Steeped in tradition and born of the history of the institution, each Sri Lankan university has its own unique culture that is of vital importance for the continuity and stability of the institution. And like all things in life, the culture of local universities has its quirky side, too.

It is a commonly known fact that different parts of the country follow varying dialects of Sinhala and Tamil. Thus, at a place where thousands gather from different parts of the island, rather than using and confusing foreign dialects, a unique university vocabulary has been adopted by the students. Perfected and matured through generations, these are passed on, known, and understood by the seniors and juniors, of every race and colour within the university community.

In case university slang has always confused you, here’s a handy guide to help you understand and perhaps even master the local uni lingo.

Ala Wela Ala in Sinhala means potato. At university, to become ala wela means to be an outcast or someone who is ignored. Directly translated, they are calling you a potato.

Boganawa This is used to imply studying, although the actual meaning of the word is not clear.

If you don’t boganna, you shall not pass? Image credit: sjp.ac.lk

Mendis BogaThere are different types of studying one would do at university and most of these have special names. The studying done with no concern for what is happening around is known as mendis boga. Who Mendis is no one seems to remember anymore. One still studying while his roommate is dying is said to be mendis boganawa.

Kala BogaStudying done secretly is known as kala boga. E.g. Saman is kala boganawa locked up in his room in the hostel.

Gatta – In Sinhala meaning ‘edge’, this word in university means to have a separate group of friends or individuals having common interests. E.g: Matara Gatta – people from the town of Matara. E.g. That’s the posh gatta, they don’t eat normal people food.

Goda Yanawa – Directly translated means ‘to succeed’ or ‘being saved’ – at uni it means to get a girlfriend or boyfriend.

Goda Yana Deviyo – Gods that save you or help you succeed simply, GIRLS. A bunch of girls someone may be interested in would be crudely referred to as goda yana deviyo by his friends.

Ganja Wawanawa Ganja is weed and wawanawa means to grow. At uni it means to have multiple affairs at the same time. E.g. He is the ganja wawana type; don’t get caught to his flirtations.

Gaje Gahanawa It is common practice to crash at a friend’s hostel room without permission. This is known as gaje gahanawa.

Gaje Gahanawa – to crash at a friend’s hostel room without permission. Image credit: lankauniversity-news.com

Kuppiya – Meaning a small bottle or oil lamp. At uni, when a senior or friend conducts free extra classes, these are known as kuppi. There is an interesting explanation behind the kuppiya: students from rural villages with no electricity study by lamplight. Therefore, the kuppiya or oil lamp is what helps them succeed in life, and the extra classes which help the students pass their exams at university, are called a kuppiya.

LanthaarumaA lanthaaruma is a larger oil lamp in comparison to the kuppiya. Thus, while a kuppi class generally means a small number of students (two to twenty), a lanthaaruma class would mean an extra class of even 100 or more students.

Kaakka – This usually means crow. However, at uni this refers to a meal brought from home, which is a rare delicacy. The word may be used as everyone usually flocks to the food like a bunch of greedy crows.

KokkaMeans ‘hook’ and refers to a girlfriend or boyfriend.

Bath Kokka Bath means rice and kokka means a hook. A girl or boy who comes from home usually tends to bring lunch for his or her significant other. In such a situation, it is common to bug the student for being with their partner simply to get free food.

If you bring home cooked food for your significant other, chances are their friends tease them about being a bath kokka. Image credit: bitsandpiecesonphoto.com

Lambert Kokka – It is unclear how the name originated. This phrase, however, refers to a couple where the girl is from a senior batch or older than the boy.  

Paaththi Daanawa  – This means planting flower nurseries.  For some reason, girls are usually connected with anything to do with gardening or flowers and so when someone hangs out with a bunch of girls, he is said to be ‘planting nurseries’ in hopes of future benefits.   

Sanasua – Inner peace or place of sanctuary – aka the toilet. If anyone says he is going to the sanansuma, it means he is going to the toilet.

Sinna/JunnaSinna means a senior and junna is a junior. As a group, the seniors are commonly called sinno and juniors junno. This is not a word that implies disrespect or superiority; this is just who they are in reference to your own batch. E.g. That sinna is having a kuppiya at the library today. Tell the junno, it might help them too.

Thela GahanawaThela means oil and gahanawa means to hit. When one elaborates excessively or cooks up a story for the lecturers, this means to thela gahanna. E.g. The only reason that guy passed was because he is amazing at thela gahanna, not because his design was any good.

Thel Bedanawa Thel, again, means oil and bedanawa means to serve or distribute. In this case, thel bedanawa refers to giving advice. E.g. she has no experience of her own but how knows to thel bedanna well.

These are just a few words from the vast vocabulary of slang used in our universities, some of which are well known, while others are limited to the unversity of its origin. They are thrown around in the day to day conversations of any uni student, and at the end of four years become a part of one’s vocabulary. If you’ve spent enough time in a local university atmosphere to have picked up some unique words and phrases not featured here, feel free to share them in the comments below.

 Featured image courtesy: sjp.ac.lk