March 7, 2023

A massive Sinhala -English was out recently by Buddhadasa Hewage, marketed by the e-Lanka website in Australia at US $50. The writer ordered the dictionary from them. It has 1,500,000 English words, similar to 95,000 Sinhala words, and contains 2432 pages. It is published after professor G.P. Malalasekera’s Sinhala-English dictionary, but Buddhadasa Hewage’s dictionary has more words. This was the first time a professional or an institution published a Sinhala-English dictionary of this magnitude. It was available at the Book Exhibition, also held at the B.M.I C.H.

The author was born to a low-income family in a southern rural village in Sri Lanka. Buddhadasa Hewage prioritised his early life. He took on the frightening task of learning English on his accord. In late 1980, he managed to enter the Teachers’ Training College in Mirigama and started a distinguished teaching career. In 1977 he began teaching English at Ananda College in Elpitiya, where he served the college for twenty-one.

Author’s Literary Achievements

He has authored seventeen books, including six novels and five short-story books in Sinhala and English. His Sinhala novel “Yathrawawaka Minissu” was selected as the best novel in 1992. Additionally, he won multiple awards in 2012. The Sri Lankan government recognised his literal talents and offered the “Kalabushana” status.

The massive Sinhala-English dictionary is the product of Buddhadasa Sewage’s fifteen years of effort.  His personal experience inspired him as a student and a teacher to embark on this project. The Sinhala-English dictionary will undoubtedly go a long way in simplifying the learning experience of students and journalists.

Ministry of Education.

This dictionary has accepted been accepted by the Ministry of Education as a library book. He started working on the dictionary in 1998 when he was working as an English teacher. He noted every word in a notebook as a habit but never considered using it in the dictionary. It was the basic foundation. Furthermore, it helped to compile the dictionary as he wrote many Sinhala and English novels and short story books. In his attempts, he noticed that he had to deal with many English and Sinhala words and found out that there are many similarities between Sinhala and English words.

If you are an English journalist, you must know the relevant Sinhala words in English. For instance, the Malalasekera dictionary deals with English words to Sinhala, but it is only possible to use the English language if, to a certain extent, use the Malalasekera dictionary. Buddhadasa Hewage’s dictionary contains pages of 1,500,000 English words. His primary intention was to help the Sinhala native people to find English synonyms for Sinhala.

History of Dictionaries

The author has categorised words in the dictionary into nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, idioms, abbreviations, and prepositions so that sophisticated individuals benefit from the dictionary. Ceylon’s history of dictionaries goes back to the British rulers, especially the British Civil Servants who needed to learn Sinhala to understand the locals’ thoughts.  Once they conquered Ceylon, they wanted to know the local language, so it made them learn Sinhala – English vitally. It is on record as the first governor to Ceylon, Sir Fredrick North,  between 1798 and 1805, compiled the first dictionary of English to Sinhala with the aid of another British civil servant, John Wine, but they could not finish the job. Later the task fell on another British civil servant, but suddenly, he died.  Later compilation of the dictionary was handed over to a Christian Father, Benjamin Clough, who ultimately printed the dictionary in 1821. It became the first Sinhala-English dictionary comprising 628 pages and was published in 1830. Buddhadasa Hewage said it was the best Sinhala-English dictionary ever published in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) up to date.

After Father Carter’s dictionary, several dictionaries were published. The first was by Mudliyar Gunasekera in 1915. The English Dharma Samaya published another dictionary in 1948. There was a line of Sinhala-English dictionaries published ever since. Somapala Jayawardene published the most contemporary dictionary in 1994 and Somapala Dematapiya in 1995. Buddhadasa Hewage consulted seven Sinhala English dictionaries and linked the recent authors.


There is a funny story about publishers. Buddhadasa Hewage had consulted a publisher, and the publisher promised to give only a 10% royalty, which meant if they published 1000 (one thousand copies). The dictionary’s author would get only Rs.10,000.00, whereas the publisher could earn Rs.90,000.00. Buddhadasa Hewage thought it was unfair because the author had put in so much energy and effort to compile 2,500 pages.

The. Buddhadasa Hewage’s dictionary was published for the third edition. He has donated 100 copies to the University students who entered the University from rural villages and were bright and poor. To achieve this, he has contacted the universities constantly to fathom the brightness and to find out about students’ financial status.

Facing a fatal situation.

Before launching the dictionary, Buddhadasa Hewage faced a critical problem. A good friend of the author suddenly disappeared with all the type-setting and the pen drive. The author visited his home in Kurunegala and sought lawyers’ advice. The author was left with no option but to report to the police. He listened to his lawyer and went ahead with the publication. The lawyer advised the dictionary’s author that his friend could sell the pen drive and the entire work on the dictionary for money. The culprit was desperate for money as he had a police complaint for stealing a woman servant’s three months’ wages.

Another journalist once asked why the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary includes versions appearing in other countries in various languages, including Tamil. Still, only it is available in Sinhala to English in Sri Lanka?   The dictionary’s author replied, “Yes, you are correct. We cannot see such a version, and it is up to the Sri Lanka government, or the relevant authorities must look into this matter. In my case, I only focussed on Sinhala because it became difficult. After all, there are many meanings for each Sinhala word. This is why we need a dictionary with example sentences like in Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.’

Compiling a dictionary is a challenging job. Invariably dictionary compilers end their lives before they see the final output. When considered, only the publishers take advantage of the dictionary compilers, as royalty is limited to only 2 or 3%. In Sri Lanka, book publishing is a field that exploits authors, especially in compiling dictionaries which are painstaking for compilers.

The author says he is also ready to add Tamil words to the dictionary. It will be a complete dictionary of Sinhala, English and Tamil words.


















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