Telugu vs. Tamil: Popular South Indian Languages

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Difference between Telugu and Tamil

Tamil and Telugu are Dravidian languages spoken by people the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, respectively. In 2004, the Indian government declared Tamil to be a classical language. It is interesting to note that Tamil is the official language of Singapore and Sri Lanka. It is also spoken in Malaysia and Mauritius. Telugu takes the honor as the fifteenth most spoken languages throughout the world. Telugu is influenced from Sanskrit and Urdu. Both Tamil and Telugu are among the twenty two scheduled languages in India.



The emergence of the Tamil language dates back to third century BC. The history of the Tamil language is divided into three parts. These are the Old Tamil, Middle Tamil and Modern Tamil. Old Tamil was spoken from 300 BC to around 700 AD. Middle Tamil lasted till 1600. From 1600 to present day the form of Tamil spoken comes under Modern Tamil. Tamil descends from proto-Dravidian which was spoken around the lower Godavari basin. In the past Telugu was called Telungu, Tenugu and Tenungu. Telugu has descended from Prakrit. It was spoken by the general population in the times of Satavahana Dynasty. Inscriptions in Telugu were found in the Guntur District in Andhra Pradesh – famous for the many things amongst which is the Amaravati stupa which the Dalai Lama blessed with a Kalachakra ceremony in 2006 due to its history as the King of Shambhala’s site for learning the Buddhist vajrayana teachings.

Geographic Distribution

Besides Tamil Nadu, Tamil is spoken in some parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Maharashtra. It is also spoken by majority of people in northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. Descendents of colonial-era migrants in South Africa, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, Singapore and Malaysia speak Tamil, but of course these are the minorities. Telugu is spoken by most of the people in Yanam district of Puducherry. It is also spoken in some parts of Jharkhand and Kharagpur in West Bengal. After Hindi and Bengali, Telugu is the third most popular language in India. More than eight hundred thousand people in U.S. speak Telugu.


Some of the words used in Tamil are copied from languages of Tamil’s trading partners such as Munda, Malay, Chinese and Greek. Modern Tamil has some words imported from Urdu, Marathi, Persian and Arabic. The impact is also the other way round. Many languages use words that have Tamil origin. Some popular examples are mango from mangai, cheroot from curuttu and so on. Telugu, on the other hand, uses a large number of Sanskrit words. Usage of Telugu depends on the region in which it is spoken. In the regions near Hyderabad, the language is influenced by Urdu as Muslims conquered and ruled this region for centuries. It sometimes also depends on social status. Most middle class groups use Telugu mixed with English.

Similarities and Differences


  • In 2004 Indian government declared Tamil to be a classical language.
  • History of Tamil language is divided into three parts: Old Tamil, Middle Tamil and Modern Tamil.
  • It is spoken in some parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Maharashtra.
  • Modern Tamil has some words imported from Urdu, Marathi, Persian and Arabic.


  • Telugu is fifteenth most spoken language in the world.
  • Inscriptions in Telugu were found in Guntur District in Andhra Pradesh.
  • It uses a large number of Sanskrit words.
  • It is also spoken in some parts of Jharkhand and Kharagpur in West Bengal.


comments 142 Comments

  • Va . 3+ yrs. ago

May be modern tamil did borrow some words from other languages. however, i doubt that the original one was ever influenced by others.

  • Ramesh . 3+ yrs. ago

When you remove all the loan words from Tamil it can survive. Whereas no other indian languages survive.

  • Sai Kiran Sharma . 3+ yrs. ago

Prove your absurd claim please. Your claim that remove loan words applies to Hindi. Telugu, Bengali, Marathi , Gujarati all can survive on their own. Come out of well!

  • Ramesh . 3+ yrs. ago

What is the word "language" called in Hindi, Telugu, Marathi, Kannada, Malayalam, Tulu, Sanskrit, Bengali etc.,?

