Spoon, Fork, Knife & Other Cutlery In Sinhala (And Why I Don’t Like Using Them)

Goofy things to do before I die: Pose as Wolverine with cutlery for Adamantium claws. Done!


Apart from the obvious reasons, why else would you need to know the Sinhala words for spoon, fork, and knife?

Well, just think about the number of times you’ve had a meal with a Sri Lankan friend (or if you haven’t, trust me, it’s only a matter of time before you’re invited for a home-cooked Sri Lankan meal. I know how generous my peeps can be).

For such occasions, I’m willing to bet that the topic of cutlery will come up.


Because my friend, we don’t usually eat the way you do.. > > >


(To go straight to to the Sinhala learning part, click here. If not, continue reading my mad ramblings below):


For as long as I remember, I’ve always eaten my Sri Lankan meals only by hand.

Even after I moved to Europe, whenever I’d cook a rice & curry at home, I’d never use a fork. Those were exclusively reserved for nights when I’d make my favorite Charolais steaks or my De Cecco rigatoni.

But it’s not just us Sri Lankans.

Since my marriage to my wife who is Indian, I travel to Mumbai very often and I notice that over here people do use their hands to eat their rotis and naans. However, rice is generally eaten with a spoon (or at least, this is true in the circle of Mumbaikars I hang out with).

Unfortunately, I learned this hard way:

You see, a few months before the wedding, my father-in-law hosted a dinner to around 25 of his close friends to introduce this strapping young Sri Lankan man who was about to marry his daughter (at least that’s what I thought. Maybe he just wanted to scare me by showing me how big & burly his friends are).

Anyway… Dinner was served. The hot hot rotis and puris came out. Everyone ate by hand. So far so good. I was having a good time and I managed to even crack a joke or two that had the whole table laughing.

Then the rice dish was brought and merry old Dilshan continued with his hands. It was only when I saw Mrs. Smart’s somewhat alarmed eyes did I realize that I may have made a faux pas. Just a glance around the table was sufficient for me to know that there should have been be a spoon in my hand.

Anyway, no big deal. Only around 23 of those friends noticed. But I still got to marry her.

The end.

Sinhala Words For “Spoon”, “Fork”, “Knife”, & Other Cutlery


Spoon In Sinhala

spoon hæn∙dhȧ       
– a spoon – hæn∙dhak       
– spoons – hæňdhi1       
tea spoon thḗ   hæn∙dhȧ       
table spoon mḗ∙sȧ   hæn∙dhȧ1       
soup spoon “soup”   hæn∙dhȧ       
rice serving spoon bath   bé∙dhȧ∙nȧ   hæn∙dhȧ       

My Random Notes:

1 ‘mḗ∙sȧ∙yȧ’  =  “table”;   ‘mḗ∙sȧ’  =  “of the table” (an an adjective)

Sample Phrases:

  • I dropped the spoon   =   ma∙mȧ   hæn∙dhȧ   væt∙tu∙wa
  • The spoon fell   =   hæn∙dhȧ   va∙tu∙na
  • Would (you) give me a spoon?   =   ma∙tȧ   hæn∙dhak   dhé∙nȧ∙va∙dhȧ?
  • How many spoons do you need/want?   =   o∙yaa∙tȧ   hæňdhi   kee∙yak   ō∙né∙dhȧ?
  • This spoon is dirty   =   mḗ   hæn∙dhȧ   ki∙lu∙tuyi
  • This spoon is not clean   =   mḗ   hæn∙dhȧ   pi∙ri∙si∙dhu   nǣ
  • This spoon is too small   =   mḗ   hæn∙dhȧ   po∙di   væ∙diyi
  • This spoon is too big   =   mḗ   hæn∙dhȧ   lo∙ku   væ∙diyi
  • This spoon has rusted   =   mḗ   hæn∙dhȧ   ma∙lȧ∙kȧ∙dȧ   kaa∙la



Fork in Sinhala

fork gǣ∙ræp∙pu∙wȧ       
– a fork – gǣ∙ræp∙pu∙wak       
– forks – gǣ∙ræp∙pu       

Sample Phrases:

  • You can substitute the above words with any of the Sample Phrases you saw under “Spoons in Sinhala” where appropriate


Knife in Sinhala

knife pi∙hi∙yȧ       
– a knife – pi∙hi∙yak       
– knives – pi∙hi       
bread knife paan   ka∙pȧ∙nȧ   pi∙hi∙yȧ2       
butter knife “ba∙tȧr”   gaa∙nȧ   pi∙hi∙yȧ3       
cheese knife “cheese”   ka∙pȧ∙nȧ   pi∙hi∙yȧ       
pizza cutter “pizza”   ka∙pȧ∙nȧ   é∙kȧ4       

