Difference Wiki

Tamil vs. Malayalam: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 2, 2024
Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken primarily in Tamil Nadu, India, and Sri Lanka, characterized by its ancient literary tradition. Malayalam is a Dravidian language mainly spoken in Kerala, India, known for its rich literary and cultural heritage.

Key Differences

Tamil, one of the longest-surviving classical languages, boasts an extensive body of literature and is noted for its antiquity and continuity. Malayalam, though younger, has a rich literary tradition, evolving from the Tamil-Dravidian lineage with significant Sanskrit influences.
In Tamil, the script has a distinctive, more rounded form with fewer straight lines, reflecting its ancient origins. Malayalam's script, derived from the Grantha script, features more complex characters and evolved to accommodate Sanskrit sounds.
Phonetically, Tamil has a more conservative sound structure, preserving older Dravidian phonetics. Malayalam has a more varied phonology, influenced by Sanskrit, resulting in a broader range of vowel and consonant sounds.
Grammatically, Tamil uses agglutination extensively, making heavy use of suffixes. Malayalam, while also agglutinative, has been more influenced by Sanskrit grammar, resulting in certain syntactic differences.
Tamil culture and language have a profound impact on the socio-political landscape of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. Malayalam, integral to Kerala's culture, is celebrated for its contributions to Indian cinema, literature, and the arts.

Comparison Chart


Ancient with a strong literary tradition
Younger, evolved from Tamil and influenced by Sanskrit


Rounded form, less complexity
More complex, evolved from Grantha script


More conservative, older Dravidian sounds
Broader range, influenced by Sanskrit

Grammar Structure

Heavily agglutinative with suffixes
Agglutinative, influenced by Sanskrit grammar

Cultural Impact

Significant in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka
Central to Kerala's cultural and artistic heritage

Tamil and Malayalam Definitions


Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly in South India and Sri Lanka.
He speaks Tamil fluently, having grown up in Chennai.


Malayalam is a Dravidian language spoken primarily in the Indian state of Kerala.
He learned Malayalam to better understand the local culture in Kerala.


Tamil literature encompasses a vast body of works from ancient to modern times.
She is studying ancient Tamil literature for her thesis.


Malayalam literature is renowned for its poetry, novels, and short stories.
Her bookshelf is filled with works of Malayalam literature.


Tamil refers to the people originating from Tamil Nadu or of Tamil ethnicity.
The Tamil community in this city celebrates Pongal grandly.


Malayalam culture encompasses the traditions and practices of the Malayali people.
Malayalam festivals are vibrant, reflecting the region's rich heritage.


Tamil pertains to the culture and traditions of Tamil-speaking people.
Tamil music often features complex rhythms and ancient instruments.


Malayalam refers to the people hailing from Kerala or of Malayali ethnicity.
The Malayalam community here is known for their Onam celebrations.


A member of a Dravidian people of southern India and northern Sri Lanka.


Malayalam cinema, also known as Mollywood, is a prominent part of South Indian cinema.
This Malayalam film has won several national awards.


The Dravidian language of the Tamil.


A Dravidian language spoken in the state of Kerala on the Malabar Coast of southwest India.


Of or relating to the Tamil or their language or culture.


The name given to one the cultivated Dravidian languages, closely related to the Tamil.


Of or pertaining to the Tamils, or to their language.


A Dravidian language (closely related to Tamil) that is spoken in southwestern India


One of a Dravidian race of men native of Northern Ceylon and Southern India.


A member of the mixed Dravidian and Caucasoid people of southern India and Sri Lanka


The Dravidian language spoken since prehistoric times by the Tamil people in southern India and Sri Lanka


Of or relating to a speaker of the Tamil language or the language itself;
The Tamil Tigers are fighting the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka
Tamil agglutinative phrases


Tamil cinema, also known as Kollywood, is a significant part of Indian cinema.
The latest Tamil movie has set box office records.


What is the origin of Malayalam?

Malayalam evolved from the Tamil-Dravidian language family with significant Sanskrit influence.

How old is the Tamil language?

Tamil is over 2,000 years old, with a rich literary tradition.

What is Tamil?

Tamil is a classical Dravidian language spoken in Tamil Nadu, India, and Sri Lanka.

Are Tamil and Malayalam scripts similar?

They are distinct, with Malayalam script being more complex and evolved from the Grantha script.

What is Malayalam?

Malayalam is a Dravidian language mainly spoken in the Indian state of Kerala.

What are the main features of Tamil literature?

Tamil literature is known for its ancient texts, poetry, and philosophical works.

Is Tamil a recognized classical language?

Yes, Tamil is recognized as a classical language for its ancient origins and rich literary heritage.

Is Malayalam used outside of India?

Yes, it's used among Malayali diaspora communities, especially in the Middle East.

How has Malayalam literature contributed to Indian literature?

It has contributed significantly, especially in the fields of poetry, drama, and modern literature.

How many people speak Tamil worldwide?

Approximately 70 million people speak Tamil globally.

What role do Tamil and Malayalam play in Indian culture?

They play a vital role, enriching India's cultural diversity through literature, cinema, and art.

Can Tamil speakers understand Malayalam easily?

Not easily, due to significant linguistic differences, despite some common roots.

What makes Malayalam unique among Indian languages?

Its complex script, rich literary tradition, and strong Sanskrit influence make it unique.

What is the number of Malayalam speakers?

Around 38 million people speak Malayalam.

What are key Malayalam festivals?

Onam and Vishu are major Malayalam festivals.

How does Tamil cinema contribute to Indian film?

Tamil cinema, or Kollywood, is known for its innovative storytelling and technical excellence.

What are some famous Tamil festivals?

Pongal and Tamil New Year are significant festivals.

What is distinctive about Malayalam cinema?

Malayalam cinema is renowned for its realistic narratives, strong scripts, and quality performances.

In which countries is Tamil an official language?

Tamil is an official language in Sri Lanka and Singapore, apart from India.

Can Tamil and Malayalam be learned easily by non-native speakers?

Both languages can be challenging due to their unique scripts and grammatical structures.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons