A dictionary in Konkani… five inches thick!

Frederick Noronha | GOA

You might run across Damodar K.K. Ghanekar cycling in Panjim, quite absent-mindedly and lost deep in thought. Without much ado, and spending half-a-dozen years over the task, Ghanekar recently put together Konkani’s most ambitious dictionary, one which spans over two thousand pages! To undertake a task of this scale, perhaps one needs to be lost in a world of one’s own!

But appearances can be deceptive. Ghanekar’s visiting card describes himself as a Konkani teacher, lexicographer, encyclopedist, journalist, and a legal and technical translator.

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Recently, he shared with the Goa Book Club what went into his most ambitious work of love, a Konkani dictionary that heavy and thick, vast and impressive.

Augusto Pinto, the Goa-based translator, book reviewer and educator called this “The Most Elaborate Konkani Dictionary So Far”.

Pinto drew our (belated) attention to the work, saying:

I purchased the Rajhans publication ‘Konkani Sachitr Ashtangi Abhyaskosh’ (roughly Konkani Illustrated Comprehensive Scholarly-Dictionary) published in 2009. It is edited by Damodar Keshav Ghanekar and its Technical Advisor is Suresh Jaywant Borkar and has 2029 pages besides another 81 pages of Introduction and Appendices.


It is by far the most elaborate Konkani-Konkani dictionary published so far. Although it is in the Devanagari script, it does indicate roots of words in the Roman script, when words are derived from Portuguese, English and foreign languages. Besides meanings, it has an Introduction which describes the development of the Konkani language, and also gives word etymologies, pronunciation, idioms and phrases, grammatical issues and other matters. The dictionary costs Rs 3700 for institutions although the price is Rs 1200 for individuals.


It is published by Rajhauns, the Panjim-based publisher with literally hundreds of titles to its credit. (Rajhauns is now more into educational texts and study aids, but has published quite a few Goa-related books in the past.)

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Damodar Ghanekar

Says the publishers Rajhauns about this book: “Thousands of people, both Goans and from beyond Goa, use Konkani for various purposes in education, literature, journalism, and publishing. This dictionary was created for them to get access to the needed information. It offers meanings of the words. To enhance their knowledge of vocabulary, a number of meanings have been given. Not just this, in some cases, even the opposites have been given. To understand the language’s vocabulary without trouble, the ‘samanyaroop’ and ‘kriyapads’ (verbal nouns) are also offered in quite many cases.”

Ghanekar is modest about his achievement, which has been out in the market for a couple of years now. Unfortunately, like many made-in-Goa
products, is probably not recognised adequately recognised in its own home.

“Five minutes are sufficient (to explain the concept),” says Ghanekar. He translates the tongue-twisting title of the book to mean “Konkani Illustrated Eight-Fold, Learners’ Dictionary”. Why is it called eight-fold?

“We give the head-word, then the part of speech it belongs to, its gender, the oblique form of the word (for example, mez-mezak), whether it is used singly or without a plural, then the meaning, and then the oblique form of the plural (which can change slightly in Konkani), and a few English and many Portuguese words (which are frequently used in Konkani).”

Ghanekar notes that his dictionary defines verbs as transitive or intransitive. There is a root given, and sometimes even the negative form of the word.

Portuguese missionaries created impressive and path-breaking dictionaries and grammars for Konkani centuries ago; many were firsts of their kind among Asian and South Asian languages.

Goa had the first movable-type printing press in Asia, as far back as the mid-sixteenth century. Even if things came here by accident (and early Portuguese rule), this tiny region on the west coast of India does have many firsts to its credit.

The first Konkani grammar was published by Fr.Andre Vaz at St.Paulo College at Old Goa. The Konkani language had its first Konkani-Portuguese dictionary as far back as in 1567. Missionary priests of Rachol Seminary are credited with having compiled the first ever dictionary in any Indian language giving 15000 Konkani words and their vocables in Portuguese.

The English Jesuit priest Thomas Stephens also published the Arte da Lingoa Canarim (A Grammer of Konkani, 1640), as noted on the Wikipedia page on Goan Catholic literature.

Local language skills were also needed for religious purposes. And some deployed them thoroughly. Jesuit missionaries also produced works
during the seveenteenth century in local dialects of Marathi and Konkani  like the Krista Purana (The Christian Purânna) in 1616, 1649, and 1654. No copies of these editions are extant.

The ‘Krista Purana’ (The Christian Purânna) is a  metrical composition, consisting of 10,962 strophes.

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But what has been the recent contribution to that field? Shripad Desai had a Konkani dictionary of four volumes, but that lacked the ‘samanya
roop’, which Ghanekar feels (the oblique form) is important.

At the recent book club meet, there was a discussion on how many ‘frequently-used words’ Konkani has and how many are needed to get a
rudimentary understanding of the language, for someone wanting to learn it. This dictionary plunges into the deep end of the pool, and has something like 50,000 entries (if I heard right!)

“All this was collated only while I was sitting in the office. If we had toured (the remote areas of) Sattari or Canacona, we would have got four more volumes,” Ghanekar adds, without a touch of irony.

He notes with pride that the dictionary has a number of illustrations too. The dictionary has illustrations of things which are not available today.

For instance, the adoli (adov), the local cutting-device which was once prominent in the Goan kitchen. Or tabulphalem, the table-based game made of wood  whose outcome depended on the way in which the long sticks it deployed fell. “Now nobody knows the rules of the game,” he laments. Then, there’s the temflam… local seeds of sort that go into what could be called the Goan version of a pea-shooter.

All in all, an ambitious and useful contribution to the world of contemporary Konkani. Ghanekar’s work, when printed, is five inches thick. One hopes it serves many advanced learners of the language, and can somehow appeal beyond the divides of script and dialect, which still constrain the growth potential of a language like Konkani.

Konkani Sachitr Ashtangi Abhyaskosh
Damodar K. Ghanekar
(Technical advisor) Suresh J. Borkar
ISBN : 978-81-7810-534-5
Price : Rs. 3700 and  Rs. 1200 (for individuals only)
Contact the reviewer 2409490 or fn@goa-india.org

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About fredericknoronha

Alt.Publishing. Journalism. Books. Cyberspace. Networking.

One comment

  1. Wonderful website. A lot of helpful information here. I am sending it to some friends ans additionally sharing in delicious. And certainly, thank you to your effort!

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