A Guide to Madras Bashai

Chennai, one of the most happening metropolitan cities of South India is the capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Chennai is located in the southeastern seacoast region of the Indian Subcontinent, between the Eastern Ghats range of mountains and the Bay of Bengal of the Indian Ocean. 

Did you know?
Madras Bashai is a local dialect used in a multilingual context

The majority of the population of Chennai is, of course, Tamilians or Tamil people who use their mother tongue Tamil as the primary language for linguistic communication. 

Apart from the local language, English is also an official language primarily used across commercial enterprises, educational institutions and across many white-collar professions.

Did you know?
From the 1950s, several Kollywood movies portrayed Madras Tamil in the form of wordplays.

Just for Fun Chennai Bashai

Apart from the recognized languages, Chennai is the home of a unique language called as Madras Tamil or Madras Bashai. 

It is important to understand that Chennai Bashai is different than the various regional dialects of Tamil like:

  • Kongu Tamil - spoken in Coimbatore and across several districts in the western region of Tamil Nadu (Also Read: Slangy Chennai Tamil vs Twangy Kongu Tamil)

  • Madurai Tamil - spoken in Madurai and across several districts in the southern region of Tamil Nadu

  • Tirunelveli Tamil - spoken in Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) and across several districts in the southern region of Tamil

  • Arabu Tamil - a scripted register of the Tamil language that extensively uses an Arabic alphabet

  • Central Tamil - Spoken in Tiruchirappalli, Thanjavur and a few other districts in the central region of Tamil Nadu

  • Kumari Tamil - spoken extensively across the district of Kanyakumari

  • Jaffna Tamil - spoken in Jaffna Peninsula (Northern Province, Sri Lanka) and across the northern region of Sri Lanka

  • Ceylon Tamil (Sri Lankan Tamil) - spoken extensively by Sri Lankan Tamil people

  • Negombo Tamil (Negombo Fishermen’s Tamil) - spoken by the fishermen of Negombo in Sri Lanka

  • Batticaloa Tamil - spoken across Batticaloa and Ampara districts of Sri Lanka

  • Brahmin Tamil - a Sanskritized variation of Tamil, extensively spoken by Brahmins in Tamil Nadu

  • Iyengar Tamil - Spoken by Iyengars of Karnataka and abutting regions in South India

  • Bangalore Tamil - spoken extensively in Bangalore as Tamil is the second most widely spoken language (after Kannada)
Chennai people may not communicate using a particular version of Tamil, but if there is a language that is genuinely Madras (is now Chennai), it has to be Madras Bashai, a loose spoken communication or conversational slang of Tamil. 

The word 'Bashai' in Madras Bashai comes from Sanskrit. Madras Bashai developed mostly during the past three centuries and the colloquial language developed along with the development of the urban centre of Madras (Chennai).

Did you know?
Madras Tamil or Madras Bashai has been made understandable to the general public by fishers from the northern Chennai and auto rickshaw drivers

Some scholars say that the origin of the Madras Bashai may be traced back to a few centuries ago but the language prospered only after 1950s. 

The language primarily grew along with trade, boomed in its rawest form, Madras Bashai or Madras Tamil has moved around far and wide. 

Did you know?
Madras Bashai blends words, postfixes and grammar patterns of various languages to form new words

Today, Madras Bashai is the flavour of the Kollywood film industry that 'gaana' songs made full with words from Madras Tamil is the latest trend in the K-town. 

Some of the songs from recently released Tamil blockbusters like Shankar's I (Mersalaayitten), Gautam Vasudev Menon's Yennai Arindhaal (Adharu Adharu), KV Anand's Anegan (Danga Maari Oodhari) are on the lips of the kids and youngsters today. 

Not to forget the 1968 film Bommalattam directed by V. Srinivasan, starring Jai Shankar. The film featured a super-duper hit song 'Vaa Vaathyaare Ootaanda' by the legendary Manorama Aachi.

A funny song in 'Chennai Bashai' by the legendary actor Manorama Aachi
Movie: Bommalattam (1968)

Did you know?
Kaviperarasu Vairamuthu, the renowned Tamil poet once said that the Madras Bashai will prosper as long as the labours exist in Chennai

The song literally glorified the Madras Tamil across the nook and corners of Tamil Nadu. Thanks to the notable actors of Tamil cinema like Kalaivanar N.S. Krishnan (NSK), Cho Ramaswamy, Thengai Srinivasan, Surli Rajan, Loose Mohan, Janagaraj and more lately, Padma Shri Kamal Kaasan who made Madras Bashai famous among the Tamil people. The multi-talented legend, J. P. Chandrababu, who acted in more than 100 movies, was a master of Madras Bashai. Beyond question, these veteran actors took Madras Bashai among people of all classes and through the entire state of Tamil Nadu.

Actor Chandrababu

Although, it is a popular belief that Madras Bashai is used only by a section of people in the city, it is very difficult to find a Tamilian in Chennai who is not acquainted with this interesting dialect.

