Khasi Language of Meghalaya: Basic Words & Phrases

How to be a local in Meghalaya: Learn the Khasi Language

Here are a few things you should know before you begin learning Khasi:

  • Khasi is not the only language of Meghalaya but the majority local language there
  • English is the state (official) language of Meghalaya and many people in the city and towns can understand and speak English
  • Khasi is also the majority population of Meghalaya (Khasi people and their Khasi language)
  • As you travel offbeat and explore villages and small areas, English will become useless as most locals speak only Khasi
  • Imagine Hindi and Khmer made love and had a baby – that’s Khasi language for you
  • Khasi people are related to Khmer people (Cambodians) and this reflects in their language and sounds as well
Khasi woman

Linguistic Family and Origins of Khasi


Khasi belongs to the Austroasiatic family, a diverse group of languages spoken across Southeast Asia and mainland India. This makes it distinct from the dominant Indo-European languages of India, highlighting its unique heritage.

Khasi Group:

Within the Austroasiatic family, Khasi forms the Khasic branch, with its closest relatives being Pnar, Lyngngam, and War. These languages share similarities in vocabulary, grammar, and sound systems, reflecting their common ancestry.

Geographic Distribution and Status

  • Meghalaya: Over 90% of Khasi speakers reside in the Indian state of Meghalaya, primarily in the Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills regions.
  • Official Status: While not officially recognized as a national language, Khasi enjoys associate official status in some districts of Meghalaya, reflecting its cultural and administrative importance.
  • Diaspora: Smaller Khasi communities are found in neighboring states like Assam and Bangladesh, representing the region’s historical migrations and cultural exchange.

Basic Words & Phrases LIKE LOCALS

Here are basic words & phrases very useful for local travel experiences:

  1. Greeting (Hello OR How are you?): Kumno? (with the response Kumne meaning I am fine / Kumno can also be used to ask How?)
  2. Please: Sngewbha (pronounced sngew bhaa)
  3. Thank you: Khublei (this can also be used as a greeting even though it means thank you)
  4. Thanks a lot: Khublei shibun
  5. Sorry: Map (pronounced maap)
  6. How much?: Katno?
  7. How much is this?: Katno kane?
  8. How much are these?: Katno kine?
  9. Where?: Shano?
  10. When?: Lano?
  11. Sir or Mr: Bah (Example: Katno kane bah?)
  12. Miss or Mrs: Kong
  13. What is the time now?: Katno baje mynta? (Examples: Katno baje mynta bah? / Katno baje mynta kong?)
  14. I am hungry: Nga lah thngan
  15. What is there to eat?: Don aiu ban bam?

Essential Greetings and Phrases:

  • Pha kher (Goodbye)
  • Toh ban shibun (Have a good day)
  • Shongbein? (Where are you staying?)
  • Nga pynshong ba… (I am staying at…)
  • Toh pdiang (See you later)
  • Hap hapoh! (Welcome!)
  • Kumba ban rung? (May I come in?)
  • Nga khlem dawai (I don’t understand)
  • Nga phai ruh (I understand too)
  • Ka sngi kumno? (How is the weather?)
  • Shi synduk phi! (Nice to meet you!)

Useful Verbs and Sentences:

  • Phi lah ban… (Do you want to…?)
  • Nga thoh (I think)
  • Shuwa ialade… (Please tell me…)
  • Phi phai dawai? (Do you know…?)
  • Nga kwah… (I want….)
  • Phi ialade… (You said….)
  • Nga pynshong… (I believe….)
  • Shuwa ioh jingmynjur (Please help me)
  • Phi lah pynshah? (Can you show me?)
  • Ka jingjia phi lyngkha? (How are you feeling?)

Basic Nouns and Adjectives:

  • Khawai (Book)
  • **Jingsngew ** (Music)
  • Ri (Country)
  • Sohphoh (Teacher)
  • Krem aing (Flower)
  • Jingkyrmen (Happiness)
  • Jingpyngkong (Sadness)
  • Shyrta (White)
  • Lyngkot (Small)
  • Baro (Big)
  • Shylla (Red)
  • Krem (River)
  • Wah (Forest)


  • Shi (One)
  • Ar (Two)
  • Lai (Three)
  • Lih (Four)
  • San (Five)
  • Haai (Six)
  • Hynriew (Seven)
  • Phleng (Eight)
  • Shwa (Nine)
  • Shi ar (Ten)

Food and Drinks:

  • Dohjem (Water)
  • Sohkhoh (Rice)
  • Jingkhang kpoh (Chicken curry)
  • Jingkhang dohrem (Fish curry)
  • Khawai um (Coffee)
  • Dohrum (Wine)
  • Thawla (Mango)
  • Kain (Banana)
  • Dohkseh (Tea)
  • Shor (Honey)

Places and Directions:

  • Lawkyntang (Market)
  • Lumshulong (Shillong)
  • Mawlynnong (Cleanest village)
  • Mawphlang (Sacred grove)
  • Shano ka lynti? (Which way is…?)
  • Kumba ban leit sha… (How to get to…?)
  • Phi lah ialam ia nga sha… (Can you guide me to…?)
  • Phi phai ka jaka… (Do you know the place…?)
  • Mawlyngdoh (East)
  • Mawdat (West)
  • Mawpdang (North)
  • Mawroh (South)


  • Pronunciation is crucial in Khasi, so consider using audio resources to practice.
  • This list provides a starting point, and many more words and phrases exist.
  • Explore online dictionaries and language learning platforms for further learning.
Small lettersabkdegnghiïjlmnñoprstuwy
English Pronunciationahbeekaydeeayegengesheeyeejayellemmennohpeaaaressteeoodouble yuwhy
Khasi Language Alphabet

Khublei Shibun!

Khasi tea shop

Khasi Tea: BONUS!

Here’s a special BONUS for tea lovers:

Use “cha dud” to ask for milk tea and “cha sao” for red tea without milk.

And enjoy your tea at a local Khasi shop 🙂


Writing Systems in Khasi

Latin Script: The most widely used script for Khasi is the Latin alphabet, introduced by missionaries in the 19th century. This system has facilitated literacy and communication, making it the standard for education and media.

Bengali-Assamese Script: Earlier attempts at writing Khasi employed the Bengali-Assamese script, but this system faced challenges due to its mismatch with Khasi sounds and grammar. While it still holds cultural significance, its usage is limited today.

Linguistic Features of Khasi

Tonal Language: Khasi is a tonal language, meaning that pitch variations in pronunciation can alter the meaning of words. This adds another layer of complexity to the language and requires careful pronunciation.

Gender System: Similar to many Austroasiatic languages, Khasi has a grammatical gender system with two categories: masculine and feminine. This distinction is marked by specific prefixes attached to nouns and pronouns.

Verb Conjugation: Khasi verb conjugation is complex, reflecting various aspects like tense, aspect, and mood. This system allows for precise expression of time, action, and modality.

Cultural Significance and Challenges

Identity and Heritage: As the primary language of the Khasi people, Ka Ktien Khasi plays a crucial role in maintaining their cultural identity and heritage.

Education and Development: Despite its importance, Khasi faces challenges in education and development. Limited resources, competition from other languages like Hindi and English, and lack of formal standardization can hinder its full potential.

Conservation Efforts: Recognizing these challenges, initiatives are underway to promote and preserve Khasi. These include digital archiving projects, language development programs, and incorporation of Khasi in education.