Names of Animals in Sinhala

names of animals in sinhalaOne of my readers, Myra, very kindly requested that I write a blog post on the names of animals in Sinhala.

I immediately LOVED the idea!

Not just because I think it could be something useful for anyone wanting to learn Sinhala. But also because personally, I’ve always been fascinated by the animal world.

This was going to be fun for me.


It began with an elephant who didn’t give a crap…

I fell in love with animals, right from that very first childhood trip to the Dehiwala zoo in Sri Lanka. And I vividly remember the exact moment it happened.

It was during the elephant show. I remember giggling my little 5-year old tush off when one of the elephants decided to say “Screw this. Show or no show, I need to poop. Like right now”. What he forgot to add was “And brace yourselves kids, it’s gonna be so epic, you’ll even mention it in a blog post decades later…”.

(Come to think of it, technically speaking, he DID give a crap. Lots of it).

My brother’s obsession with the zoo was worse than mine. Way worse.

As a kid, he usually ate all his vegetables or finished all his homework only if he was bribed with a trip to the zoo. Most of these promised trips never materialized but that’s beside the point. Don’t go “awww.. poor child”, he was like any other kid who would forget about it as soon as you distracted him with something shiny and new. So no permanent damage done (I think).

Besides, the guy couldn’t even pronounce “Elephant” properly. According to him, Elephant = “elf” and Elephants = “ellis”. That kind of gobbledygook cannot be tolerated. Even if he was only 3-years old.


The King & I

My favorite animal has been and will always be the lion.

Maybe I’m biased due to the fact that my family name “Jayasinha” means “Victorious Lion”… Or perhaps it’s because the Sri Lankan flag has the emblem of a lion on it… Or maybe it’s because our awesome national cricketers are known as the “Fearless Lions”.

Either way, I love this majestic creature and the respect he effortlessly commands. I might even say I’m somewhat obsessed with his highness. Those of you who personally know me, know that I’m not kidding (I give you Exhibit A: My current iPhone & desktop wallpapers – exactly how they look right now).

Exhibit A Lion Wallpapers


Now about these names of Animals in Sinhala…

The names below have been put into 8 categories. Obviously, it’s not an exhaustive list, I’ve just included the names of the main/common animals in Sinhala that came to mind.

Notice the similarities between some of them. If something doesn’t make sense, leave all your questions for me below.

As I usually say, just have fun with it!


General Terms for Animals in Sinhala



Household Pets

Goldfishgōld fish (same as in English)      
Turtle (small)ib∙ba      


Farm Animals in Sinhala

Buffalomee   ha∙rȧ∙ka      


Wild Animals in Sinhala

Cheetahchee∙ta (same as in English)      
Giraffeji∙raaf (same as in English)      
Hippopotamushi∙po∙po∙tȧ∙mȧs (same as in English)      
Kangarookæn∙gȧ∙ru (same as in English)      
Pandapæn∙da (same as in English)      



Alligator Water Monitor 1ka∙bȧ∙rȧ∙go∙yaa      
Iguana Monitor 1tha∙lȧ∙go∙yaa      

1 Huge “Thank you!” to Hansini and Zach for pointing out my error. Thanks guys… FYI, whether you like it or not, I’ve just fired my resident reptile consultant and am replacing him with you both :)



Mynah birdmayi∙na      
Sparrowgḗ   ku∙rul∙la      



Beemee   mæs∙sa      
Snailgo∙lu   bél∙la      


Sea Creatures

Penguinpén∙gwin (same as in English)      

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38 Responses to Names of Animals in Sinhala

  1. Laura October 8, 2013 at 12:41 #

    Haha! That’s awesome! By the way, my boyfriend went to the elephant show yesterday and said it was great too … so, well, anyway: thanks!

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 8, 2013 at 14:28 #

      Based on a quick Google search I did just now, it turns out that elephants usually have a life expectancy of 60-70 years… So there’s a good chance that your boyfriend saw the same “crappy’ elephant as I did. I wonder if that’s become a regular part of his performance now…

  2. Wendy October 8, 2013 at 12:43 #

    This is AMAZINGLY fun stuff to “study”.
    Thanks, Dilshan!

