11 Colors in Sinhala (and how I discovered that my inner-voice is a condescending A-hole)

colors in sinhalaThis post came about thanks to Luminita, one of my readers, who asked me in an email for the names of the basic colors in Sinhala.

After writing my answer to her and hitting ‘send’, out of nowhere came my inner-voice all excited saying, “Hey buddy, you know you could easily ‘Copy & Paste’ this onto the blog, play around with the formatting, and BOOM, you’ve got yourself a new blog post, right?!”.

He was absolutely right! It’s an easy-peasy and very lazy way to create some new content. I might even have time to crash on the couch and binge-watch some TV afterwards. Thanks Inner-Voice!

Or at least that’s what I thought at the time…


I soon realized that I’ll need to record the audio too. Yeah ok, that’s not gonna take too long. Since I’m recovering from a horrific cold right now the words will sound a little nasal, but so what, no one would probably even notice it.

But then there’s the audio editing… Ok, still doable.

But hold on, like the Names of Animals in Sinhala post, this one is also ideal for flash cards. Sheeesh… now I gotta do those damn flash cards, assign the audio, cross-check them, etc, etc, etc…

‘Copy & Paste’, my ass. This was going to take some effort.

But I was too far down the road to turn around now, so I decided to roll up my sleeves and power through.

And here’s the result, ladies & gents. I give you “Colors in Sinhala”:


Colors in Sinhala


Well that’s all folks, hope you liked this post. Drive safe, good bye…

Ah, if only the story ended there. If only…


“Even a monkey can list a bunch of colors in Sinhala…”

After doing the above list, the recording, the editing, and the flashcards, I was feeling VERY self-satisfied.

But then guess who popped back in?

Yes, the Inner-Voice, but this time he had a smirk on his face with condescension written all over it. For some reason, he now looked exactly like Willy Wonka on that meme that’s floating around the internet:


Mr. “Inner-Voice”, the A-hole


The subsequent conversation went something like this:

Inner-Voice: “Oh whoop-dee-doo, you’ve done the list, have you? You must be veeery proud of yourself.”

Me: “Umm… well, yes, I’m quite happy with it”

Inner-Voice: “Haha, really?! Even a monkey can list a bunch of colors in Sinhala… What’s so special about yours?”

Me: “Excuse me? A monkey?… Didn’t you see the audio clips I recorded, despite my poor little blocked nose?”

Inner-Voice: “Big deal, so what?”

Me: “I also edited the audio and assigned them to each button”

Inner-Voice: “Booooring”

Me: “I also did those flash cards because I…”

Inner-Voice: “Yaaaawn”

Me: (speechless; defensive; angry)

Inner-Voice: (as he left the room) “Yeah that’s what I thought. And by the way, you’re kidding yourself if you think you have a ‘LITTLE’ nose”… Buhahaha!


What a jerk, right?

Once I calmed down (and I looked in the mirror to assure myself it’s an ‘average-sized’ nose), I started thinking about what he said. Maybe he did have a point. Maybe I could dig deeper. Maybe I could add a tiny bit more.

Suddenly ideas started gushing in. Quickly, I grabbed a pen a paper and started jotting these down. I soon found myself with a page full of notes and scribblings.

What you see below is a polished version of some of those notes.

I’ve done it in such a way where each new word leverages what you’ve learned so far in this post.

I’ve added an optional section at the end. It’s just some surprisingly interesting facts that I also realized only when putting this together.

Hey, could you do me a favor?

If you know some people who might learn something from this post then please share this with them using any of the social media buttons. Thanks in advance!


