An Anthropological Overview of Etymology, Cultural Interpretation and Usage of the Term Parangi with Special Reference to Indigenous Medicine in Sri Lanka

D. L. Perera


The Sinhala word “Parangi” is a vernacular term specifically used to refer“Portuguese” or something related to them. This word has been culturally articulated formany centuries from 1505 AD and is contextualized in many classical and literarysources. It had also become an internationally accepted technical term in internalmedicine and cited in many textbooks, journals and many other reference sources. Theobjective of this study is to collect literary data and find out the etymology of the word“parangi” and interpret the linguistic expressions of its usage to reflect culturalotherness in medical aspects. Subject-specific and evidence-based textual analysis wasadopted to review and redefine the cultural interpretation of the term Parangi referred inindigenous medical literature sources in Sri Lanka. In verification of hypotheticaloverview baseline data were authenticated through a comparative and electivescrutinizing process in reference with western discourses.

As widely accepted, among the several scholarly opinions that appeared for theorigin of the word Parangi and its literary interpretation are related to the Portuguese.Farangi, firangfirangi, feringhi, feringhee or Parangi with its derivatives and diversepronunciations is a term for foreigners in the Persian language, with particular referenceto westerners.It carries a disdainful and condescending meaning, and was originallyused in a purely geographical sense particularly for Europeans, Caucasians andWesterners. The word in Arabic (faranji or ferenji) is similar and the word farangi alsoappears in Amharic, Urdu and Hindi in reference to western Europeans. Sometime laterthis may have been loaned by the Malayalam language possibly from Arab traders andlater might be transferred to Sinhala for demarcating “otherness” of the Portuguese asforeigners. In this study the etymology, cultural interpretation and linguistic descriptionof Parangi are explored, refined and redefined in an anthropological perspective.

Key words: Etymology, Parangi, Foreigner, Cultural, Linguistic

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