Hindi= "Baasha" , Telugu= "Baasha", Marathi= "Baasha", Kannada="Baasha", Malayalam= "Baashai", Bengali= "Baasha"

What is its equivalent word in Tamil? Is it Basha itelf?

No the equivalent word for "Language" in Tamil is "Mozhi",

Is this one the only one or many to follow?

If anyone wish I shall prove it with even one million words.

  • Ramesh . 3+ yrs. ago

What is "Country" called in Hindi, Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada, Tulu, Malayalam, Bengali, Urdu, Marathi etc.,?

Hindi= "Desh" or "Rashtr", Sanskrit= "Desam", Telugu="Desam", Kannada= "Desam", Malayalam= "Desam" , Bengali= "Desh", Urdu= "Desh", Marathi= "Desh" or "Rashtr"

What its equivalent in Tamil? Is it Desam or Rashtr?

No. Tamil has its own word "Naadu"

  • Epari Amaresh . 3+ yrs. ago

naadu does also mean the same as in Tamil, in Telugu

Palnadu(Guntur), Renadu(Nellore)

ever heard of TeluguNaduStudentsFederation, the students wing of Telugu Desam Party

I foresee the name of Andhra to change to TeluguNadu in future, hope TDP will propose name change in near foreseeable future

we always had been longing for name change for our state that would be authentically Telugu.

[Lagadapati Rajagopal Naidu, former Vijayawada MP , the pepper spray MP

- (on ticket of, let this Cong party's name be obliterated for ever),

quitted politics after TelenganaBill was passed in the parliament, had proposed it a few years ago]

  • balu . 3+ yrs. ago

tamil is rich and ancient and it is the first indian language to be declared as a classical language

  • Sundaram . 3+ yrs. ago

I don't accept tamil borrowed words from those languages...

Some people may use that...

But equivalent words in tamil is there for those words borrowed from those language...

If possible Can you examplify the borrowed words...

  • Pradeep . 3+ yrs. ago

Tamil is the worst language all over the world and tamilians number one racists

  • ScrewuPradeep . 3+ yrs. ago

are u **** me? In which way r tamils racist? And how do u say that it is the worst language? Keep ur opinions to urself ****face, or at least state ur making an opinion without any reasoning what-so-ever.

  • Amita . 3+ yrs. ago

I agree. They are both related to eachother. They way you the numbers is the same in both languages. They are racists and non-racists people in every community. No one can say racist unless if they walk around their skin and understand their point of view. Telugu and Tamil are both good Dravidian languages. For examples, Tollywood and Kollywood are connected to eachother. For instance; Portuguese and Spanish are related to eachother. The same thing goes to Telugu and Tamil, both Dravidian languages are tightly connected to one another. Thank you for reading this.

  • Ramesh . 3+ yrs. ago

One simple example to spray black to your face Pradeep, is " meeru peru yemi" here meeru is chuttuchol in tamil and peru is derived from Peyar, so you have only one thing with you is "yemi". Yemi yemi yemi??? who told that tamils are racist? it is only you telugus robbed our ancient tamil territories of Vengadanadu, Karkaanadu, Venginaadu, Thondainaadu and Aruva Vadathalainaadu (all are in Nellore, Chittor and South Ananthapur districts), for the reason that you have occupied those area in large numbers making tamils minorities there.

  • Epari Amaresh . 3+ yrs. ago

Telugu is a South-Central-DravidanLanguage it is supposed to have split-off from Proto-Dravidan first, and earliest.

Tamil is a Southern-DravidanLanguage others being Kannada, more recent language evolution being Malayalam

(Tamil derived from so called TamilKannada-Prototpe)

Later splits occurred in the Southern-Dravidan branch

which can be expressed as

TamilKannada-Prototype Branch of SouthernDravidan

- splits into Tamil and Kannada

- upto this point by TamilKannadaPrototype I meant TamilMalayalamPrototype


- Malayalam finally splits off from TamilMalayalamPrototype

'peru' is not borrowed or derived from Tamil, it already

exists owing to derivation from Proto-Dravidan, if you do not agree check it from some other SouthCentralDravidan language like Savara, Gadaba, Gond, or Chenchu

Telugu is single most spoken SouthCentralDravidan language

EasternChalukyas based their capital at Vengi, which is in Guntur district

They entered into matrimonial alliance with Pallavas of Kanchi

Don not use historical references of places in context of Vengi without going through history, this is indicative of your half knowledge.