The word for “Color” in Sinhala and related words

A colorpaa∙tak      

So building on what you saw before you can now guess that:

  • “Red color” will be ra∙thu paa∙tȧ
  • “Blue colors” will be nil paa∙tȧ∙val
  • “A green color” will be ko∙lȧ paa∙tak


The words for “Dark”, “Light”, & “Bright”

Dark (when describing colors)tha∙dhȧ      
Light (when describing colors)laa      
Bright (when describing colors)sæ∙rȧ      

So building on what you saw before you can now guess that:

  • “Dark red color” will be tha∙dhȧ ra∙thu paa∙tȧ
  • “Light red color” will be laa ra∙thu paa∙tȧ
  • “Bright red color” will be sæ∙rȧ ra∙thu paa∙tȧ


The verb “Coloring”

Now I understand that you’re not going to be using the phrase “I am coloring” that often (unless you’re a 3-year old who has made the coloring of books, walls, and clothes, your sole reason for existence).

However, I’ve included this because the word for coloring is another compound verb using kȧ∙rȧ∙nȧ∙va, similar to what we saw in Episode 5 of the Video Tutorials and Session 8 of the Podcast.

Coloringpaa∙tȧ   kȧ∙rȧ∙nȧ∙va      

So building on what you saw before, you can now guess that:

  • “I (am) coloring” is ma∙mȧ paa∙tȧ kȧ∙rȧ∙nȧ∙va
  • “You (are) coloring” is o∙yaa paa∙tȧ kȧ∙rȧ∙nȧ∙va
  • “He/she (is) coloring” is é∙yaa paa∙tȧ kȧ∙rȧ∙nȧ∙va


OPTIONAL SECTION: “Did you know that..?”

This section simply lists some of the observations I made about the colors in Sinhala while writing this post. I personally found them fascinating. Even chatted to my parents about it.

However, if you feel like you don’t want to overload your brain with anymore new stuff for today, then skip it (or bookmark it and comeback another day).


(By the way, ever noticed that whenever someone casually starts a sentence with “Did you know that..?”, usually he or she is sure that you don’t know – but they’ll still go ahead and ask “Did you know that..?”)

Anyway… did you know that…



  • ko∙lȧ, as you now know, means “green”.
  • But did you know that ko∙lȧ is also the word for “leaves” (like on a tree)?
  • So it makes sense that “green color” in Sinhala, which is ko∙lȧ paa∙tȧ can be literally translated as the “color of leaves”



  • ka∙ha, as you now know, means “yellow”.
  • But did you know that ka∙ha also means “turmeric”, which as you know is yellow color? (FYI, “turmeric powder” is ka∙ha ku∙du, where ku∙du in this instance means “powder”)



  • thæmbi∙li, as you now know, means “orange”.
  • But did you know that thæmbi∙li is also the word for “king coconut”?
  • For those of you who’ve never heard this term before, no, this is not an ancient Sri Lankan king who called himself “King Coconut” (although that would’ve been a cool name).
  • Instead, it’s a kind of large coconut that is sweet and is typically sold on the roadside in Sri Lanka.



  • rō∙sȧ, as you now know, means “pink”.
  • But did you know that rō∙sȧ can also mean “rose”, as in the flower?
  • (FYI, rō∙sȧ ma∙lȧ means “rose flower”, where ma∙lȧ means “flower”)



  • a∙lu, as you now know, means “grey”.
  • But did you know that a∙lu also means “ash”?
  • So, “grey color” in Sinhala, which is a∙lu paa∙tȧ, literally translates to “ash color”



  • su∙dhu, as you now know, means “white”.
  • But did you know that a derivative of this word is used to describe a person with a white skin tone, or to put it more simply, a “white” person.
  • These words are sudh∙dha (for a male) and sudh∙dhi (for a female).
  • They’re not derogatory terms so it is not offensive, provided of course it’s used in a friendly context (but then again most words are not offensive when they come from a good place).
  • But just remember that sudh∙dha and sudh∙dhi are indeed quite familiar and colloquial ways of referring to someone white.

and finally..



  • dham, as you now know, means “purple”.
  • But did you know that dham is also a specific type of tiny berry in Sri Lanka?
  • I remember eating this as a child and watching in amazement as it turned my tongue purple.
  • I honestly don’t know the English name for it, but if one of you do, then get that proud superior look off your face and please share it with the rest of us below.


