Is Appachchi a Tamil word?
Posted on August 18th, 2012

Chandre Dharmawardana

The Island newspaper has published a very short article on the 16 and 18th Aug., and I think such articles lead to more misunderstanding than clarification. The main suggestion is that `apachchi‘ or `appochchi‘ is a Tamil word. No other words, cognates, or etymology are discussed in these articles.  Even a suggestion has been made to avoid the word, presumable to maintain a misconceived idea of a ‘pure’ language?

The problem is compounded by the fact that many Sinhalese do not know even basic Tamil, while some Englsih newspaper Editors seem to be profoundly ignorant of Sinhalese. They are ready to publish anything if they think it would have a sales value. I am presenting a preliminary discussion of `appachhi’ and related words,  inviting comments from those who may have a better knowledge these linguistic questions.

People often forget that an early feature of Sinhala Prakrit (and old Tamil as well) is to add a vowel like `a’, i,  ‘h’ etc in front of a word to `strengthen’ the word, without changing its meaning. Thus we have:

father:       pa         a-ppa     ƒÆ’‚ ¶´ƒÆ’‚ ·    ƒÆ’‚ ¶”‚¦ƒÆ’‚ ¶´ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ…‚ ƒÆ’‚ ¶´ƒÆ’‚ ·

mother:     ma        a-mma    ƒÆ’‚ ¶¸ƒÆ’‚ ·     ƒÆ’‚ ¶”‚¦ƒÆ’‚ ¶¸ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ…‚ ƒÆ’‚ ¶¸ƒÆ’‚ ·

saint:        rahath    a-rhath   ƒÆ’‚ ¶»ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ¶­ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ…‚    ƒÆ’‚ ¶”‚¦ƒÆ’‚ ¶»ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ…‚ ƒÆ’‚ ·”…¾ƒÆ’‚ ¶­ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ…‚ 

Officer     maethi     amathi   ƒÆ’‚ ¶¸ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒÆ’‚ ¶­ƒÆ’‚ ·”‘    ƒÆ’‚ ¶”‚¡ƒÆ’‚ ¶¸ƒÆ’‚ ¶­ƒÆ’‚ ·”‘

In Tamil the addition of the `i’ and ‘a’ are sounds are quite common:

Ranamaduawa    Iranamadu

Lanka                Ilanaki

Rasu                Arasu

Such a rule is mentioned in the ancient Tamil grammar ‘Tokappiayan’.

Another feature found in Sinhalese, but I think NOT in Tamil,

is the addition of the word “Aeththaa’,

i.e., ƒÆ’‚ ¶”‚¡ƒÆ’‚ ¶­ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ…‚ ƒÆ’‚ ¶­ƒÆ’‚ ·, or if a feminine form is to be insisted, we have  ƒÆ’‚ ¶”‚¡ƒÆ’‚ ¶­ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ…‚ ƒÆ’‚ ¶­ƒÆ’‚ ·”‘.

This  refers to `one who exists’ ( exactly like l’Etre in French). The sinhala word

aeththa ƒÆ’‚ ¶”‚¡ƒÆ’‚ ¶­ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ…‚ ƒÆ’‚ ¶­ƒÆ’‚ ·  is also be close to the Latin aetas, and the Sanskrit Aathma (soul, i.e., a person’s intrinsic existential nature).

This is often added to words in Sinhalese, but NOT in Tamil to make

compound forms. Thus we have:

ping-aeththa, dasa-sil aeththa etc.

We can also have:

appa+aeththa   ƒÆ’‚¢”‚ “‘ appaththa   ƒÆ’‚¢”‚ “‘ appachchi

lamaa+aeththi   ƒÆ’‚¢”‚ “‘ lamaeththi  ƒÆ’‚¢”‚ “‘ Lamissi

Amathi+aeththa ƒÆ’‚¢”‚ “‘ Amaththa  ƒÆ’‚¢”‚ “‘ Aemathi

This type of construction is totally absent in Tamil, and the only currently used

exception that I can think of is `Thanagachchi’, for Sister.  This too is probably not native to

Tamil. In Sinhala, sister is Nanagi, and Nangi+aeththi  ƒÆ’‚¢”‚ “‘ nangaeththi ƒÆ’‚¢”‚ “‘nangachchi can be constructed. But this is not used (as far as I know) in Sinhla, while the Tamil ‘Thangachchi’ is the common usage, and seems very close to the defunct sinhala ‘nangachchi’. We note below, that the word ‘Akkachchi’ may have existed but not used.

