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Tamil and Hindi: Language Similarities and Differences

In India, Hindi and English are the two official languages of communication for the national government. But the country has a total of 23 official languages.

Below is a table that lists the official languages of India in alphabetical order, along with their respective language families.

Language Language Family
Assamese Indo-Aryan
Bengali Indo-Aryan
Bodo Sino-Tibetan
Dogri Indo-Aryan
English Indo-European
Gujarati Indo-Aryan
Hindi Indo-Aryan
Kannada Dravidian
Kashmiri Indo-Aryan
Konkani Indo-Aryan
Maithili Indo-Aryan
Malayalam Dravidian
Marathi Indo-Aryan
Meitei Sino-Tibetan
Nepali Indo-Aryan
Odia Indo-Aryan
Punjabi Indo-Aryan
Sanskrit Indo-Aryan
Santali Austroasiatic
Sindhi Indo-Aryan
Tamil Dravidian
Telugu Dravidian
Urdu Indo-Aryan

Tamil and Hindi belong to different language families. Hindi is an Indo-Aryan language whereas Tamil is a Dravidian language. This is why these two languages are quite different.

By the way, if you are interested in learning Hindi, check out this course.

Language geography

Map of Tamil and Hindi-speaking regions

Hindi is predominantly spoken in northern and central India, including states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh.

Tamil is the official language of the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India. It is also one of the official languages of the union territory of Puducherry.

In addition, Tamil is spoken in a few other countries in Southeast Asia:


Tamil and Hindi vocabulary words are generally very different from each other, as can be seen in the following table which shows some common vocabulary terms.

English Hindi Tamil
fire आग (aag) தீ (tī)
moon चंद्रमा (chandrama) நிலா (nilā)
river नदी (nadee) நதி (nati)
heart दिल (dil) இதயம் (itayam)
love प्यार (pyaar) அன்பு (aṉpu)
joy आनंद (aanand) மகிழ்ச்சி (makiḻcci)
forest जंगल (jangal) காடு (kāṭu)
memory याद (yaad) நினைவு (niṉaivu)
boat नाव (naav) படகு (paṭaku)
island द्वीप (dveep) தீவு (tīvu)
song गाना (gaana) பாடல் (pāṭal)
light रोशनी (roshanee) ஒளி (oḷi)
fruit फल (phal) பழம் (paḻam)
great महान (mahaan) நன்று (naṉṟu)
path पथ (path) பாதை (pātai)
foot पैर (pair) கால் (kāl)
sleep नींद (neend) தூங்கு (tūṅku)
true सत्य (satya) உண்மை (uṇmai)
king राजा (raaja) அரசன் (aracaṉ)

Tamil is a much older language than Hindi

Tamil is among the oldest living languages in the world, with a literary history spanning over 2,000 years. It has been in continuous use since ancient times, with its earliest known inscriptions dating back to the 3rd century BCE.

On the other hand, Hindi, in its modern form, evolved as a distinct language much later in history. It emerged around the 7th century CE. While Hindi has its roots in ancient languages like Sanskrit, it did not emerge as a separate language until more than one thousand years after the development of Tamil.

Writing Systems

Hindi is commonly written in the Devanagari script, whereas Tamil is written in the Tamil script. Both these writing systems have a common origin as they evolved from the Brahmi script.

The Devanagari script used for writing Hindi has a horizontal line called a shirorekha which connects the top of adjacent characters. In contrast, the Tamil script does not have such a line.

The Tamil script also has more curved lines than the Devanagari script.

The Influence of Sanskrit on Hindi

Many Hindi words come from Sanskrit, an ancient classical language from which Hindi has evolved. Compared to Hindi, Tamil has fewer vocabulary words that originate from Sanskrit.

Hindi Word Tamil Word Sanskrit Word / Meaning
समुद्र (samudra) கடல் (kadal) समुद्र (samudra) - ocean
दिन (din) நாள் (naal) दिन (dina) - day
भोजन (bhojan) உணவு (unavu) भोजन (bhojana) - food
पिता (pitā) அப்பா (appā) पितृ (pitṛ) - father
अध्यापक (adhyāpak) ஆசிரியர் (asiriyar) अध्यापक (adhyāpaka) - teacher

Persian Influence on Hindi

There are quite a few Persian loanwords in Hindi. These entered the language during the time of the Mughal Empire. The Mughals came from Central Asia and ruled over the Indian subcontinent from the 16th to the 19th century, bringing with them the Persian language.

The Mughal Empire had several capitals which were in northern India. For instance, the city of Agra where they built the Taj Mahal, and the city of Delhi where they built the Red Fort.

Persian, as the language of the court and administration, influenced the local languages which were spoken in northern India, such as Hindi.

In contrast, Tamil-speaking regions in South India had less direct influence from Persian-speaking empires. As a result, the influence of Persian on Tamil vocabulary is relatively limited.

Hindi Word Punjabi Word Meaning
शहर (śahar) ਸ਼ਹਿਰ (śahir) city (borrowed from Persian word « شهر‎ » (šahr))
ख़ुश (xuś) ਖੁਸ਼ (khuś) happy (borrowed from Persian word « خوش » (xoš))
क़ानून (qānūn) ਕਾਨੂੰਨ (kanū̃na) law (derived from Persian word « قانون » (qânun))
काग़ज़ (kāġaz) ਕਾਗ਼ਜ਼ (kāġaz) paper (borrowed from Persian word « کاغذ » (kâğaz))

The bottom line

Hindi and Tamil belong to different language families and consequently, it is not surprising that they differ significantly.

As an Indo-Aryan language, Hindi is similar to other languages from that family, such as Bengali and Punjabi. On the other hand, Tamil, being a Dravidian language, has more in common with languages from that family such as Telugu and Kannada.


(Map license)