Well, I guess I can end this post now.

I haven’t heard again from the Inner-Voice, which is a good sign. But I know that jerk will be back just seconds before I click “publish” on my next post.

So for now, I’ll just re-read this post, feel good about myself, upload it, and go do that TV binge-watching I so badly wanted to do.

I’ll leave you with the flash cards I promised. Feel free to post all your comments and questions below.

And if you know some friends who might like this post, please go ahead and share it with them. Thanks!


Flash Cards: Colors in Sinhala

Here’s a set of 18 flash cards that should help you review what you saw in this post:

Click to play with the Flashcards: Colors in Sinhala

Enroll for free in my new Sinhala email course!

Click below to begin a personalized 8-lesson course that'll teach you the most useful concepts to get you started on your Sinhala adventure.

44 Responses to 11 Colors in Sinhala (and how I discovered that my inner-voice is a condescending A-hole)

  1. Dilshari October 19, 2013 at 07:17 #

    Hahaha Love your post thanks to your inna voice thanks because she (yeah la voix) made me laugh …. and she tested our lazy smart srilankaavén :-D And thanks to you and your wonderful energy !!!!!! Take care of you hein? here in South France the automn is coming soon :'( so we are in the mode It’s hard to know what to put on you know what I mean !
    Have a nice day the best Blogger ever !!

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 19, 2013 at 08:33 #

      Thanks Dilshari, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Ok, I”ll accept “la voix” :) Good luck with choosing the right clothes for autumn. Luckily, I don’t have that problem anymore in Colombo but I remember how I was extra careful to wear a scarf during this time since it’s so easy to fall sick. You too have a nice day/weekend and thanks for the flattering words.

  2. Sue October 19, 2013 at 09:06 #

    Hi Dilshan, What fun it is to learn Sinhala with your entertaining but thorough blogs! How would you describe people (thinking of Europeans) who have fair or blond hair? Thanks for your dedication yet again! Please don’t respond until after the weekend – make the most of your “me-time.”

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 19, 2013 at 11:07 #

      Thanks Sue. That would still be sudh∙dha or sudh∙dhi. As far as I know, there is no specific term for anyone with fair/blonde hair; instead, the terms are based on the light skin color.

  3. Luminita October 19, 2013 at 09:11 #

    Thank you for this great lesson and for making me smile :-) One Saturday morning, after a tiring week, I really needed (umm… thanks to your inner voice too!).

    Hahe a great day and take care!

    • Luminita October 19, 2013 at 09:14 #

      “haVe” a great day, of course :-)

      • Dilshan Jayasinha October 19, 2013 at 09:24 #

        Merci a toi, surtout pour ta question! Have a great relaxing weekend.

  4. Kay Abayakoon October 19, 2013 at 09:15 #

    My husband thinks the purple fruit is a blueberry.

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 19, 2013 at 09:30 #

      You know Kay, he could be right. I’d say its probably a type of blueberry, because I don’t remember the blueberries in Europe leaving stains on my tongue. I also remember getting ‘dham’ stains on my white school clothes. Had to wash them off before my mom saw them!

      Thanks for helping out (and to your husband too).

      • maccka December 22, 2015 at 21:21 #

        Hi Dilshan,

        I’ve discovered your blog about a month ago and although I haven’t started to learn Sinhala very actively yet, I enjoy it very much. I just know your lessons will be of utmost help once I seriously get on the subject :) You most definitely are one of the best teachers I have ever encountered!

        It’s really entertaining to read your posts and the dialogue with your “Inner Voice” on this site was absolutely hilarious! You should listen to it more often because it obviously encourages you to teach us more useful stuff.

        Now to the “dham”berries subject, which initially encouraged me to write this comment… because I simply love them so much.