The word Aaththa ƒÆ’‚ ¶”‚ ƒÆ’‚ ¶­ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ…‚ ƒÆ’‚ ¶­ƒÆ’‚ · may have come from Aadhi-amma   ƒÆ’‚ ¶”‚ ƒÆ’‚ ¶¯ƒÆ’‚ ·”‘+ƒÆ’‚ ¶”‚¦ƒÆ’‚ ¶¸ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ…‚ ƒÆ’‚ ¶¸ƒÆ’‚ · ƒÆ’‚¢”‚ “‘  ƒÆ’‚ ¶”‚ ƒÆ’‚ ¶­ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ…‚ ƒÆ’‚ ¶­ƒÆ’‚ ¶¸ƒÆ’‚ ·ƒ…‚ ƒÆ’‚ ¶¸ƒÆ’‚ ·

So it is best to classify `apachchi’ as a sinhalese word which does NOT occur in proper Tamil usage, while Tangachchi is  a word which may have come to Tamil from other sources?

Finally, what words belong to a language is determined mainly by current usage and not by etymological considerations. Thus words that have fallen into current usage should be used as such, instead trying to `clean up’ the language due to erroneous concepts of purity. The following list shows that the Sinhala and Tamil languages share works like Akka. 

I think forms like Akki are used in old Tamil as a respectful

word to women of higher caste, and Akka-aththi ƒÆ’‚¢”‚ “‘Akkachchi, similar to ‘Tangachcchi’ for

younger sister, seems to have existed in old Tamil. The word ‘Appi’ is said to

have been used in Tamil as a loose word for `elder sister’ even when she is not your sister.

However, Atti, attika are said to be Sanskrit words for Elder Sister. Atti could easily give ‘Akki’, or ‘Akka’ as used in Sinhala. Whether Sanskrit absorbed some Dravidian words, and these came to Sinhala  directly from a Dravidian language, or from an early Prakrit-Pali-Sanskrit form, is something  that scholars may be able to enlighten us.

Given the Tokappiyan rule of adding an ‘a’ to many borrowed words, the words ‘appa’ and ‘amma‘ in Tamil are probabaly words borrowed from non-Dravidian stem words like ‘pa‘ and ‘ma‘.

Thus we should say:

Eng                Sinhala                                             Tamil,

father             `appachchi’, piya, appa, thaatha,         Appa, Thahappan, or Thaathhai.

mother             amma, mama,  mava                         Amma, Thaai

brother             aiya                                                 Annan, Anna

Elder Sister       Akka                                               Akka

GrandFather     Seeya, Muttha                                  Paattan, Patta

GrandMother    Aachchi, Aaththa                              Paatti

Grt-Grndma     Mee-achchi                                       moopaatti, pootti


29 Responses to “Is Appachchi a Tamil word?”

  1. AnuD Says:

    When I learned Sinhala, something called lopping of words to make new words were taught.

    So the Lamissi is made from Lama + issi ( in other words raised chest).

  2. M.S.MUDALI Says:

    I called my father’s mother : APPAACHCHI. appa+aachchi.

    Tamils still use AKKAACHCHI for elder sister.

    My father’s generation called their mother AACHCHI, and their father APPU.

    Still some people call their father AIYAA. Grand father APPAA.

    the word AATHTHAA (AMMA) is used in Tamil Nadu widely. My mother called her mother AATHTHA(i).

    In Malayalam:

    Father =ACHCHAN ; Grand father =Muttachchan.
    Mother= Amma ; Grand Mother =Muttachchi.

  3. Dham Says:

    How about “Malli” ?
    Thambi is for malli but now people say Tambiya to Muslim man ( racist waord I guess).

    In Malaysia and Singapore people use the exclamation “Ayya”.

  4. Kit Athul Says:

    Chandre Dharmawardana, my assumption after reading the article that you are a professor of Linguistics. I have a question for you. In Finnish Father is referred as TAATHA, like in Sinhala, but how did it get to such a distant place? I always wanted to know this but no one can tell me how this word TAATHA got to Finnish? May be you could give me an answer.

  5. Vijendra Says:

    Chandra, you are quite right, and “Appachchi” is the Sinhalese name given to the father. As far as I know, Sri Lankans living in the up-country have been traditionaly addressing their father as “Appachchi” or “Appuchchi” or “Appochchi”. Grand father is addressed as “Loku-aththa” and grand mother as “Heen-aththa”. In the low country, the father is addressed as “Thaththa”, grand father as “Seeya” and grand mother as “Aachchi” or “Aaththamma”,

    I understand that Koreans also address their father as “Appachhi” and mother as “Amma”, but I am not certain.

