A semantic overview of Anglo-Indian borrowing: linguistic areas and contact effects.

Claudia Magaly Ciceros Cetina

MªTeresa Galarza Ballester


It is natural for languages to adopt words from other languages and make them part of the vocabulary: this process is known as borrowing.

The following paper analyses the concept of linguistic diversity and borrowing, focusing on a glossary of Anglo-Indian words. It also contains an overview of the linguistic situation in India, and deepens on the theoretical concepts of: linguistic areas, contact effects and borrowing.

We have obtained the glossary from Skeat's dictionary, and we have only included the words which appear in the OED, taking into account the semantic changes those words have undergone.

A semantic overview of Anglo-Indian borrowing: linguistic areas and contact effects.

Starting Point

About 1652 different languages are spoken in the different parts of India,(see Appendix 1) according to the census of 1991. (Thapar xiii). Most of the languages belong to the Aryan and Dravidian families: languages spoken in the south come from the Dravidian family and the languages of the north are of Aryan origin.(See map. Appendix 2). The modern Aryan languages are considered to have evolved from Sanskrit while the origin of Dravidian languages is not clear, however, the majority of linguists believe that the Dravidian language family is completely unrelated to any other language families.

Sanskrit was the language of the upper-classes in ancient times, and derived to Prakrit between the 6th c.BC and the 10th c AD. From the 10th c. on modern languages developed. In the north of the country appeared Panjabi, Bengali, Gullerati, Marathi, Oriya, Assamese, as well as Hindi; in the south appeared Tamil, Telegu, Kannada and Malayalam.

Later on, under Muslim rule, Urdu was used instead of Hindi by the ruling classes throughout the period; thus, an important amount of Persian words entered the language.

The British colonization of India began in the 18th c, then many words entered the language and made up a dynamic conglomeration of Hindi, Urdu and English, which today is known as Hindustani. This language has been widely used up until the Independence of India, from then on Hindi became the official language of the country.

Hindi and English

Despite the wide distance and cultural diversity, English and Hindi belong both to the Indo-European language family, having, therefore, a close historical relationship which origin is still undetermined in ancient times.

Later on, Hindi and English converged again in the geographical peninsula called India nowadays, due to the British penetration into India. In this manner, the British conquest led to the annexations of territories that progressively caused contact between languages.

Taking into account the linguistic areas India had developed along the history, then it is natural to imagine how British got by to communicate with natives and how could this contact effects provoked loan words into English.

Consequently, during the conquest to define the official language was one of the principal concerns. M.K. Gandhi and others backed Hindustani for the national language, since Hindustani, called by Europeans the non-literary form of Hindi, was for centuries the lingua franca, which served as a link to communicate between northern and central speakers.

After the Hindustani movement disintegrated, in the present time we can witness the Standard Hindi as the official language of India and the great importance of English.

Linguistic areas in India and contact effects.

A linguistic area has been defined as a 'geographical region containing a group of three or more languages that share some structural features as a result of contact rather than as a result of accident or inheritance from a common ancestor'.(Grey Thomason 1). There are about 1652 languages spoken in India, we thus think India is a country with many linguistic areas. 'It is assumed that the greater the number of individuals who control two or more of the varieties spoken in a linguistically heterogeneous region and who use them alternatively in the course of their daily routine, the greater the likelihood that features from one system will diffuse into another'. (Gumperz 151). It has been said that there must be at least three languages before a region counts as a Sprachbund, then 'Sprachbund is multidirectional while structural interference in two language contact is unidirectional', so the features shared in the Indo-Aryan / Dravidian border did not all originate in the same language, while in the North of the country contact situation has been all from Sanskrit to Hindustani. There is insistence on structural features since shared vocabulary is not enough to establish a linguistic area, moreover the shared features must be due to contact, otherwise the similarities would be due to a common ancestors, which is the case of the Indo-Aryan languages in the north of the country. Thus, 'language contact can result in such far reaching change that the affected language assumes a different structural type'. (Gumperz, 151)

Regarding to language change, it is hard to determine predictions of linguistic change of any kind since there are always exceptions to generalisations, moreover the researches performed about language change are usually based on assumptions that after further studies had displayed a great number of exceptions represented by counterexamples, in other words, referring to language change deterministic and absolute predictions are impossible to establish, 'historical linguists know that any search for deterministic predictions of language change is bound to fail, whether the focus is on internally-motivated change or on contact-induced change'.(Grey Thomason 1)

It would be interesting to know what effects this linguistic areas will originate in the future. Will it be maintained the actual conglomeration of languages or will only prevail some of the languages?