  • vijay . 3+ yrs. ago

hello as_whole pradeep..u r definitely mad...

  • Asokan . 3+ yrs. ago

My monther tongue is Telugu and native from Tamil Nadu.

But I am proud of to be Tamilan.

  • Amaresh . 3+ yrs. ago

and for being a Telugu?

  • ismail . 3+ yrs. ago

Pradeep are u mad

  • Balaji . 3+ yrs. ago

I'm from Tamilnadu and I admit Telugu is one awesome language!

It is the 15th most spoken language in the world! wow!

Though it has many sanskrit words, it is very easy to understand :)

Kudos to Telugu!

  • Deepak . 3+ yrs. ago

@Balaji - I second you..Telugu rocks!

  • Narayan . 3+ yrs. ago

Tamil is worst lauguege

  • vijay . 3+ yrs. ago

narayan.. u r no. of stupid in the world.. have no other words to say abt u and pradeep..

  • Gouthaman . 3+ yrs. ago

Tamizh is the best language in the world and am proud to say that iam a tamizhan...there is no equal dynasty to our cholas in south and central India..

  • Satti . 3+ yrs. ago

Correct!! better langauages and dynasties are there in India. That is the reason Govt of India asked Karunanidhi son to write correct spell Alagiri in Gazzt of India instead of Azhagiri (like Azharuddin)

  • Human . 3+ yrs. ago

Telugu,Malayalam and Karnataka. please return back all the borrow words and culture from Tamilian. Tamil is official language in Singapore. Tell me where your official langua appart than india. Think care fully before condam others Mother tongue. All Language in the world are gifted by GOD.

Thank you

  • charyy . 3+ yrs. ago

tamil is not an indian language at get out from india all tamilians...............

  • Jash121 . 3+ yrs. ago

What filth do you speak ? Racist pigs like you ruin India's success every single day. You must be jailed for your obnoxious comments.

  • m.govin . 3+ yrs. ago

ha ha well they did that thousands of years ago and that is why you can find Tamil in many languages because they loaned many words to the new language and that is why you can see Tamils around the world over unlike etc etc

Malaysian Tamilian


  • Ramesh . 3+ yrs. ago

if not an indian language then let all other non tamils leave our territories that include present tamilnadu, kerala, south karnataka and south andhra. you indians live peacefully in your area.

  • Pranav . 3+ yrs. ago

who r u f**** idiot to say this...Tamil is the best language that I have ever heard and tamil has far history background than telugu, kannada,malayalam...

  • m.govin . 3+ yrs. ago

ha ha who is being racist here Thiru.Pradeeep? you are

I guess if all the Tamil words from malayalam/telugu and kannada are taken out , they would have to probably learn sign language to offence meant but its the truth..Its just like the french/dutch/german and many other european languages who loaned from english mostly.

Raja raja cholan

  • Ramesh . 3+ yrs. ago

well said m.govin. I challenge pradeep to remove all tamil loan words/ tamil root words from his language, his language perish. Then he should speak blah.. blah..blah.... The same in the case of Kannada and Malayalam. And malayalam is just a dialect of Tamil ( Kodunthamizh). before commenting one should know the historical background of their language and literature. Out of all excavated inscriptions found in india 65% are Tamil while prakrit 15% pali 10% and others 10%.