  6. Vijendra Says:

    In formal Tamil தந்தை (Thandei)=father, தாத்தா (Thaththa)= Grandfather, பாட்டி (Paatti)=Grandmother

  7. Dham Says:

    I might have the answer. ( sorry for jumping and giving !)
    Many Tamils went to Finland, long time ago. They mixed with Finish people, until the original Finish were finally finished.
    In Tamil Thaathhai, Finish did not hear “I”.
    Similarly in Sinhala we are adopting Tamil father, accoring to Mr. Mu-Dalit.

    Name in Sinhala/ Sanskrit is “Nama”. Eight in Sinhala is Ata, in Pali Att-Ha. Nine is “Nawaya”. Even Seven starts with “S”.

  8. Kit Athul Says:

    Thanks, Dham, I leant some thing. In Finland all the gypsies are dark skined with black hair. May be these are TAMILS.

  9. M.S.MUDALI Says:

    I hope MALLI is unique to Sinhala only.

    APPACHCHI is used in Kerala to call father’s sister. Kerala Christians call theri father APPACHCHAN and mother is called AMMACHCHI.

    Chinese call their parents as APPA and AMMA.

    AIYA is a PALI word and it means elder or learned person. Hindu Tamil Brahmans have name AIYAR. That is why Tamils call people AIYA which gives respect to any person.

    THAMBI(YA) is now a racial slang for Muslims in Sri Lanka. The word’s origins are in Kerala. Those Muslims came from Kerala when Kerala Royals had their names as THAMBI (Younger Prince). For their proud MUSLIMS added their names with THAMBI. I found THAMBI Marikkar, Seenith Thambi and many other THAMBI among Muslims. MARAKALAYA also the same. MARAKKALAM means wooden vessal(boat). Puttalam and Mannaar were under the Kerala Kings when Portugeuse arrived. MUSLIMS used MARAKALA(M) for transport from Kerala to Sri Lanka.

  10. Lorenzo Says:


    In Finnish.

    father = Isa
    mother = Aiti

    I Kerala

    father = Acha
    mother = Amma

    NOT Appachchi which is ONLY found in SINHALA and nowhere else!!

    In Chinese

    father = baba or ba
    mother = mama or ma

    No lies in internet age!

  11. Dham Says:

    Jokes aside, I saw a clip a Romani girl dancing in traditional way. I looked little but similar to Tamil dance.
    Surely Romas (Gypsies) have come form India.

    DOn;t cal Chieftens ” Kings”. Parayakarn is a Chieften, not a king. Maharaja is a king.
    Ayya and Aiyar definitely different. Ayer is same as Aiyar ( Tamil Brhamins -vegi eaters but heartless bastards). I have a friend too.
    Why the Tamils say “Thambi” to Malli sometimes ?

  12. M.S.MUDALI Says:

    Lorenzo is a fool as usual. In Kerala father’s sister is called APPACHCHI! Check it with your Kerala relatives.

    Thambi means YOUNGER person.

    In Tamil “R” or “AR” is added to call people with respect. AIYA become AIYAR. CHETTY become CHETTIYAR, MUDALI become MUDALIYAR.

    RAJA is King. Maharaja is Emporer.

    My neighborer is Chinese and I know well how they address their parents. Lorenzo is heckling as usual and show his stupidity! “Internet Age” is still useless for him.

    In Kerala
    Hindus use ACHCHAN and AMMA for their parents.
    Christians use APPACHCHAN and AMMACHCHI.
    Muslims use VAPPAA and UMMA.

    Mother’s sister is called KUNCHAMMA or ILAYAMMAor SITHTHA: Jaffna Tamils use KUNCHIYAMMA or KUNCHACHCHI or SITHTHI. Sinhalese use PUNCHI AMMA. PUNCHI =KUNCHI(small or younger) is same meaning in all respects.

    The same word “bastard” is used by Tamils and Malayalees to Sri Lankan Buddhist Monks since SL monks killed S.W.R.D.Banadaranayke!

  13. Wickrama Says:

    Nodanna demalayak allagen ayyala tika pissu natanawa!!

  14. Lorenzo Says:

    Some Tamils think everything is either Tamil Madu or Kerala!! :))

    e.g. They think North-east of SL is Tamil !!

  15. Lorenzo Says:


    Only in your Dalit family they use those incest terms !!

    Only Dalits call monks bastards.