For people who are outside of Chennai or from another state, imagine that you are in Chennai for a sightseeing trip, you are negotiating with an auto rickshaw driver and he says

"Enna baa, nama kailaye wraang pannriye" (do not mess with me)

it would not be a good idea to show him that you don't understand a single word he is uttering. 

Even if you are not able to have a conversation with him in Madras Bashai, it would not hurt if you have the interest to understand some of the basic words of the dialect.

Find below a guide comprising some of the basic and widely used words and phrases from Madras Bashai:

Madras Bashai: Inna baa Selvam?
Standard Tamil: Enna pa Selvam?
Meaning: What Selvam?

Madras Bashai: Payam thunriya?
Standard Tamil: Pazham sapdriya?
Meaning: Want to have a fruit?

Madras Bashai: Annaathe
Standard Tamil: Anna
Meaning: Elder brother

Madras Bashai: Yakka
Standard Tamil: Akka
Meaning: Elder sister

Madras Bashai: Appalae
Standard Tamil: Appuram
Meaning: Afterwards

Madras Bashai: Asalta
Standard Tamil: Sulabhama
Meaning: To perform something easily

Madras Bashai: Baamaayilu
Standard Tamil: Panai ennai
Meaning: Palm oil

Madras Bashai: Bejaar
Standard Tamil: Thollai
Meaning: Nuisance or disturbance

Madras Bashai: Biscothu
Standard Tamil: Roti
Meaning: Biscuit

Madras Bashai: Thuddu
Standard Tamil: Panam
Meaning: Money

Madras Bashai: Gabbu
Standard Tamil: Naatram
Meaning: Foul smell

Madras Bashai: Gapsaa
Standard Tamil: Poi
Meaning: Lie

Madras Bashai: Iskool
Standard Tamil: Pallikoodam
Meaning: School

Madras Bashai: Jagaa vaangaradhu
Standard Tamil: Idathai vitu nagardhal
Meaning: To escape from the spot

Madras Bashai: Jalpu
Standard Tamil: Jaladosham
Meaning: To catch cold

Madras Bashai: Voodu
Standard Tamil: Veedu
Meaning: Home

Madras Bashai: Jolly vidurathu
Standard Tamil: Rasipadhu
Meaning: Look at with amorous intentions

Madras Bashai: Jujubee mattru
Standard Tamil: Elithana vishayam
Meaning: Easy thing to do

Madras Bashai: Keivi
Standard Tamil: Kilavi
Meaning: Old woman

Madras Bashai: Kena
Standard Tamil: Muttaal
Meaning: Fool

Madras Bashai: Kishnayil
Standard Tamil: Mannennai
Meaning: Kerosene

Madras Bashai: Machi
Standard Tamil: Synonymous with Nanba, Thozha
Meaning: Friend, buddy, dude, wife's brother

Madras Bashai: Majaa
Standard Tamil: Anubhavi
Meaning: Fun

Madras Bashai: Manjaa Soru
Standard Tamil: Dhairiyam
Meaning: denotes to a bravery of men

Madras Bashai: Meyaaluma
Standard Tamil: Unmaiyava
Meaning: Is it true or really?

Madras Bashai: Sokka
Standard Tamil: Sattai
Meaning: Shirt

Madras Bashai: Takkaru
Standard Tamil: Arumai
Meaning: Super

Madras Bashai: Thamaasu
Standard Tamil: Nagaichuvai
Meaning: Funny

Madras Bashai: Udhaaru
Standard Tamil: Migaipaduthuthal
Meaning: to enlarge beyond bounds or the truth

Madras Bashai: Dupakur
Standard Tamil: Yematrupervazhi
Meaning: Fraudster

Madras Bashai: Nainah
Standard Tamil: Appa
Meaning: Father

Madras Bashai: Bemani
Standard Tamil: Niyayam illathavan
Meaning: Dishonest person

Madras Bashai: OC
Standard Tamil: Villai illa
Meaning: Free of cost

Madras Bashai: AaaKoa
Standard Tamil: Aarva kolaaru
Meaning: Over enthusiastic

Madras Bashai: Aaf-Paayil
Standard Tamil: Arai vekaadu muttai
Meaning: Half boiled egg

Madras Bashai: Aattaya poadrathu
Standard Tamil: Thiruduvadhu
Meaning: To steal

Madras Bashai: Allakai
Standard Tamil: Valadhu kai
Meaning: Synonymous with Toady, Bootlicking

Madras Bashai: Istukinnu or ituukunu
Meaning: bring or drag along

Madras Bashai: Kundaka mandaka
Meaning: twisted talk

Madras Bashai: Sokkakira
Meaning: Looking good

Madras Bashai: Vootla soltu vandhiya
Meaning: Be careful on the road

Madras Bashai: Kelambu kaathu varatum
Meaning: Stop talking or move away

Madras Bashai: Scene podatha
Meaning: Do not show off

Madras Bashai: Tube light
Meaning: Absent minded

Madras Bashai: Yechuse me
Meaning: Excuse me

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