Know the Etymology: 405
Place Name of the Day: Friday, 29 May 2015




The islet or water-surrounded place of the community of Thimilar

Thimilar boatmen, people who own or row a boat (Tamil, Mathuraikkaagnchi, 318: 9); Thimiloan: a boat-using fisherman (Tamil, Aka:naanoo'ru, 320: 2); Thimil: fishing boat (Tamil, Ku'runthokai, 123: 4-5); boat, float (Tamil, Paripaadal, 10: 71); ship (Tamil, Thivaakaram, 7: 216); hump of a bull (Tamil, DED 3239); Thi'n-thimil: the stout hump of a bull (Tamil, Mangkai, 5: 2: 2); Thimilai: a kind of drum (Tamil, DED 3237); Thimi: a huge fish, whale (Thivaakaram, 3: 202); Thimilam: a huge fish, whale (Tamil, Pingkalam, 8: 310); Thimingkilam: whale (Tamil, Oddakkooththar, 5: 384); Timiya: any large fish as the whale (Sinhala); Timingkala: whale (Sinhala); Thi'n, Thi'n'nam, Thi'nmai: strong, firm, stout, robust (Tamil, DED 3222); Thimir: (verb) to grow stout; (noun) obesity (Tamil, DED 3233)

Thimilar is one of the major coastal communities among Eezham Tamils, besides Karaiyaar, Mukkuvar and Paravar. The identities of Thimilar and Paravar are known from very early times compared to Karaiyaar and Mukkuvar, as the former two are referred to in the Changkam Tamil literature.

The demographic distribution of Thimilar in the island is noticed in both the North as well as the East.

From the early literary references we come to know that Thimil meant a boat and Thimilar were boat-using fishermen, mostly fishing in the coastal sea.

The references also speak about Thimilar going in an array of boats for day fishing as well as night fishing, stationing their boats in the sea and fishing, using nets in boat-fishing, catching huge fishes and harpooning shark.

The etymology of Thimil meaning a boat seems to have come from the comparison of a boat to a whale, as the root Thimi and the word Thimilam in Tamil mean the whale.

According to Thivaakaram Lexicon, the Elephant Fish and Thimi (whale) are terms for a huge fish (3: 202), and according to Pingkalam Lexicon, the Elephant Fish, Palmyra Palm Fish and Thimilam are names of a huge fish (8: 310). Also note the word-form Thimingkilam meaning whale even in contemporary Tamil.

In the Sinhala diction also Thimiya means any large fish as the whale and Thimingkalam means the whale.

The root Thimi meaning a robust, stout fish is related to Thimil meaning the hump of a bull, which is listed as a word of Dravidian etymology (DED 3239). The word in turn is probably related to Thimir (R/ L change), meaning to grow stout (DED 3233), and to Thi'nmai (loss of 'N), meaning strong, stout and robust.

See earlier columns on the etymology of Theevu meaning an island, islet or in some cases, a seasonally water-surrounded locality.

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Thimil meaning a fishing-boat:

“Varoo-um pal meen veaddaththu ennaiyar thimilea” (Ku'runthokai, 123: 4-5)

“வரூ உம் பல் மீன் வேட்டத்து என்னையர் திமிலே” (குறுந்தொகை, 123: 4-5)

The boat of my brothers comes with a rich catch of fish

Thimilar as fishermen:

“Van kaith thimilar kozhu meen kurai-iya thudikka'n thu'niyal”

“வன் கைத் திமிலர் கொழு மீன் குரைஇய துடிக்கண் துணியல்”

The cut sections of the stout fish, chopped by the strong-armed Thimilar, resembling the face of a drum and its eye

Thimiloan as boat-using fisherman:

“Thimiloan thantha kadungka'n vaya meen” (Aka:naanoo'ru, 320: 2)

“திமிலோன் தந்த கடுங்கண் வய மீன்” (அகநானூறு, 320: 2)

The fierce-eyed stout fish brought by the boat fisherman

Thimil boats coming in an array:

“Nirai thimil veadduvar karai chear kampalai” (Mathuraikkaagnchi 116)

“நிரை திமில் வேட்டுவர் கரை சேர் கம்பலை” (மதுரைக்காஞ்சி 116)

The clamour of the shore-coming fishermen in an array of boats

Thimil engaged in night fishing:

“Mu:n neer naappa'n thimil chuddar poala chemmeen imaikkum”

“முந் நீர் நாப்பண் திமில் சுட்டர் போல செம்மீன் இமைக்கும்”

The planet Mars blinked like the torch of a Thimil boat in the middle of the sea

Harpooning shark in Thimil boat fishing:

“Kodu:n thimil parathavar koaddu meen e'riya”

“கொடுந் திமில் பரதவர் கோட்டு மீன் எறிய”

As the curved Thimil boat fishermen harpooned shark

Fishing from a stationed Thimil boat:

“Nedu:n Thimil thozhilodu vaikiya thanthaikku” (Aka:naanoo'ru, 60: 3)

“நெடுந் திமில் தொழிலொடு வைகிய தந்தைக்கு” (அகநானூறு, 60: 3)

(Brought food) to the father, who in his fishing engagement was stationed in the long Thimil

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Thimi meaning a whale or a huge fish:

“Yaanai meen thimi peru meen aakum” (Thivaakaram, 3: 202)

“யானை மீன் திமி பெரு மீன் ஆகும்” (திவாகரம், 3: 202)

The Elephant Fish and Thimi (whale) are names a huge fish

Thimilam meaning a whale or a huge fish:

“Yaanai meen panai meen thimilam peru meen” (Pingkalam, 8: 310)

“யானை மீன் பனை மீன் திமிலம் பெரு மீன்” (பிங்கலம், 8: 310)

The Elephant Fish, the Palmyra Palm fish and Thimilam are names of a huge fish

Thimingkilam as whale:

“Kadat peru:n thimingkilangka'l” (Oddakkooththar, 5: 384)

“கடற் பெருந் திமிங்கிலங்கள்” (ஒட்டக்கூத்தர், 5: 384)

The huge whales of the sea

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Thimila-theevu is a place in Ma'nmunai North division of Batticaloa district

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Some related place names:

Thimila-ku'lam: The tank of the Thimilar community; Manthai West division, Mannaar district

Thimila-madam: The resting place of the Thimilar community; Vadamaraadchi Southwest division, Jaffna district (Balasundaram, p. 265)

First published: Friday, 29 May 2015, 11:49

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