Know the Etymology: 219
Place Name of the Day: Wednesday, 11 July 2012


Govipala/ Goyipala

கொவிபல/ கொயிபல
Govipala/ Goyipala

Govi+pala, Goyi+pala

The cultivation place
The paddy field


GovipalaThe standard form is Goyipala: Cultivated ground, arable ground, field, (Sinhala); Goyama (singular), Goyam (plural): Grain in general, harvest (Sinhala); Goyam-kappanawaa: To reap (Sinhala); Goyi-tæna: Cultivation (Sinhala); Goyiyaa, Goviyaa: (singular), Goyi (plural): Cultivator of the ground, husbandman (Sinhala); Goyigama: Caste of the cultivators or husbandmen (Sinhala)
Koy (verb) To pluck, cut, reap (Tamil, DED 2119); Kuyam: Sickle; Kuvil: Reaping, cutting (Tamil DED 2119); Koyiloo, Koiloo: A small paddy field, harvest, reaping; Koyyelu: Harvest (Tulu, DED 2119); Koy, Kuy: To cut, reap, pluck; Koyilu, Kuyilu: Cutting, reaping, plucking; Koyika: Man who cuts (Kannada, DED 2119); Koyu: To cut, reap, pluck (Telugu, DED 2119); Koyka: To cut, reap, pluck (Malayalam, DED 2119); Koyl: Harvest, reaping (Kota, DED 2119); Koy: To cut/ pluck/ reap/ harvest (Kodagu, Parji, Gadba, Gondi, Konda, DED 2119); Goye: To reap; Goytre: To have the crop reaped (Maltese, DED 2119); Goi: Government owned area leased for cultivation and habitation; Goi-veri: Lessee of a Goi; Goi-bai: The part of produce (bai: rice) given to the government by the lessee of a Goi (Dhivehi/ Maldivian)
Pala Place, spot (Sinhala); Paal: Place, part, portion, section (Tamil, DED 4097, Pingkalam Lexicon 10:792)); from the root Paa, Paay, Para: To spread, expand (Tamil, DED 4088, 3949)


Goyiyaa or Goviyaa (Goyi in plural) means a farmer or cultivator in Sinhala. Goyigama is the name of the agricultural caste that is the most dominant one in the traditional social hierarchy of the Sinhalese.

The terms of identity come from the word Goyama (Goyam in plural), which in Sinhala means harvest as well as paddy or grains in general.

The caste name Goyi-gama therefore literally means (the people of) The Harvesters’ Village or (the people of) The Village of Paddy/ Grains. Gama means village in Sinhala.

Also note the other usages in Sinhala such as Goyi-tæna (cultivation, literally meaning the harvesting place), Goyi-pala (the place for harvest), Goyi-bima (cultivation field, literally meaning the land for harvest) and Goyi-wasama (the occupation or tribe of cultivation, literally harvest).

The function of harvest or reaping grains is the basis for the said terms related to paddy cultivation, land ownership, tribe identity and the dominant caste name of the Sinhalese.

In a further usage development showing social significance gained by the agrarian term, Goyiyo in Sinhala is used in addressing a singular second person in friendly conversations.

Goy, which is the root word, is not of Indo-Aryan origin. But a meaningful verb cognate of Dravidian origin could be found in the word Koy, which in Tamil means to reap, pluck, cut etc. The Tamil noun form Kuvil means the act of reaping or cutting (Dravidian Etymological Dictionary 2119).

The term Koy in the sense of reaping or harvest has an array of cognates in several Dravidian languages: Malayalam, Tulu, Kannada, Kodagu, Telugu, Kota, Parji, Gadba, Gondi, Konda and Maltese, apart from Tamil (DED 2119).

The cognates Koyiloo in Tulu, meaning harvest as well as a small paddy field, Koyika in Kannada for the man who reaps and the verb form Goye in Maltese meaning to reap, are of particular comparison with the Sinhala term and its usages. A related term and usage are found in the Dhivehi language of the Maldives too. (See table)

However, the usage development that made Goyi as an important term of identity for the occupation of agriculture, land ownership and for the upper echelon of the traditional society, is special to Sinhala.

A term primarily related to collection of grains becoming the root for the term of identity of the cultivation caste in Sinhala probably suggests the origins of that caste identity coming from incipient farming than the hydraulic one developed later.

The Dravidian etymology of the term is significant in this context in understanding the origins of Sinhala society, the social section responsible for the development of agrarian civilisation and parallel development of languages in southern South Asia.

Of the original shades of the meaning for the word Koy, only one, i.e. to pluck as of plucking flowers etc., survives in the modern Tamil usage of today.

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Note the following examples from the Changkam Tamil literature for the usage of Koy as adjective and Koyal as noun meaning harvest:

Koy meaning reaping a cereal crop:

“Cheng koal kodung kural chi’ru thinai viyan pulam koy patham ku’rukung kaalai” (Natti’nai 57:9)

“செங் கோல் கொடுங் குரல் சிறு தினை வியன் புலம் கொய் பதம் குறுகுங் காலை” (நற்றிணை 57:9)

When the wide fields of the fine-grained Thinai millet (Panicum italicum) of red-stalks and bent cobs reached the reaping stage



Koyal meaning harvest:

“Koyal thodangkinarea kaanavar” (Natti’nai 306:2)

கொயல் தொடங்கினரே கானவர் (நற்றிணை 306:2)

The forest dwellers commenced harvest

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The component Pala in the place name Govi-pala stands for a place or spot in Sinhala. A related cognate Pola is often used in the context of open market places. This word also is not of Indo-Aryan etymology.

There is a Tamil cognate Paal, which has shades of meaning such as place, part, side and direction (DED 4097), but it is mostly used as a preposition and not like the noun in Sinhala. The root word Paa in Dravidian is connected to spread, expand etc., and the noun derivatives stand for expanse, flat space, place etc. (DED 3949, 4088)

Paal standing for place, part, side and direction in Tamil:

“Paathiyum idamum payasum ku’namum pakkamum thisaiyum paalea” (Pingkala Nika’ndu 10:792)

“பாதியும் இடமும் பயசும் குணமும் பக்கமும் திசையும் பாலே” (பிங்கல நிகண்டு 10:792)

The word Paal stands for part, place, milk, attribute, side and direction

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Three villages in the Damana and Lahugala divisions of the Ampaa’rai district are marked by the place name Govi-pala. They are differentiated by prefixes. See related place names.

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Some related place names:

Parana-govipala: The old paddy fields; Lahugala division, Ampaa’rai district

Pallanoya-kivulegama-govipala: The paddy fields of the Kivulegama village (brackish water village) on the stream at below; Damana division, Ampaa’rai district. The place name uses two prefixes to differentiate and identify the village from other places having the name Govipala

Malaiyadi-govipala: The paddy fields at the bottom of the hill; Damana division, Ampaa’rai district. Malaiyadi-kiraamam is a Tamil village in the locality. The Sinhala cultivation colony there has gained a combination of Sinhala and Tamil place names.

Kivulagoda-govi-janapadaya: The agricultural village at the place Kivula-goda (brackish bank); Mahakubukkadawala division, Puththa’lam district

Goviya-pana: The cultivator’s water source; Habaraduwa division, Galle district

First published: Monday, 09 July 2012, 12:21

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