    How do you say: “I am as happy as a…. (insert random animal for comedic purposes).”?

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 8, 2013 at 15:05 #

      You’re welcome.

      Ha, interesting question. I’m afraid the answer is not going to be so simple though, but you (and anyone else reading this) will learn something new about forming sentences; so it’s good you asked.

      First a couple of notes:
      – In Sinhala you normally wouldn’t say something like this (but I guess that makes it even funnier)
      – And if you did, the translation will be more “I am happy like a…” (instead of “happy as a…”)

      Ok, Let’s try to say “I am happy like a lion”:

      “a lion” = sin∙hȧ∙yék

      What we’ve done is we’ve taken the last syllable of sin∙hȧ∙ya (which is ‘yȧ’) and merged it with ‘ék’.

      sin∙hȧ∙ya (lion) + ék = sin∙hȧ∙yék (a lion)

      Other examples:

      sa∙thaa (animal) + ék = sa∙thék (an animal)
      gi∙rȧ∙va (parrot) + ék = gi∙rȧ∙vék (a parrot)

      (FYI, ‘ék’ comes from the word ‘é∙kȧ’ which you might remember means “one”. So in effect, sin∙hȧ∙yék means “one lion” or “a lion”)

      This can be applied across (almost) all the animals. The only exception is the group of animals that have the same name as in English (penguin, kangaroo, panda etc.) or those that sound very close to the English name (zebra, rhinoceros, gold fish, etc.)

      For these, the good news is that it’s much easier actually.

      Instead of merging with the last syllables we just add ‘ké∙nék’ (which is a word that refers to a singular living thing).


      pén∙gwin (penguin) / pén∙gwin ké∙nék (a penguin)
      kæn∙gȧ∙ru (kangaroo) / kæn∙gȧ∙ru ké∙nék (a kangaroo)
      pæn∙da (panda) / pæn∙da ké∙nék (a panda)
      see∙bra (zebra) / see∙bra ké∙nék (a zebra)
      rayi∙nō∙si∙rȧs (rhinoceros) / rayi∙nō∙si∙rȧs ké∙nék (a rhinoceros)

      Now to come up with your sentence, it’s as easy as replacing the relevant animal in the following sentence:

      “I’m happy like a [name of animal]” = ma∙mȧ [name of animal] yék/ké∙nék va∙gḗ san∙thō∙sayi

      FYI, va∙gḗ = “like”; san∙thō∙sayi = (am) happy


      “I’m happy like a lion” = ma∙mȧ sin∙hȧ∙yék va∙gḗ san∙thō∙sayi
      “I’m happy like a parrot” = ma∙mȧ gi∙rȧ∙vék va∙gḗ san∙thō∙sayi
      “I’m happy like a penguin” = ma∙mȧ pén∙gwin ké∙nék va∙gḗ san∙thō∙sayi
      “I’m happy like a zebra” = ma∙mȧ see∙bra ké∙nék va∙gḗ san∙thō∙sayi

      Phew… that was longer than I thought…

  3. Ramu October 8, 2013 at 13:50 #


    It is a good lesson, it is good for beginners.

    Thank you.

  4. thaya October 9, 2013 at 13:43 #

    thq frd :)

  5. Ivana October 9, 2013 at 17:36 #

    Very useful and fun. Thank you Dilshan. :)

  6. Julie October 9, 2013 at 18:55 #

    Thanks Dilshan,
    I’ll go to the zoo at home and will run from one animal to the other to repeat the sinhala words :D as long as I know all …
    Lots of fun.

