Scenic view of Tamil Nadu - Basic Tamil words to know in English

28 Basic Tamil Words to Know in English

If learning some basic Tamil words is on your bucket list for the day, then you have clicked on the right link. Whether you are shifting to Chennai, planning a short stay, going for a business trip or visiting Chennai for a vacation. It is necessary to have basic knowledge about the local language. 

Visiting a new place can be nerve wracking. If you are looking for a co-living space with all the facilities; if you are looking for a place to live with like minded individuals or looking for some basic Tamil words; GetSetHome is here to make your life easier. With this curated list of Tamil words, you will be a pro while participating in conversations. You will be ready to make a good first impression and at ease while conversing in the local language.

Tamil Words English Meaning

Vanakkam                 Hello

Enna                         What

Yevalo/Eeppadi         How

Neenga                     You

Naan                          I

Ennaku                      For me

Mannikkavum          Sorry

Aama                         Yes

ille                              No

Seri                            Ok

Terima?                    Do you know?

Theriyadu                 Don’t know

Anna                          Older Brother

Akka                           Older Sister

Nandri                        Thanks

Koncham/Konjam    Little/Thoda

Yenga?                      Where?

Inga/Anga                  Here/There

Vaanga/Ponga          Come/Go

Irukka?                       Is there?

Rubba                        Rupees

Athigam                     Too much

Dhooram                    Distance

Neram aagum           Time will it take

Idhu/Adhu                  This/That

Venum                        I want

Venda                         I don’t want

Kondu                         Bring

Vanakkam! – Hello!

A respectful warm start to a conversation is always good. Greeting the person and asking how they are is the way to go. If you are trying to build a friendship or just a good 1st impression here are some simple phrases to guide you.

Neenga eppadi irukeenga? – How are you?

Un/Unga Peru enna? – What is your name?

Aama, ille, seri – Yes, No, Okay

These 3 words will cover a lot of conversational ground. You will find yourself using these words quite a lot. Simple and effective!

For example if some asks did you have your meal, or if you know the local language or is simply asking you if you are okay. There is a famous dialogue from the movie Dil Bechara which goes “Seri, Kizi Basu? – Seri.”

28 Basic Tamil Words to Know in English - Shushant singh Rajput and Sanjana Sanghi,  Seri kizi Basu

Picture: Pinterest

Saapteengala? – Had your meal? Aama – Yes

Tamil Terima? Do you know Tamil? Ille No

Seri? – Okay? Seri –  Okay

Naan, Ennaku – I, for me 

Ille, naan doesn’t mean bread. Naan means referring to yourself in 1st person. Enakku is used to express anything which you want to do or what you feel. Sharing your preferences or expressing your likes or dislikes about things. 

Naan Indian – I’m Indian

Ennai Mannikkavum – I’m sorry

Enakku intha idam pudikkum – I like Chennai

Anna, Akka and Nandri – The magic words

Anna means older brother and akka means elder sister. It is a way of showing respect. So, make sure to start the conversation respectfully. Tamilians can easily understand even if you use some english words and will eagerly assist you if you show some effort to try and understand their language. At the end don’t forget to show some gratitude to everyone who helped you.

Akka/Anna, vanakkam! – Brother/Sister Greetings!

Excuse me, Tamil enakku theriyathu – Excuse me, I don’t know Tamil

Koncham help pannu! – Help me a little

Seri, nandri!  –  Okay, Thank you! 

Asking for directions 

The most  important thing in an unknown land is knowing your way. If you are lost or simply looking to go somewhere, it is better to ask the locals, rather than completely rely on maps.

Hotel yenga irukku? – Where is the hotel?

ATM/Bathroom yenga irukku? – Where is the ATM/bathroom?

(Place) Eppadi poganum? – How do you reach (place)?

(Place) poganum – I have to go (place)

Navigating the city

You will have to talk with the auto rickshaw drivers within the city. It is advisable to first ask for the fare, distance and the time it will take to reach the destination. This may help while negotiating with local vendors as well. 

Evvalo neram aagum – How long will it take?

Dhooram? – Distance?


While buying anything we would advise asking first. It could be an auto fair, water, snacks or soft drinks. You can manage this with just 4 simple words 

Idhu Irukka? – Do you have this?

Idhu yevalo? –  How much is this?

Yevalo Rubba Anna? –  How many rupees, anna?

100 Romba Athigam – 100 is too much

Konjam price kammi pannunga anna/akka – Lower the price anna/akka

Buying and ordering food 

The most important of all, food! Whether you are in a restaurant ordering food or just need a cup of coffee, all you need are these 3 simple phrases.

Tiffen yenna irukku? – What is there for breakfast/dinner?

Venum Kaapi – I want Coffee

Venda chicken –  I don’t want Chicken

Bill kondu vaanga – Bring me bill


Welcome to Chennai…

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