        The original, “natural blueberries” (in central Europe, where I come from) usually don’t grow in the warmest places – you can find them at medium to high altitudes (even up to 1500 m above sea level).
        And believe me, they have lots of that dark purple color – if you eat a lot of them, they leave plenty of purple color on your tongue (if you’ve had really lots of them, even on your teeth, like red wine). Their bushes don’t grow bigger than 40 cm high and fruits are rarely bigger than 0,5 cm in diameter. They are ALWAYS handpicked in the forest (and yes, color gets on your fingertips too :)) If you buy then in the open market, they are also darn expensive.

        It’s absolutely not the same if you buy them in supermarkets – the ones you can get there are called “american” blueberries and they come at much more affordable price. They grow on much bigger bushes (up to 2 meters) on plantations and a single fruit grows up to 1,5 cm in diameter. They have MUCH less taste… and although the color looks pretty much the same on the outside, they never ever leave any purple stains anywhere.

        Kind regards,


        • Dilshan Jayasinha December 25, 2015 at 13:30 #

          Now that’s a well thought out comment! Thanks for helping out with the mystery of the purple fruit, although, thank to you and a few others, is not a mystery anymore.

          Love the detail you’ve gone into. Thank you.

  5. thaya October 19, 2013 at 10:11 #

    great job

  6. carleen October 19, 2013 at 11:29 #

    Hi Delshan,nice work with the colours, well done.can you also do the same with the sinhala
    cases?eg,PAST PARTICIPLE ,PAST SIMPLE,FUTURE CONTINOUS and so on.I would love to
    be able to construct my own sentences using these.Perhaps you could conjugate the verbs we have already been given in this way.As no other Sinhelese website is doing this you would be very unique.
    Kind regards.

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 19, 2013 at 13:43 #

      Hi Carleen, thanks for the suggestion. Will think about it. Take care.

  7. Ramu October 19, 2013 at 11:39 #

    Dear Dilshan,

    it is very helful lesson keep up your good work
    and thanks for Luminita.

  8. julie October 19, 2013 at 14:07 #

    LOL – it is amazing, what amusing stories can be told around some colours… I am sure your fan club is absolutely grateful to your inner voice :D

    So what’s about the next step? …Contructing phrases with animals and colours + what they eat … :)) – so we had another word-topic and easy phrases in one.
    Let me try:

    “sud hu mee ya ka ha kee ju kanava”

    haha, maybe this try is at least to understand (ok, ok the meaning is not really intelligent, you would have better examples…).
    Oh, and don’t threaten me to get blocked for my mistakes… ;-) !

    Take care and have a nice weekend!

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 21, 2013 at 14:05 #

      Haha, that’s not bad at all what you did! Yes, that means “The white mouse/rat is eating yellow cheese”. Well done!

      Ok, my turn now:

      “rō∙sȧ vaňdhu∙ra ka∙lu kō∙pi bo∙nȧ∙va”

      Want to make a guess?

      • Julie October 21, 2013 at 22:43 #

        a mi gra me ka!

        “pink monkeys drink black coffee”


        • Julie October 21, 2013 at 22:45 #

          oh no, I think this order is better:
          meka amigra…!

          • Dilshan Jayasinha October 22, 2013 at 05:45 #

            Ayi ayi ayi…. VERY close but with a tiny mistake: it’s “monkey” (singular) and not “monkeys” (plural). You’re now annoyed with yourself, aren’t you? :)

            But something else: I didn’t understand what you meant by “amigra”. I’m guessing you’re translating this from a dictionary but I can’t guess what the words is.

  9. Corinne October 19, 2013 at 17:39 #

    Thank you Dilshan for your amazing work!

    While searching for the exact translation of Dham, I found this amazing online dictionary, dated 1892.

    … but I am still trying to find the exact translation… MY inner voice doesn’t let me quit either!

    Have a great week-end!


  10. Corinne October 19, 2013 at 18:39 #

    Marayi! I found it in the dictionary, but still don’t have the answer!