My Random Notes:

2 Literally, “the knife that cuts bread”

3 Literally, “the knife that applies butter”

4 Literally, “the one that cuts pizza”

Sample Phrases:

  • This knife is blunt   =   mḗ   pi∙hi∙yȧ   mot∙tayi
  • This knife is not sharp   =   mḗ   pi∙hi∙yȧ   mu∙wȧ∙hath   nǣ
  • Once again, substitute the above words with the Sample Phrases under “Spoons”


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Other Cutlery

chopsticks “chopsticks”       
drinking straw “straw”   é∙kȧ5       
– a drinking straw – “straw”   é∙kak       
– drinking straws – “straw”       
ice cream scoop “ice cream”   hæn∙dhȧ6       

My Random Notes:

5 You might also hear   ‘ba∙tȧ∙yȧ’   or   ‘plastic  ba∙tȧ∙yȧ’

6 Literally, “ice cream spoon”

Sample Phrases:

  • I’m not used to eating with chopsticks   =   ma∙mȧ   “chopsticks”   vȧ∙lin   kaa∙la   pu∙ru∙dhu   nǣ
  • Even for these words, you substitute them with the Sample Phrases under “Spoons”



Type Of Cutlery Based On Material

stainless steel su∙dhu   ya∙kȧ∙dȧ7       
silver ri∙dhee       
brass pith∙thȧ∙lȧ       
copper thambȧ8       
plastic “plastic”       
wooden lee       

My Random Notes:

7 ‘su∙dhu’  =  “white” (see Colors in Sinhala);   ‘ya∙kȧ∙dȧ’  =  “iron”

8 I remember learning at school that an ancient name for Sri Lanka was  ‘thambapanni’  which I believe translated into ‘copper colored land’.

Sample Phrases:

  • This is a stainless steel spoon   =   mḗ∙kȧ   su∙dhu   ya∙kȧ∙dȧ   hæn∙dhak
  • I want to buy a silver fork   =   ma∙tȧ   ri∙dhee   gǣ∙ræp∙pu∙wak   gan∙nȧ   ō∙né
  • I need a plastic knife   =   ma∙tȧ   “plastic”   pi∙hi∙yak   a∙vash∙yayi


Edit – More sample phrases based on suggestions from comments I got:

  • “I don’t mind using my hand”   =   prash∙nȧ∙yak   nǣ,   ma∙mȧ   a∙thin   kan∙nam   (lit. “Not a problem, I’ll eat by hand”)
  • “No silverware needed”   =   hæňdhi   gǣ∙ræp∙pu   ō∙né   nǣ   (lit. “spoons forks are not necessary”)
  • “Should I use my spoon/fork now”   =   dhæn   hæňdhi   gǣ∙ræp∙pu   vȧ∙lin∙dhȧ   kan∙né?   (lit. “Now (do we) eat by spoons forks?”)
  • “Or just my hand?”   =   næth∙nam   a∙thin∙dhȧ?   (lit. “or by hand?”)
  • “What are you going to do?”   =   o∙yaa   ko∙ho∙mȧ∙dhȧ   kan∙nȧ   yan∙né?   (lit. “How are you going to eat?”)


2 Questions For You Guys:

  1. Post related: What other related phrases can you think of that will be of use to you? Comment below and I’ll translate it.
  2. Fun-related: What embarrassing faux-pas have you made at the dining table? Go on, no one’s going to judge. You’re amongst friends here.


That all folks!


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13 Responses to Spoon, Fork, Knife & Other Cutlery In Sinhala (And Why I Don’t Like Using Them)

  1. Laura November 13, 2016 at 16:22 #

    Hi Dilshan! Thank you for the post!
    I actually had a very hard time learning how to properly eat with my hand (rice everywhere and hodi dripping all over the place).
    With time I’ll master the the technique, I hope :)

    Could you please write a blog post on clothes? I must admit, I’m obsessed with sarees…

    Take care :)

    • Dilshan Jayasinha November 13, 2016 at 16:27 #

      Haha, I’ve seen my European friends trying to eat by hand and have seen similar results. Don’t worry you’ll get there. What exactly do you mean by a clothes post? I kind of have an idea but whatever direction you can give will make it easier to understand.

      • Laura November 13, 2016 at 23:12 #

        You could maybe divide it into different sections, like “everyday clothes” (like trousers, jeans, shirt…) and “formal clothes” (like suits and evening gowns and sarees and sarongs etc).
        And maybe tell us a bit about how do people in Sri Lanka dress?

        Thank you :)

        • Dilshan Jayasinha November 14, 2016 at 10:07 #

          Yes! Great idea, Laura. Shall put it on my “Blog Post Pipeline” list and start working on the structure. Thanks for giving the start.

