menial laborers are called coolies after the Tamil word for 'wage, hire': kûli
coolie — menial laborers are called coolies after the Tamil word for 'wage, hire': kûli
corundum — the hardest mineral next to diamond, corundum (aluminum oxide) forms rubies, sapphires, and topaz; its name comes from a Tamil word for 'ruby', kuruntam, which may have come from Sanskrit kuruvinda
curry — Tamil Nadu is a land where vegetarian food prevails; the Tamil word for 'vegetables', hence dish made of vegetables, is kari, and the delectable dishes of Tamil Nadu are so flavorful they have given their name to Indian food in general.

ginger - Traced back through Greek zingiber to Sanskrit srngavera, the name of ginger (Zingiber officinale) is really of Dravidian origin. The Tamil name for ginger is iñci, and vêrmeans 'root'. The word iñci was probably ciñci in early Proto-Dravidian, which could explain the Sanskrit form. While srngavera became associated with srnga, 'horn', nevetheless clearly the word is not Sanskritic in form, but Dravidian, and the Sanskrit etymology was invented later. Ginger is native to South India. 

kundalini - In Tantric yoga, kundalini is the Serpent Energy, a form of feminine Shakti power coiled at the base of the spine, which can be uncoiled so that it ascends up the spinal column through the cakras to the crown of the head in the process of spiritual perfection. The word has entered English because of widespread interest in yoga and occult power. The Sanskrit wordkuNDalini is the feminine form of kuNDalin 'coiled', from the word kuNDala 'ring, coil'. Sanskrit got the word and the concept of coiling, as of string coiled into a ball, from Tamil kuNTu 'ball'. It is related to another Tamil word for ball, kaNTu, the origin of the word candy.

madras - many fabrics are named after the city they were made in or exported from; the lightweight cotton fabric is woven all over India, but the especially colorful variety made with brightly hued dyes takes its name from the capital city of Tamil Nadu, which may come from an Arabic word meaning 'academy, place of study' (compare the Hebrew word for study: midrash). However, the native (and official) Tamil name for Madras is cennai. 

mandala — the Sanskrit word for 'circle' is maNDala, and it comes from the Tamil wordmuTalai 'sphere', from the root muTa- 'to bend, curve'. Another word from the same root ismuTTai 'egg'. 


mango — this sweetly fragrant, succulent tropical fruit (Mangifera indica) is called n in Tamil; the Tamil word for 'unripe fruit' is kây, so mân-kây became mangga in Malay and then mango in English via Portuguese. Why do we call the mango after its unripe version? Maybe because of commerce: fruit merchants shipped green mangoes because of their longer shelf life, to ripen later, and the non-Tamil merchants were used to hearing "mân-kây", so that became the basis of their word for them. When Tamilians eat mangoes, they call them mâm-palam, using the word for ripe fruit. 

mulligatawny — the Tamil name for this spicy soup simply means 'pepper water', which says it all: miLaku means 'pepper' and taNNîr means 'water'. 


orange — this word can be traced back through French une orange, Spanish naranja, Arabicnâranj, Persian nârang, and Sanskrit nâranga to the Tamil word ru- 'to be fragrant, to sprout up'. However, the present-day Tamil word for orange is ârañcu. Borrowed back from English—it's gone full circle! 

pariah — there is a tribe of drummers in Tamil Nadu and Kerala called paraiyan, who were classified vis-à-vis the caste system as "untouchables"—their name has become generalized for all social outcastes; it comes from the Tamil word parai 'drum', also 'to tell'; drumming and communication go together in ancient cultures. The great sage tiruvaLLuvar, the author of the highly esteemed poetic classic tirukkuraL, was of this tribe. 

patchouli — one of the world's most darkly mysterious and alluring fragrances is made from the root of a plant, Pogostemon patchouli, that grows in South India: paccai or paccu means 'green' and ilai means 'leaf'; even though nearly all plants have green leaves, this one is singled out for being named after its green leaves. Variant forms of this compound name are pâcilai andpaccuLi.

poon — this is the strong, lightweight wood of a tree (Calophyllum sp.) of southern India and Sri Lanka, useful in shipbuilding, called pûna in Singhalese, from the Tamil word punnai. In the ancient cankam poetry, the flowering punnai tree is invoked by a forlorn lover pining for the absent beloved. 

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tatty—A tatty is a screen woven of cooling vetiver grass, sprinkled with water and hung over open windows in the tropics, to serve as a fragrant natural air conditioner. The Tamil word for this screen is taTTi, from the verbal root taTu- 'to hinder, block, prevent, screen, partition'. 
vetiver — the Tamil name of this aromatic herb (Vetiveria zizanioides), veTTivêr, is derived from the phrase meaning 'root that is dug up' (because of its usefulness): veTTi- means 'cut, engrave, dig' and vêr means 'root'. 
tukki :
Tamil word in the Bible? King Solomon's
ships traveled to exotic lands and famously brought back "ivory,
apes, and peacocks" (3 Kings 10:22). In the Hebrew text, the word
used for 'peacock' is tukki, which comes from the Tamil word for
peacock: tôkai.
pariah : there is a tribe of drummers in Tamil Nadu and Kerala called
paraiyan, who were classified vis-à-vis the caste system
as "untouchables"—their name has become generalized for all social
outcastes; it comes from the Tamil word parai 'drum', also 'to tell';
drumming and communication go together in ancient cultures. The great
sage tiruvaLLuvar, the author of the highly esteemed poetic classic
tirukkuraL, was of this tribe.

poon : this is the strong, lightweight wood of a tree (Calophyllum
sp.) of southern India and Sri Lanka, useful in shipbuilding, called
pûna in Singhalese, from the Tamil word punnai. In the ancient cankam
poetry, the flowering punnai tree is invoked by a forlorn lover
pining for the absent beloved.
tatty : A tatty is a screen woven of cooling vetiver grass, sprinkled
with water and hung over open windows in the tropics, to serve as a
fragrant natural air conditioner. The Tamil word for this screen is
taTTi, from the verbal root taTu- 'to hinder, block, prevent, screen,
partition'.
vetiver :
the Tamil name of this aromatic herb (Vetiveria
zizanioides), veTTivêr, is derived from the phrase meaning 'root that
is dug up' (because of its usefulness): veTTi- means 'cut, engrave,
dig' and vêr means 'root'.
   
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