How do you say Thank You in Sinhala? (and other Polite Sh*t)

thank you in sinhala

Before finding out how to say Thank you in Sinhala, can we first explore WHY you want to say Thank you in Sinhala?

In fact, why do we say “Thank you” at all, in any language?

Apart from the “To sincerely express my gratitude and appreciation blah blah…” type of answer, one main reason, and this alone is a good enough reason for me, is to avoid coming across as an obnoxious and impolite jerk.

No one wants that, right?

I personally have always had a phobia of being called rude or impolite, probably because starting from a very early age, my parents instilled in me the importance of being a well-mannered little boy (and taught me to always use an asterisk when I say “sh*t”).

That’s why whenever I travel to a new country, I try to at least find out how to say “Thank You”, “Sorry”, and “Please” in that language… in addition to the obvious “Where the hell is the toilet, I’m about to burst”.

But when it comes to Sri Lanka, I must point out that I find it very hard to imagine a Sri Lankan person who will ever get offended just because you didn’t say thank you, especially if you’re a foreigner. That’s how friendly and easy-going my countrymen and women are.

But that’s no reason to knowingly be impolite, albeit passively, especially when all you need to do is just memorize a few weird sounding syllables, don’t you think?

So therefore, I thought I’d give you this “all-you-need-to-know” collection of polite words that you could say to a Sinhala speaker whenever you want to ‘sincerely express your gratitude and appreciation’ and all the other stuff.


Thank You in Sinhala:



“Thank you”


bo∙ho∙mȧ   sthoo∙thi!


“Thank you very much”




“Sorry” and “Excuse me”

It’s one word for both. Pretty simple.

sa∙maa   vén∙nȧ


“Sorry” & “Excuse me”




ka∙ru∙naa   kȧ∙rȧ∙la



I have some notes on this:

Its literal meaning is something to the effect of “Be kind and…”, so therefore it always needs to be linked to a request for a specific action.

Let me explain this with some examples:

  • “Please show this to me” (where ‘show’ is the specific action you’re requesting):
    • ka∙ru∙naa kȧ∙rȧ∙la ma∙tȧ mḗ∙kȧ pén∙nan (lit: “Be kind and show this to me”)
  • “Please give me something to eat/drink” (where ‘give’ is the specific action you’re requesting):
    • ka∙ru∙naa kȧ∙rȧ∙la ma∙tȧ kan∙nȧ mo∙nȧ∙va ha∙ri dhén∙nȧ (“Be kind and give me something to eat”)

It doesn’t work in the following line since you’re not really requesting any specific action.

  • “I want food, please”:
    • ma∙tȧ kǣ∙mȧ ōné, ka∙runuaa kȧrȧlaa

You’re requesting food, but not a specific action. Therefore, including ka∙ru∙naa kȧ∙rȧ∙la here doesn’t make sense.

Instead you could say it as:

  • “Please give me food” (where ‘give’ is the specific action you’re requesting):
    • ka∙ru∙naa kȧ∙rȧ∙la ma∙tȧ kǣ∙mȧ dhén∙nȧ (lit: “Be kind and give me food”)

(Post a question in the comments below if you didn’t totally get this)

Regarding its placement in a sentence, you can place ka∙ru∙naa kȧ∙rȧ∙la anywhere but I’d recommend you continue to put it at the beginning (like in the above examples). Chances of you messing up are low that way.

and finally…

Politely refusing something

If you’ve ever been invited to dinner in a Sri Lankan home you might be able to relate to this.

Let me set the scene for you:

You’ve met the sincere but painfully-generous host of the evening (perhaps it’s your future mother-in-law, perhaps it’s an aunt of your partner, sometimes an uncle who’s had a few many ‘shots’ of Arrack) who just cannot understand that your stomach is full and you can’t eat anymore.

And they’ll insist on giving you one more serving of rice before finally your partner has to intervene, sometimes even physically having to intercept that spoon of rice that is headed towards your plate.

For those instances, here’s a polite way of refusing when someone wants to erm… generously stuff food down your throat.


ma∙tȧ   é∙paa,   bo∙ho∙mȧ   sthoo∙thi


“I don’t want (it), thank you very much” (equivalent to “no, thank you”)


But not just for monster-in-laws, you could also use this for whenever you want to politely refuse anything, be it when approached by street vendors who want to sell you something that you’re not interested in, or when tuk-tuk drivers repeatedly ask you “Taxi?… Taxi?… Want Taxi?”


And there you go.

In addition to saying Thank you in Sinhala, I think that’s all you need to know to make a good impression and avoid making enemies unnecessarily.

But of course, these words can only do so much…

You see, despite using them, deep down you still could be an obnoxious A-grade A-hole… but at least thanks to these words, it’ll be a while before people figure it out.


Sa∙maa vén∙nȧ if I’ve not included a specific polite expression that you had in mind. Ka∙ru∙naa kȧ∙rȧ∙la mention it in the comments below so that I can translate it for you. Bo∙ho∙mȧ sthoo∙thi in advance.