    First I thought I was durbuddhi, that I might udubulu lanawa or climb on a amba gaha to see the kabba (I had no idea that there actually is a word for the phosphorescent light seen in waves at night!!!), but then I found it.

    It’s on page 233 දම් or Dam as they write it.

    Dam-pata: purple (colour) (දම් (dam) = fruit, පාට (pata) = colour).

    So my guess is that Dam is not the real name of your berry, but rather a surname. Do you know a botanist by any chance?

    The dictionnary is priceless!

    Take care and if you find the real word, I’ll comb through the dictionary again :-).

    Corinne, aka Sudu kella

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 21, 2013 at 06:01 #

      Thanks Sudhu Kella (and your own inner voice) for the relentless research! :) Yes, I guess it might just be a sort of ‘nickname’ for the fruit. Thanks again.

  11. Laura October 19, 2013 at 23:28 #

    Awesome post, as usual! I was going through the list of colors, I came across sudhu and “Oh, that rings a bell!”. But I couldn’t pinpoint what…then the “Did you know…” section came and: “OMG! Sudhdhi!”. That’s the way my boyfriend’s adorable 8-year-old cousin called me when we first met…before her mom threatened to send her to bed without dessert. I thought it sounded real cute, anyway :)

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 21, 2013 at 06:03 #

      Ha, that’s funny. I hope that proves to you (and anyone else reading this) that if an 8-year old is using it, then it’s probably not an offensive term to a white person. However, based on what you told me, you might run the risk of being denied dessert so use these words with care…

  12. Savvas Savva October 20, 2013 at 11:38 #

    Hi my friend,

    What an informative and logically explained lesson on the sinhala colours. Thank you so ver much. When I taught the Sinhala colours to my class, I also used word association and chunck learning. It really made a differance.
    Of course my Sinhala is very basic, so I was learning from my students as well as teaching them!

    Please, please keep it going.

    God bless,


    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 21, 2013 at 06:08 #

      Thanks Savvas, very kind. I had to actually google “chunk learning” as I didn’t know what it meant. Now I do though. Glad you found the approach I took in this post effective. These blog posts are a win-win. You guys get to learn something new; I get to let my imagination run wild and write about things like a personified “inner-voice”, haha.

  13. Letran October 21, 2013 at 09:24 #

    I was convinced that in most languages, the word for “orange”, the color, and “orange”, the fruit is always the same word. Now I learned that in Sinhala, you wouldn’t call an orange (fruit) “thæmbi∙li” because it’s already the name for the king coconut!

    By the way, how do you say orange (the fruit) in Sinhala? Names of fruits for your next post. Hint hint.

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 21, 2013 at 13:51 #

      Hi Letran, orange (the fruit) in Sinhala = dho∙dam

      Good point, and I think I might know another reason why orange color is not named after the fruit in Sinhlala (apart from it already meaning king coconut). I mentioned this in another comment somewhere but over in SL the oranges are more green than orange. So, the next time I get my house painted I’d love to tell the painter to use paint that is “dho∙dam paa∙tȧ” and watch his brain short-circuit from confusion :)

      • Shagerina Tilakasiri October 27, 2013 at 11:52 #

        Lol! Poor painter !

  14. Luminita October 22, 2013 at 06:51 #

    Hi Dilshan,
    Do you know the origin of word “rosa” (coulour pink) in Sinhala? Do you think that this word is introduced in Sinhala by the Portuguese ?

    Have a nice day!

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 22, 2013 at 07:28 #

      I honestly don’t know the origins of sinhala words, never really studied it. So I won’t be able to confirm if rō∙sȧ comes from Portuguese or not.

      But it seems quite likely that it came from some place outside Sri Lanka considering how close the word is to the English term (which also must have been influenced by another language). I really wouldn’t know.