          • Dilshan Jayasinha November 14, 2016 at 10:10 #

            PS. Just to prove that I’m not just “saying” it :)

  2. Clarissa Fraser November 13, 2016 at 18:41 #

    I too made an awful mess for a while when eating by hand… lots of laughs on all sides. Someone finally took the time to explain the technique and it was a lightbulb going off moment for me… since then I have done much better.

    Things I would like to know:
    1. How would I say, “Thank you, but I don’t mind using my hand, no silverware needed” so many times I have been in a setting were everyone is using their hand and someone looks at me and goes on a hunt for silverware, and I am perfectly find with my hand.

    2. “Should I use my spoon/fork now? Or just my hand? What are you going to do” something to that effect. Mainly for instances at a wedding or formal event. I generally do the look around and see what others are doing, but I have noticed in some cases only certain generations are uaing their hand and others are using silverware or depends on who is getting married etc.

    Thanks for the great post and good info! Glad you survived the faux pas! Good memories I am sure.

    • Dilshan Jayasinha November 14, 2016 at 10:28 #

      Clarissa, very interesting observation about the certain generation using their hands.

      Now, re. your phrases:

      • “I don’t mind using my hand” = ‘prash∙nȧ∙yak nǣ, ma∙mȧ a∙thin kan∙nam’ (lit. “Not a problem, I’ll eat by hand”)

      • “No silverware needed” = ‘hæňdhi gǣ∙ræp∙pu ō∙né nǣ’ (lit. “spoons forks are not necessary”)

      • “Should I use my spoon/fork now” = ‘dhæn hæňdhi gǣ∙ræp∙pu vȧ∙lin∙dhȧ kan∙né?’ (lit. “Now (do we) eat by spoons forks?”)

      • “Or just my hand?” = ‘næth∙nam a∙thin∙dhȧ?’ (lit. “or by hand?”)

      • “What are you going to do?” = ‘o∙yaa ko∙ho∙mȧ∙dhȧ kan∙nȧ yan∙né?’ (lit. “How are you going to eat?”)

      Any questions, you “Super-Tribester”, you? Shoot away.

      • Dilshan Jayasinha November 14, 2016 at 10:29 #

        By the way, it’s only in my research that I discovered that Americans refer to cutlery as “silverware” like you did in your comment (regardless if the material used is silver or not). I did not know that.

        • Clarissa Fraser November 26, 2016 at 06:48 #

          Thanks so much! And yes… even my plastic fork and knife is still silverware… crazy Americans ;)

  3. Shirley November 14, 2016 at 00:13 #

    Love the post thank you, very handy. Rice just does not taste right eaten with a spoon. Although English i learnt how to eat rice with my Sri Lankan husband. Only time I have ever eaten a Sri Lankan meal with utensils is in a restaurant.

    Love the story of your dinner with the future in-laws. Similar experience myself first meal with my Sri Lankan relatives, all eyes on me. An odd feeling to say the least, but shocked them when I dig into my dinner just like them with my fingers even though they had put a spoon out for me. So thoughtful of them, got lots of compliments from them I believe I passed the test. LOL

    Agree with the previous post regarding clothing, that would be great. I also love sari’s, i have several and know how to make the blouses for them. I have an idea one of these days I will create my own, painting the palu and decorative edgings on silk. (that very much a want to when I have some time). Will have a Sri Lankan theme to it, although I want to do one with peacocks on, i know they are highly revered in India, but Sri Lanka has bunches running wild. Such magnificent bird.

    Love and Blessing to you and your family.

    • Dilshan Jayasinha November 14, 2016 at 10:38 #

      Hi Shirley, fascinating idea to design your own saree (that’s how I spell it, but I don’t think there’s just one way to write it) in a Sri Lankan theme. Let me know how it turns out (or even the design stages). Good luck with it.

      Oh yeah, eating by hand amidst a bunch of Sri Lankans is a sure fire way to fast track the whole acceptance process. I remember dating a European girl back in the day and when she made an attempt to eat the SL meal I had made, I was SUPER IMPRESSED! (So any ladies reading this who are trying to impress a Sri Lankan guy, feel free to try this. It worked on me :))

      Thanks Shirley.

  4. Riccardo November 14, 2016 at 14:10 #

    Halo dilshan, mona sundara ha prayojanavat post eka!
    Cutlery vacana danna loku velaava idan mata one namut hema website eka venas vacanaya livva
    Bohoma stutiyi ha arrivederci :)

    P.s. hope my sinhala was correct haha

    • Dilshan Jayasinha November 14, 2016 at 14:17 #

      Ha, that made me smile. Yes, I understood everything, thanks Riccardo. Glad you liked it and found it useful.

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