    In Kerala

    father = Acha
    mother = Amma

    NOT Appachchi which is ONLY found in SINHALA and nowhere else!!

    In Chinese

    father = baba or ba
    mother = mama or ma

    No lies in internet age!

  16. M.S.MUDALI Says:

    Donkey Lorenzo dont know the different between the addressing words and family position.

    In Sinhala PIYA is addressed as THATHTHA by children. No one call PIYA as PIYA. MAV or mother is called AMME by children.

    By the by what is the caste of Lorenzo? Tell it you idiot! I think he imitates like a GOVIGAMA!

    Only Tamils and Sinhalese call their elder sister as AKKA. How can the Sinhala fools explain this?

  17. Lorenzo Says:

    Mu-Dalit has gone mad when reality is shown.

    The words Ma, Mama, Amma are not restricted to South Indians and Sinhalese. It is used in other cultures too.

    The word Appachchi is ONLY used by Sinhalese. Read the above article dumbo.

    No wonder you losers don’t have a nation of your own.

  18. lokubanda Says:

    Very interesting (and the infighting is all fun!). I myself addressed my late father as ‘appachchi’. I am told that the suffix ‘ji’ is commonly used in certain parts of India as a mark of respect. If so, ‘appa’ + ‘ji’ = ‘appaji (or ‘appachchi). Hope a scholar/historian comes in now to settle the dispute.

  19. news4sen Says:

    Appachchi is a tamil word

    Aachchi is a Tamil word for calling elderly women or Mother..

    So Father’s mother is called Appachchi – Appa + Aachchi


    Aaththa is used widely in Rural Tamilnadu for calling mother or elderly women

    So Father’s mother is called ( in this areas ) as Appaththa


  20. news4sen Says:


    These words are very widely used and we can see them in Tamil Movies ( taken in Rural areas )

  21. M.S.MUDALI Says:

    But Lorenzo is running away without teling his caste. Why?

    I never say that some words are restricted to Tamils or Sinhalese.

    I told Malayalam (another SL neighbour) also use the APPACHCHI. But donkey Lorenzo cries that Sinhalese only use the word. In Sinhala Appachchi is used to address father, but in Malayalam it is used to address father’s sister.

    Lorenzo proves he is a real dumbass!

  22. M.S.MUDALI Says:

    appa+aeththa → appaththa → appachchi

    In Tamil Nadu people address their father’s mother(paternal grand mother) as APPATHTHA.

  23. Lorenzo Says:


    In SL language (Sinhala) Appachchi is NOT Appaththa (Tamil Nadu language) dumbo!

    It is father NOT father’s mother!

    Learn to accept the differences. Sinhala is NOT your South Indian language. It is different.

  24. Ramanie Says:

    Thaththa is a Portugese word for father I believe. That would explain why former Portugese held places like Sri Lanka and South India would have this word in use.

  25. M.S.MUDALI Says:

    Sinhalese, what ever history, they use the South Indian words to address their relatives. Lorenzo is a criminal dumbass and still he is unable to tell his caste!

    AKKA is used by Tamils and Sinhalese only. Donkey Lorenzo keeps his mouth and ass shut on this word!

  26. Lorenzo Says:

    Mu-Dalit’s APPA has spoken.

    “DMK president M. Karunanidhi Tuesday requested the prime minister to introduce a resolution in the United Nation (UN) General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) for Sri Lankan Tamils and Sri Lankan refugees.

    Karunanidhi wants the UN and the UNHRC to determine a political solution for Sri Lankan Tamils.

    In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Karunanidhi also said that India should take diplomatic initiatives to get the support of other countries for its resolution while reclaiming the Katchatheevu island ceded to Sri Lanka.”

    FAT chance at that old fart! Mind your own dirty business in Toilet Nadu Karuna-nidhi.

  27. Kit Athul Says:

    Lorenzo, in North Eastern Finland, they use TAATHA for father. Places like Rovaniami. But general use in other places Iza for father and Aaiti for mother. Your correct. Fins say in old finnish TAATHA was used for father. Another word I found when I was living there, is the word SONNIA, for a grown up bull. This is used in low counrty sinhala to refer mid age bull.

    Better still, Now SL government cannot build any thing near Indian High Commission without getting permission from Delhi. Why can’t MR stand up to this abuse?

  28. Lorenzo Says:


    MR has to get his act together. If he becomes an Indian stooge, there is little hope for SL.

  29. Wickrama Says:


    MUDALI – 7 ; LORENZO – 7 !!


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