Your initial reaction to the title of this post may have been something like this:


but just wait –  it will all become clear eventually.


The Dhivehi word for tiger is މިނިކާވަގު (minikaavagu). Etymologically speaking, ވަގު by itself means tiger, but because ވަގު has other meanings (like “thief” and “wild”, which may or may not come from the same etymological root), the މިނިކާ part (which means “man-eating”) is added to differentiate the words from each other.

The word itself is an interesting example of how languages can retain words from their parent language despite not really needing them. Tigers have never lived in the Maldives, and until recently (35 years – give or take), very few if any Maldivians would have seen a tiger in real life. However, tigers do live in India, which is where Sanskrit – the parent language of Dhivehi – was spoken. Cognates of ވަގު can be found in modern Indian languages which are descended from Sanskrit:

  • Hindi – बाघ (bāgh)
  • Bengali – বাঘ (bagh)
  • Marathi – वाघ (vāgha)
  • Gujarati – વાઘ (vāgh)

Obviously there’s a pattern. But for some reason, the most closely related language to Dhivehi is different to the rest:

  • Sinhalese – කොටි (koṭi)

Apparently there was a “nomenclature mishap” in the late 1980s, whatever that means. Nonetheless, this is a serious case of Differenze Linguistiche.

Interestingly, the Sinhalese word for tiger resembles the word used in a Dravidian language:

  • Malayalam – കടുവ (kaṭuva)

Interestingly again, the Malayalam word does not match with the words used in other Dravidian languages:

  • Tamil – புலி (puli)
  • Telugu – పులి (puli)
  • Kannada – ಹುಲಿ (huli)
  • Tulu – ಪಿಲಿ (pili)

Another case of differenze linguistiche.

Back to the Point

Getting back to the Indo-Aryan languages, they all stem from Sanskrit. The word for tiger in Sanskrit is व्याघ्र (vyāghra).

Have you made the connection yet?


If you looked at vyāghra and thought “that sounds a lot like that drug that some men take to fix their…problems downstairs”, then you’ve got it…kind of.

The brand name Viagra may or may not be based on the Sanskrit word for tiger – there isn’t enough proof apparently. But it makes sense to base the name on an animal which represents strength and power (considering what Viagra does). There’s also another Sanskrit word, व्यग्र (vyagra), which means “excited”, “frantic”, or “eager”; also in line with the function of Viagra. I guess there’s no way of knowing, really.

I’ll leave you with a link to an interesting blog post about the etymology of the English word, and this differenze linguistiche image:

Differenze Linguistiche Tiger Dhivehi Hindi