Change in Word Meanings

Sun Apr 20 09:27:22 UTC 1997

GANESANS at wrote:
> 1/21/97
>       Change in Word Meanings
>      ************************
> Some tamil words have acquired almost opposite meanings
> over time. Examples:
> 1) n^ARRam - originally good smell, but now it signifies bad odour.
> When Andal sings "karuppUram n^ARumO? kamalappU n^ARumO?",
> the pleasant smell of lotus, camphor are referred.
> 2) mANTa - originally lofty (related to mANpu),
> but now it is "dead/destroyed"
> "maaNTa en manaiviyoTu" - puRam song by picirAnthaiyAr.
> "uram mANTa thamizhar" - has double meanings.
> 3) kuppai - Originally, it seems to mean "heap/kuviyal" only.
> There is a village by name, neRkuppai (heaps of paddy).
> But now it means dirt/garbage.
> 4) iRantha - originally, crossing, ending etc.,
> In sangam poetry, "neTunjcuram iRanthAn" meant
> crossing a large tract of wasteland.
> 5) kazhakam - originally, a gambling place.
> Now, thamizhk kazhakam - tamil society etc.,
> Can you please add some more Tamil words like this?
> Any examples from Sanskrit?
> N. Ganesan

Dear Sir ,
          Quite a number of words have changed their
meanings in the course of time.Allow me add on.
    attavaNai - In the epigrahical parlance, it originally meant
                a royal diary. It contained all the things that the king 
                had to do in a day and his appointments. The officer in   
                charge of preparing the diary and reminding the king was  
                also known as the "attavaNai".
                Later it meant a "list"
                Now its scope has further narrowed down to mean " a list  
                of contents of a book.

    vetti vElai - It now means useless, unproductive work.
                Its  earlier meaning was "voluntary work". As such all    
                social service would fall into the category of "vetti     
                vElai".No salary, no wages,nothing. The "vetti vElai      
                kkAran'" had to bring his own equipment.           

    sillaRai - This is a compound word.... sil+ iRai. In the medieval 
               times, numerous taxes were imposed upon the people. Some 
               taxes  were miscellaneous and sundry. They had to paid in 
               coins of the smallest denominations. in ude course, the 
               word became a single word - "sillaRai". The tax part of it 
               passed into oblivion. It just came to mean, coins of small 
               denomination or small change.

   amar kaLam - This was the battle field. Now is different. In a         
                kachchEri, a sangItha vidhvAn ," amarkkaLamAga ppAduthal" 
                means singing with gusto.

   pilzhaiththal - Now we use it to mean escaping from death, or 
                recovering  from a dangeros illness. It meant, "wrong 
                doing", or lapse, mistake etc.
                   Appar"s Kanchi Thiruppadhigam - "nin paNi pilzhaikkil, 
                   puLiyam vaLArAl mOdhuvippAy, ugappAy, munivAy, kachchi 

   madaiyan - was originally a cook! Not a fool.
   algul - means the female genitalia. But also meant the "Groin".
                   Thiru vOththUr thiruppadhigam of Sambandhar-
                    "koLvIr algul Or kOvaNam"

   pasu - Was used to mean the whole bovine species in general.
                  kOLaRu thiruppadhigam - Sambandhar
                   "pala pala vEdamAgum para nAri bAgan
                       pasu vErum engaL paraman"
                  Now, only the female of the species -pasu

   kOlzhi - Stood for the domestic fowl in general. The male was known as 
                  "kolzhi chEval"
                  Incidentally, the word "cheval" used to mean tha male 
                  member of any bird. Now , only the cockeral is addressed 

   vimAnam _ This stood for the Garbha Griha and the super structure above 
                  it. later it meant yhe superstructure alone.
                  Mow, vimAnam has disappeared to give way to the 

   Arya - had a different meaning. Now we think of the 
                  Indo-Europeans,Caucasians race.
                  " Der Fuehrer" took it to new heights.

   annam - meant any food. Now stands for cooked rice.

   summA - Just to type out what it really means is going to take two more 
                  days. It is NOT - repeat - NOT what it means.

   aRuvai - In tha Sangam, it meant "cloth"
   kULam - "Cereals. Madurai kkULa vAniganAr"  


 Sungai Petani.


    vetti vElai -

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