[ tam-uhl, tuhm-, tah-muhl ]
/ ˈtæm əl, ˈtʌm-, ˈtɑ məl /
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noun, plural Tam·ils, (especially collectively) Tam·il.
a member of a Dravidian people of southern India and Sri Lanka.
the Dravidian language of the Tamils, spoken in India principally in Tamil Nadu state and in Sri Lanka on the northern and eastern coasts.
of or relating to the Tamils or their language.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does Tamil mean?

Tamil is the name for a person of a Dravidian culture group that is located primarily in Southern India and northeastern Sri Lanka.

Tamil is also the name of the language spoken by Tamils.

Tamils, like all Dravidian peoples, are aboriginal to Southern India and Sri Lanka. That is, Dravidian peoples are the earliest known inhabitants of that geographic area.

Today, most of the world’s Tamils live in the southeastern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and northern part of the country of Sri Lanka, although many Tamils live around the world.

Why is Tamil important?

The majority of Tamils live in what is now Tamil Nadu, an Indian state that has throughout history been ruled by various dynasties, chieftains, kings, the British, and finally the modern country of India. The second largest group of Tamils live in nearby Sri Lanka, who are divided between the Tamils who traveled there many centuries ago and the Tamils who arrived more recently as British plantation laborers.

Tamil history goes back over 2,000 years. For all that time, the Tamil people have retained their cultural identity and still mostly live in the same geographic area they always have.

This can be seen in Tamil art and architecture, which is often elaborate and impressive. Art of the Tamils was closely linked to the dynasties that ruled over them and changed as one group ceded power to another. Tamil political leaders wanted to demonstrate their power and wealth, so they spent a lot of money building magnificent temples and funding artists and musicians.

Tamil folk music and dance is another important aspect of their culture and is prominent during their many harvest festivals.

Did you know ... ?

The Tamil language is the oldest literary Dravidian language, with the first written records coming from around the year 100, meaning the spoken language could even be much older. Today, Tamil is among the most widely spoken languages in the world.

What are real-life examples of Tamil?

This video shows an Indian newscast about the Tamil Pongal festival:

Tamils are very proud of their culture and heritage.

What other words are related to Tamil?

Quiz yourself!

Tamil is the name of group of people who mostly live in:

A. Southern China
B. Northern Singapore
C. Southern India
D. Malaysia

How to use Tamil in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for Tamil

/ (ˈtæmɪl) /

plural -ils or -il a member of a mixed Dravidian and Caucasoid people of S India and Sri Lanka
the language of this people: the state language of Tamil Nadu, also spoken in Sri Lanka and elsewhere, belonging to the Dravidian family of languages
of or relating to this people or their language
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012