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The language of the Maldives, Dhivedi, is rooted in ancient Indo-Iranian languages (including Sanskrit) and somewhat related to the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka. For example, in Sanskrit, male and div stand for wreath and islands, together meaning island wreath.

All sorts of other languages have influenced Dhivedi over the centuries and we find many loan words from Tamil, Arabic, Hindi, Malay, English and East African, among others. Several dialects are also spoken within the Maldives, of which the one spoken by the southernmost atolls differs most from the standard Dhivedi. The word atoll used throughout the world derives from the Maldivian word atolu.

To give an impression of the Dhivedi below are some words and phrases. Some of them are clearly derived from English.

one - ekeh
five - faheh
ten - diheah
hundred - satheyka
thank you - shukuriyyaa
help - eheevaan
good - faisaa
doctor - dakturu
teacher - teecharu
Door - dhoru
mosque - miskiiy

The Dhivedi has its own script called Thaana. Thaana has 24 letters and is somewhat similar to Arabic. It is written from right to left. This way of writing was introduced after the Portuguese occupation in the 16th century. Before that, two other spellings of Maldivian existed. First, the Eveyla Akuru (ancient letters) which is written from left to right and resembled the Sinhalese script. The first written texts in Eveyla Akuru date back to the 12th and 13th centuries. After this, the Eveyla Akuru evolved in the 14th and 15th centuries into the Dhives Akuru which remained in use until the 19th century.

The Dhivedi is written in phonetic words with no unambiguous spelling. Especially with names, this can be very confusing. For example, the island of Fua Mulaku is also written as Foahmmullah, Fuamulak and Foamullah! Arabic script is often used for religious texts. Many Maldivians also speak and read Arabic.


Derksen, G. / Maldiven

Ellis, R. / Maldives

Lyon, J. / Maldives
Lonely Planet

Vliet, E. van / Reishandboek Malediven

Voigtmann, H. / Malediven

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info