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35 Responses to How do you say Thank You in Sinhala? (and other Polite Sh*t)

  1. mayank May 7, 2013 at 20:35 #

    “ohh wow this is nice/good ” = ?

    i learnt good = hondai / hindon innava
    so shall is use it alone?

    • Dilshan Jayasinha May 8, 2013 at 00:55 #

      First let me translate part by part:

      “ohh wow” = “shaa” (note that this is not a real word, but instead a sound that is colloquially used to express admiration/amazement)

      “this is nice/good” = mḗ∙ka hoňdhayi (note that ‘hoňdhin in∙nȧ∙va’ is used only when talking about someone being or feeling well/fine – not used for inanimate/lifeless objects like “this”)

      So together, I’d translate it as: “shaa, mḗ∙ka hoňdhayi”.

      I don’t know the context you meant, but in case this was food related and you wanted to compliment someone’s cooking, you could say “shaa, mḗ∙ka ha∙ri ra∙hayi” (‘this is very tasty’) or “mḗ kæ∙mȧ ha∙ri ra∙hayi” (‘this food is very tasty’).

  2. mayank May 11, 2013 at 10:12 #

    actually i want to use it as a cover… like some1 shows their dress to appreciate or their collection of shoes…their new car or an old photograph…food….house…….like in times i dont know xactly what to say!!! but i say something which pleases d person front f me..!

    • Dilshan Jayasinha May 12, 2013 at 15:35 #

      For all the examples you mentioned (except for food), the easiest and standard line I think you could use is:

      ha∙ri las∙sȧ∙nayi (“very nice/beautiful”)

      (ha∙ri = “very”; las∙sȧ∙nayi = “looks nice/beautiful”)

      You can use this for both singular items (like a dress, new car, old photograph, house) as well as plurals (like shoes).

      For food, use the line I gave in my previous reply above (ra∙hayi).

      • Viatcheslav December 12, 2014 at 00:37 #

        I’ve read about a colloquial word „ban“ in Sinhala, how very rude is it, would it be okay to use it with drivers and sellers to show my sympathy to them and the place? [isthūthi ban!] Or smth like mithurā would be safer?

        Btw do you use „th“ for ත? I try to study some writing along with reading your blog — and that makes a bit of a mess in my head at the moment ))

        • Dilshan Jayasinha December 20, 2014 at 09:32 #

          Hi, I wouldn’t use ‘ban’ since it is used only amongst very close friends. And yes, yaaluva or mithura is better as it means “friend”.

          Yes, that is what I use “th” for.

          Hope that helps.

          • Viatcheslav December 22, 2014 at 13:17 #

            Yes, very helpful, so kind of you!

      • amruta May 5, 2016 at 10:21 #

        thank you so much….it helped me alot

  3. Wendy August 8, 2013 at 12:00 #

    Another question for you, Dilshan (tell me when to stop annoying you with questions! :D)
    So, according to my textbook (which I suspect is often a little too liberal in translation), I could say “dora arinna” for “please, open the door”.
    I would have thought it to be something more along the lines of “karunaa karala (oyaa) dora arinna”. Am I correct on this one?
    If I say “Please, open the door for me”, can I say “karunaa karala mata dora arinna”
    If I say “Please, could you open the door?”, can I say “karunaa karala oyaata dora arinnadha?”

    Or I am freestyling just a little too much? Thanks, Dilshan, and sorry for bothering you so much :)!

    • Dilshan Jayasinha August 8, 2013 at 18:11 #

      Not a bother at all. Believe it or not, I enjoy these questions.

      About your first phrase:

      You’re correct and your text book is wrong. So 1 point for Wendy, 0 for the text book.

      “Please open the door” is indeed ‘ka∙ru∙naa kȧ∙rȧ∙la (o∙yaaà) dho∙rȧ a∙rin∙nȧ’.

      (As you’ve guessed, you can say it with or without ‘o∙yaa’)

      About your second phrase:

      Yes, “Please open the door for me” is indeed ‘ka∙ru∙naa kȧ∙rȧ∙la (o∙yaa) ma∙tȧ dho∙rȧ a∙rin∙nȧ’.

      (Once again, you can say it with or without ‘o∙yaa’)

      About your third phrase:

      So close, but incorrect…

      “Please could you open the door for me” is ka∙ru∙naa kȧ∙rȧ∙la o∙yaa∙tȧ (ma∙tȧ) dho∙rȧ a∙rin∙nȧ pu∙lu∙wan∙dhȧ? – this is based on what I wrote in Part 1 of the Can I, Shall I?.. post.

      What you wrote, ‘o∙yaa∙tȧ dho∙rȧ a∙rin∙nȧ∙dhȧ?’ means “Shall I open the door for you?” (and you’ll immediately see why ‘ka∙ru∙naa kȧ∙rȧ∙la’ doesn’t make sense here – you’re not requesting a specific action)

      You might have some follow up questions to me on this last one; so don’t hesitate to ask.

      Your freestyling is getting better and better. So don’t even think about stopping now.

