Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I came across the first familiar word in Malay, asram. It’s a Sanskrit word which means accommodation for visitors. While driving toward Petronas office, I saw a board mentioning it. It means the same in Malay too. Later on I came across many such words here which sounded familiar.

Curious to know, I surfed the net. There is evidence of Indian traders travelling to Malaysia before 15th century and settling down. Since Sanskrit was the spoken language in those days in India, it has its influence on the Malay language. In fact the old Malay cannot be understood now by many as it was richly laced with Sanskrit. Sanskrit is no more spoken in India now and it has been replaced by Hindi now. But it is considered one of the classical languages and root of many Indian languages.

It was after the 15th century that the first Muslim rulers came to Malaysia and major changes too place, with Arabic replacing Sanskrit. Hence Malay later own adopted many Arabic words. The British occupation of Malaysia in the nineteenth and twentieth century’s influenced the script. Malay language later added many English words to its fold.

But influence of Sanskrit did not wean away completely and even today there is evidence of some Sanskrit which is found in everyday usage. I am citing few such common words which have originated from Sanskrit I have come across.

Malay Sanskrit Meaning

Bahasa Bhasa Language

Bumi Bhumi Earth

Duka Dhukha Sadness

Guru Guru Teacher

Hina Heen Inferior

Kepal Kapal Head

Roti Rutti Bread

Singa Sing Lion

Topi Tuppi Hat

Warna Varna Colour

Manusia Manushya Human

Nama Naam Name

Neraka Naraka Hell

Pahala Phala Reward

Putera Putra Prince

Puraba Purva Past

Maha Maha Great

Raja Raja King

Sengsara Sansara Suffering

Sukha Suka Happiness

Suria Surya Sun

Tali Talli String

Utara Uttar North

Dobi Dhobi Laundry

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