  7. Kay Abayakoon October 9, 2013 at 20:26 #

    Love it! You forgot (very important when in Sri Lanka) Huna (gekko) and the large squirrel Dandu lena. (You know the ones I mean, they love to eat thambili…. and now you are back in SL you can drink/eat thambili to your hearts content too, lol) And now I know the English word for tha∙lȧ∙go∙yaa! Not having anything quite as exciting as a massive thalagoyaa here in New Zealand, I slightly freaked out when I ran across one in Sri Lanka, not knowing if it was going to eat me or not! Also you could add kalamadiriya (firefly) to your list. I’m just thinking of the interesting things I saw there that I just had to know the name of. Believe me, took me ages to remember the word for firefly. I’m sure everyone got sick of me asking over and over “how do you say that again?”
    Are you going to podcast this list too? I find it a lot easier to listen to a podcast over and over while I am doing something else.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 10, 2013 at 10:55 #

      You’re absolutely right about “hoona”! Completely forgot. Come to think of it, it’s bizzare but since I arrived I haven’t seen a single gekko in my house! I’m not saying that to show off, I’m just finding that very weird. And yes, kalaamaedhiriya also needs to be added to the list above. I will find sometime this evening perhaps and add these along with their pronunciation.

      Let’s not even talk about thalagoyaas… Like you, I’m not a big fan either..

      To be honest, I hadn’t thought about doing a podcast on this but let me look into it on how I can make it more interesting than me just reading out a list.

      Thanks for the comment. And great, now you’ve got me looking over my shoulder for thalagoyaas…:)

  8. Ramu October 9, 2013 at 20:55 #

    Dear Mr. Dilshan,

    Thank you for your mail, i read your last post, it is very helpful. i just start to learn sinhala language.

    Thank you,

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 10, 2013 at 10:33 #

      Thanks for your comment Ramu. And please just call me Dilshan (“Mr” is not necessary). All the best.

  9. Cass October 10, 2013 at 01:45 #

    This has to be my favourite lesson so far, especially because my Sinhalese friends have been saying the word for wolf in Sinhala is the same as the word for fox – nariya. I’ve been teaching some animal names to the children of my Sri-Lankan born friends, too :) Thanks so much!

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 10, 2013 at 11:11 #

      Hi my otter-loving friend. Good to hear from you again. Don’t be too hard on your Sinhalese friends, they’re not the only ones to to label both fox and wolf under the same name, it’s a common error.

      That’s very flattering that my material is indirectly teaching kids too. Now that’s a target audience I never had in mind! haha.

  10. Shagerina Tilakasiri October 10, 2013 at 03:35 #

    Thanks Dilshan! It was really helpful ! :)

  11. Prabhu October 10, 2013 at 06:41 #

    For Indians Sinhala seems to be quite easy to learn since there are lots of words similar, particularly those which are derived from Sanskrit!

    This month end I’ll be visiting Sri Lanka and I am wondering how much Sinhala I can use! :) [because I learnt that those who generally come in contact with tourists speak English!]

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 10, 2013 at 11:17 #

      Hi Prabhu. Well I do understand some hindi (purely from watching movies) and yes, there are a couple of words here and there that are very similar (I’m trying to think of some right now but I’m drawing a blank).

      I think you’ve heard correctly, anyone related to tourism can speak and understand English, even a little, especially in Colombo. If you’re going to stick to a touristic itinerary, I might even say that learning Sinhala might be unnecessary. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. I’ve heard some wonderful stories from many of my readers who told me how they connected on a deeper level with the locals by speaking Sinhala with them (even though these locals could speak English quite well).

  12. Nouman October 10, 2013 at 18:35 #

    Hey Sir!
    Thanks a lot for sending the stuff via email, really i just forgot to visit the blog…..

  13. Christina October 11, 2013 at 02:12 #

    Hi Dilshan,

    What you are doing here is really great and you are the very few who would improve and continue to work on what you have done for your listeners and for sure fans .. M sure most will agree with me .. I listen to your pod cast on the way to work too .. It helps a lot ..

    Just a suggestion and also request .. Suggestion would be for the phrases.. Any way to hear the words spoken? As in the correct pronouncing of the word? Coz most will not read the way it’s spelt out.. Is it possible?

    Request .. Perhaps look into categories like shopping .. Simple businesss talks or words .. As sme seem to be heading there .. Or maybe even sme local slang as a fun section?

    All in all this is really a great site and I am really glad it’s there and I do look forward to every new pod cast ..