    • Evgenia November 6, 2019 at 20:00 #

      Hi! I’m not Sri Lankan but I know the answer of your question because I know a Sinhala boy. He told me that “karunakarala” is the formal way of saying “please” and when talking to friends and younger people than you, you better say “karunakara” because it sounds more natural and otherwise they’ll laugh at you because you’re being too polite.
      I hope this helps.
      Have a great day! ^_^

  4. Martina December 26, 2013 at 12:30 #

    Very helpfull – Thank you so much.

  5. Sam January 17, 2014 at 11:46 #

    what does it mean when someone says “kow-tha”

  6. KC December 30, 2014 at 22:23 #

    i love your blog! Helping me learn so much to say to my boyfriend. Sadly, the guy can’t speak the language himself so I’m going to learn it before him and end up teaching him ;) lol and I love your style of writing, it makes learning fun!

    • Dilshan Jayasinha January 14, 2015 at 17:47 #

      Thanks KC! Very kind of you to say. Actually, you’re going to remember a lot of what you learn here when you teach the same thing to your boyfriend. That’s going to help both of you!! Well done… (and I thought I was “Lazy But Smart”) :)

  7. Jim Beizsley January 31, 2016 at 16:09 #

    I am going to Sri Lanka in a few days for about 3 weeks holiday. Whilst I will only be able to manage a few words in the time available I am very impressed with the web site and would highly recommend to anyone who is visiting Sri Lanka in the future.

    • Dilshan Jayasinha February 1, 2016 at 23:21 #

      Thanks Jim, that’s very kind of you. Enjoy your 3-week trip and speak to you again when you’re back.

  8. Marie May 4, 2016 at 06:43 #

    Just so funny…and so helpfull!! Love the exemple about the spoon full of rice push down your troat…will definitely help me to remember that one!! Thanks for making Sinhala so accessible!

    • Dilshan Jayasinha May 14, 2016 at 11:24 #

      Thanks Marie. I had written this post a long time ago and so I had to actually forgotten my “spoon full of rice” line :)

  9. Riccardo June 1, 2016 at 16:14 #

    Buongiorno Dilshan!
    How do you reply to “thank you”? Which is the sinhala expression for “you are welcome”?

    • Dilshan Jayasinha June 2, 2016 at 11:06 #

      Good question. You can say “you’re welcome”, which is often used. However, if you want something Sinhala, then you can use the following, although it’s something I hear only my aunts and their friends using (and I never would):

      “Aiy∙o, ō∙kȧ mo∙kak∙dhȧ?” which literary translates to “Oh gosh, what is that?”, meaning “it was nothing”.

  10. Cat September 28, 2016 at 07:11 #

    Dilshan how do you know when to use epa or nae?

    • Dilshan Jayasinha February 13, 2017 at 18:40 #

      You mean when refusing something that’s offered to you?

      You can use either ‘é∙paa’ or ‘ō∙né nǣ’ which both mean “don’t want”.

      Did I understand your question correctly?

  11. Jing October 30, 2016 at 21:01 #

    Thank you Dilshan, I am in the midst of learning Sinhala and find your blog of a great help…
    and Fun!

  12. Jing October 30, 2016 at 21:01 #

    Thank you Dilshan, I am in the midst of learning Sinhala and find your blog a great help…
    and Fun!

  13. Bridget May 18, 2017 at 16:50 #

    Finally found this when in sri lanka. I’d seen various words for thank you and was not sure so this blog has reaaly helped. Also sri lanka is lovely, as are the people.


  14. Kim (sudhu baba) December 6, 2018 at 01:18 #

    Hi Dilshan – I already know that when I’m trying to use and understand spoken Sinhala, I’m going to need speakers to repeat their statements more slowly for me … A LOT. What is a simple/polite way to request this? (In English, I tend to say “Sorry/I’m sorry?”, so does “Samaa venna(-dha)?” work for this in the same way? Thank you mage yaaluva ~ k

  15. Kim (sudhu baba) January 17, 2019 at 00:40 #

    Hi Dilshana, me again: When I lived with a Sinhalese family, I heard the kids frequently using “karunaa kara” as “please” independently of (preceding or following) a request, exactly the way we sometimes do in English: “After you get home, please post stamps [12-yr-old Malli was a stamp collector]. Karunaa kara, please, please post stamps to me Sudhu-Akki.” I have this on cassette tape and I’ve heard it many times, so at least in this case I know it’s not my flaky memory. In that context, informal speech, does it make sense that the “-la” is left off? It seems to me as if “karunaa kara-la …” is similar to the old-fashioned way of requesting in English, “Please to …,” which would have to be followed by the infinitive. Thoughts? Thank you :)

  16. james parker August 4, 2019 at 12:46 #

    Hi Dilshana…is there a difference, between, “obata sthuthi”, and “bohoma sthuthi”? There is a lady who works at a store…her name is “Lakmini” which I believe to be Sinhalese? I want to say “thank you” to her, as she is very helpful and sweet…

    • Dilshan Jayasinha August 4, 2019 at 13:20 #

      Hi James, yes Lakmini could very well be a Sinhalese name.

      Obata sthuthi = “Thank you, to you” – Note: The “you” here is the formal “you”.
      Bohoma sthuthi = “Thank you very much”

      Let me know her reaction?

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