      However, now that you brought this up, when it’s comes to some Sinhala words, I did notice how similar they are to the French counterpart (sometimes even more than to English). Below are just some examples that come to my mind right now. I’ve put it in the order of English / French / Sinhala:

      tea / thé / thḗ
      bread / pain / paan
      diamond / diamant / dhi∙yȧ∙man∙thi∙yȧ
      pineapple / ananas / an∙naa∙si
      week / semaine / su∙maa∙nȧ∙yȧ
      soap / savon / sa∙ban

      Cool, right? I’m sure there are many more.

      Interesting question, thanks. Have a good day.

      • Luminita October 23, 2013 at 06:12 #

        Waw, this is very interesting indeed. . . SOAP and WEEK, BREAD too are almost identical in French! I think that I will have very soon other questions.. :-)
        Thank you!
        Take care!

  15. Shagerina Tilakasiri October 24, 2013 at 02:40 #

    Hey Dilshan! Thanks for the great post! Geeez.. I did not know that orange colour is called thæmbi∙li. I thought thæmbi∙li was just normal coconut instead of King Coconut. Thanks for explaining it in details. If I am not wrong, “pol” is also coconut right? Have u came up with a post for fruits? Just wondering as I have been too busy lately.

    Take Care !

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 25, 2013 at 17:50 #

      Hey Shaggy, yes, “pol” is indeed coconut. Since I know that you’ve been to Buddhist temples, it might be interesting for you to also know that the oil lamp that is lit in temples use coconut oil, which is why it’s called “pol thél pa∙ha∙nȧ” (pol thél = “coconut oil”; pa∙ha∙nȧ = “lamp”).

      No, I haven’t done a post on fruits yet. There’s been another reader who also mentioned an interest in such a post. So maybe that will be my next one… maybe..

      Talk to you soon.

  16. Corinne October 30, 2013 at 02:30 #

    Hi Dilshan,

    So I might have found the english equivalent of dham. I asked around (mostly on Twitter) and got an interesting answer. The latin name would be Syzygium cumini. You can check out the article published on wikipedia and see the pictures. It would be interesting to know if that’s the fruit you are refering too. They say in the article that it “tends to colour the tongue purple”.

    Talk to you soon


    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 30, 2013 at 06:09 #

      Wow Corrine, that’s amazing work. I looked at the article and the pictures. It certainly looks like what I’m talking about; the only hesitation I have is that the ones pictured look quite large compared to the ones we have. Everything else seems to fit the description perfectly so I’m going to settle on this one until I’m proven otherwise. I had no idea that it was part of the “Syzygium” family, which in Sinhala we call “jambu” (I know this not because I’m some kind of botany specialist but instead because I’m currently putting together a blog post on fruits and I was gathering info on it)

      Thanks again for your research into this. I’m REALLY impressed. Next time I need some assistance with some research (or perhaps even some private detective work to spy on someone), I know who to call :) Take care.

  17. SomebodyAwesome January 10, 2017 at 10:44 #

    So I just found these blog posts after downloading your ebook. They’re fantastic. :D
    I was just wondering why I can’t hear the recordings/audio of the words? It looks like I can click the button but no sound comes out.

  18. Flo January 29, 2017 at 18:54 #

    Such a great blog Dilshan! I’ve only just discovered it, but it really makes learning enjoyable! Your quite a funny card too.

    Loving Sri Lanka and hoping to stay, so brushing up on the lingo. Hope to hear more from you.

    • Dilshan Jayasinha February 1, 2017 at 20:46 #

      Thanks Flo. Ha, “Funny Card”, never heard that expression before. Is that American, British, Aussie, or none of the above?


  1. Lizards, Stickers and Magical Flowers.... | Knit 1 Tea 1 - November 30, 2013

    […] Now…. onto Magical flowers… it is called Wathusudu (wa-th-sud-hu) sudhu means white in Sinhala, (if you are interested in Sinhala check this blog out lazybutsmartsinhala) […]

Leave a Reply