    Bohoma isoothuthi Dilshan .. And much more

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 12, 2013 at 12:37 #

      Thanks Christina, and you’re welcome. I appreciate all the positive things you had to say about what I got going here. It’s very encouraging.

      Which phrases were you referring to with regards to the pronunciation? I didn’t completely follow you.

      Yes, the shopping category could be interesting; let me think about it. I probably might send you an email asking for some ideas from you for this post. Thanks for the suggestion.

      Thanks again for the positive comment. Hope to hear from you again soon.

      • Christina October 14, 2013 at 18:00 #

        Hi Dilshan,

        Thanks for the reply .. The phrases that are in the 100 essentials .. Would be good to hear the way the words are pronounced as sometimes it’s not read as its spelt right?

        Sure pls feel free to email me when the shopping section comes to mind .. Or perhaps for some local culture or slang for us to learn .. or learning to order food at a restaurant ..

        Good to hear from you And looking forward to more new sections .. Take care Dilahan . Appreciate it

        • Dilshan Jayasinha October 15, 2013 at 15:12 #

          Hi Christina,

          Well.. yes, you’re right. I’ve tried my best to spell out the words phonetically so that anyone reading it out, can get very near to its typical pronunciation. Of course, it’s never going to be 100% ‘perfect’ but then again, I guess you’ve already understood from my approach that this blog will never teach you ‘perfect’ Sinhala, whether it’s pronunciation or vocabulary or anything in-betwean (see, I misspelled ‘between’ on purpose to prove how much I don’t like perfection) :)

          Will let you know when the shopping post materializes.

          Thanks for your encouraging comments. I appreciate it very much.

  14. Dilshari October 16, 2013 at 22:03 #

    Hi Dulshan
    Can’t hear the sound why ? I am on google ??

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 17, 2013 at 07:25 #

      I don’t really know, sorry. I’ve tried it on Google chrome myself, on different machines, and I’ve asked a few others to check and it seems to work perfectly. Perhaps try with a different browser like Firefox or Internet Explorer.

  15. Orpha February 15, 2015 at 11:39 #

    Hi Dilshan,

    I am very happy to find the names of the animals with the pronunciation. I like cats above all : they don’t bark, they are independant and they look like little (victorious) lions …
    When I first mailed you, I asked for a song for children and you sent me the link to a nice lulleby. In the meantime, I found some other songs and this one I learned by harth because I found it so typical for your country that I will discover soon :

    Tikiti Tikiri Tikiri Liya
    Kaleth aran lindata giya
    Linda watakara kabaragoya
    Kakula kapi diabariya

    There is another one about a “ranwan patai samanalaya” …

    Merci encore de nous apprendre ta langue d’une façon tellement enjouée.


    • Dilshan Jayasinha December 25, 2015 at 13:48 #

      Hi Orpha, sorry I missed this comment. Anyway, glad you found those 2 additional songs, they’re sweet aren’t they? Sorry again for the delay.

  16. fathima November 15, 2015 at 02:11 #

    Wow….first time I’m seeing an amazing blog for sinhala learners..really fantastic..

  17. Bethany September 29, 2016 at 09:21 #

    Another reason you may be obsessed with lions: Sri Lankans believe themselves to be descendants of lions which is why there is a 2,500 year old Lion Staircase at Sigiriya. Or that’s how the story goes that my Sri Lankan boyfriend me when we visited.
    Thought I’d mention it since you omitted it above :)

    • Dilshan Jayasinha October 3, 2016 at 16:36 #

      You’re right, there are a few versions of that legend of the “lion” descendants, King Vijaya, if I remember what they taught us in School. Totally forgot to mention it in the post, thanks Bethany.

      • Manurie November 8, 2016 at 14:40 #

        Dear Dilshan,

        Can you find me the Sinhala name of female Turtle?

        Thanks – This is for my son

        • Dilshan Jayasinha November 14, 2016 at 11:34 #

          Manurie, so sorry about the delay. I’m guessing my answer comes too late. I don’t really know if there is such a word, but if I had to guess I would probably go with “ibbi”. However, it sounds a little made up and so I would suggest that you verify this with someone who is more knowledgeable than me. Apologies again to you and your son.

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