  • Ramesh . 3+ yrs. ago

Tamils form a major race not only in India, but also in Tamizh Eezham (North and North West and Eastern parts of Srilanka- 25% of country's population), Malaysia (32,00,000- Hindu+Moslem Tamils), Singapore where they form nearly 7% of the population and it is one of the official languages there. Mauritius (1,25,000 or 10% of the total population), Reunion (225000 or 40% of total population), South Africa (10,00,000 or 3% of total population of the country), Thailand (68,000 Indian Tamils+ 5,00,000 Tamil Klings of Nakhon Ratchasimha and Pattaya), Many more thousands in Medan, Laos, Ho Chi Minh City, Guyana(60,000), Guadeloupe (60,000), Trinidad and Tobago (12% of total indian population with mostly Biharis and Urdu speaking muslims) and emigrant refugees in Denmark, Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany, France, French Overseas Territories such as Martinique etc., Norway, Finland, Sweden (several lakhs here),England, US and finally a big number in Canada.

  • Sai Kiran Sharma . 3+ yrs. ago

Telugu has no heritage from Tamil, except for the border areas of AP and Tamil Nadu. So your point of returning Words and Culture back to Tamils doesnt hold good. Please apply some logic.

  • ashok . 3+ yrs. ago

i think most of tamilians are athists.thats why they wont respect others and their languages

  • ashok . 3+ yrs. ago

that words are not belongs Tamil.all four languages derived from proto Dravidian

  • Pranav . 3+ yrs. ago

The word "Dravida" itself a Tamil word.It's derived from TAMIL-TIRAMILA-TIRAMIDA-DRAVIDA...said by parithimar kalaingar...So,Tamil is the mother of all dravidian languages

  • Somebody . 3+ yrs. ago

tamil is the most beautiful and sweet language its very old when compared to other dravidian language.u know tamil is one among the three languages which have an equivalent word for tsunami in tamil it is called as azhi perali.telugu is also one of the best language in india but tamil is out of comparision as it is the mother language of dravidian language

  • Satti . 3+ yrs. ago

Check ur History knowledge...Telugu & Kannada born from Kadambha and chalukya scripts. Thats the problem with TN they claim tamil is mother to Sanskrit

  • Mahesh . 3+ yrs. ago

Satti you First check it k you just check it in wikipeadia or else and then you talk about it ..

  • om . 3+ yrs. ago

Proto dravidian is more less equivalent to old tamil ..Thats y tamil can be rightly called as Mother of dravidian languages.pls enlighten urself

  • Ramesh . 3+ yrs. ago

well said.

  • Sayid . 3+ yrs. ago

what the ****!!!

telugu is more old than tamil...tamilians cheat their language is old than Telugu..

  • Amaresh . 3+ yrs. ago

Obvious! Tamil is older than telugu

  • Ramesh . 3+ yrs. ago

telugu is more old than tamil? poor sayid what is your mark is history or linguistics? read my replies. refer whatever literature and find the place of tamil there. if you remove all tamil loan words/ root words from ur telugu then you should speak blah.. blah.. and blaaaah... that's what you have with you.

  • Shan . 3+ yrs. ago

Dont make comedy.You can search anywhere in internet,if you prove telugu is older than tamil, i will shave my head throughout my life

  • Amaresh . 3+ yrs. ago

I live in Andhra pradesh. I've learnt every subject in school in Telegu Language. I Started Studying Tamil 2 years after my graduation and I should tell you that language struck me so much.I know I should talk in favour of my mother tongue telegu but i just can't stop feeling that tamil is the sweetest langage in India or may be in the world.No offence to telegu.

  • Naresh . 3+ yrs. ago

Dude first write correct spelling of "Telugu" before you pretend.

  • Amaresh . 3+ yrs. ago

Oh yes i'm sorry! its telugu.I wrote it in a hurry.

  • karthik . 3+ yrs. ago

It says that ur not real telugu guy. Ur jus showing up as telugu to praise tamil

  • Amaresh . 3+ yrs. ago

It has been a long time since i have written in telegu or telugu.sorry i have written in wrongly.your right it's telugu not telegu.I was sick when i submitted this i didn't concentrate when i was writing.

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