Gumperz studied the case of the Indo-Aryan / Dravidian border in India, there the varieties of languages are different systems and despite of the convergence remain distinct. He focused on Kupwar village in Sangli district, Maharashtra. The village had a population of 3.000 and 4 languages: kannada, Urdu, Marathi and Telugu. Although there has been regular interaction between the 4 languages all of them are used. 'The major factor in language maintenance is that the local norms or values require strict separation between public and private spheres of activity'.(Gumperz 153)

In the research syntax and semantics were studied, and concluded that both lexical and grammatical items can be borrowed, although the semantic borrowings are more frequent.


Borrowing is the process of incorporating into one language elements which originally belong to another. 'It is common for one language to take words from another language and make them part of its own vocabulary: these are called loanwords and the process is called linguistic borrowing'.(Campbell 57). However, not only the words content can be borrowed but sounds, grmmatical morphemes or syntactic patterns.

Borrowing requires language contact, it implies at least a certain degree of bilingualism for some people in the 'donor language'and those of the 'recipient language', so that loanwords can occur. 'A loanword is a lexical item (a word ) which has been borrowed from another language, a word which originally was not part of the vocabulary of the recipient language but was adopted from some other language and made part of the borrowing language's vocabulary'.(Campbell 58).

There are reasons why languages borrow words. The main reason is that the word is needed, it happens when a new word for a new concept from abroad enters the language, as the Hindu word sari. The second main reason is 'for prestige', since the foreign acquisition is highly appreciated, as it is the case of the word bungalow in Spain, which we think it is esteemed as it sounds posh. A much rarer reason for adopting a loanword is the opposite of prestige, i.e, borrowing due to negative evaluation, as we think could be the case of the word thug.

When the words are borrowed the pronunciation also changes, it is remodelled to the conventions of the new language, this process is called adaptation, 'a foreign sound in borrowed words which does not exist in the receiving language will be replaced by the nearest phonetic equivalent to it in the borrowing language'.(Campbell 61). Retroflex consonants of Indo-Aryan languages owe their origin to contact with Dravidian languages, it is a case of phonological borrowing due to the intensity of the contact.

There are different conditions that might influence the outcome of borrowing, such as 'length, the intensity of the contact, the kind of interaction and the degree of bilingualism in the population'. The longer and the more intense contact be, the more probabilities to introduce new phonemes into the borrowing language, 'this is sometimes called direct phonological diffusion.' (Campbell 62).

The borrowed words undergo phonological changes, which are not always uniform. The same sound can be borrowed in one way or another, basically because different words are borrowed at different times; that's why some of the words are easily recognizable as Indian words but there are others, which are seldom recognized as being of Indian origin.

In order to identify when a word is a loanword we should identify the donor language and the recipient language; then the main clue may be the sound: 'words containing sounds which are not normally expected in native words are candidates for loans'.(Campbell 64). Another clue is based on the phonological history: 'in some cases where the phonological history of the languages of a family is known, information concerning the sound changes that they have undergone can be helpful for determining loans, the direction of borrowing, and what the donor language was.' (Campbell 65)

The morphology of words can also help to determine where the term comes from, if a word is very complex and the recipient language has a simple morphology, surely the word is a borrowing from a complex language, for instance the word kana 'one-eyed'appears to be borrowed from Proto-Dravidian kan 'eye'+ a 'negative suffix'1, and it is the morphological complexity of the Dravidian form which shows the direction of the borrowing (Campbell 67). Thus, loanwords can represent an evidence for historical linguistics since they help to establish the older stages of a language before the changes ocurred.

Cognates are also a clue for discovering when a word is a loan, they are usually found in several languages of the same family, which means that one of them is the donor language.

There are geographical clues as well, as it is the case of anaconda, which had not an eqivalent word in the recipient language since it only had a geographical identity in the donor language.

Sometimes, the graphemes of the word are not borrowed but the meaning it is, this is called calques or loan translations, but we are not going to focus on this issue.

Definitively, there are certain characteristics that are easily recognizable of the words that came into English. First of all, many words did not have equivalents in English, such as yoga or sari. Some other words were given a different meaning, as nirvana. However notice that words were not substituted by English words, as it happened in other periods with words of Latin origin.

From Persian came into English such words as bazaar and caravan. Moreover, some words were borrowed from Persian in India, as seersucker which is 'an Indian modification of Persian shir or shakkar, milk and sugar, the name of a fabric that came into vogue in America' (Pyles 306). From Sanskrit come, avatar, karma, mahatma, and swastika, 'a good luck symbol in India, is thought of as naming a symbol of the nazi party in Germany' (Pyles 307).Ginger is Prakrit and from Hindustani come sari, shampoo, thug, pajamas, maharaja. The Dravidian languages spoken in the south of India have also contributed words as curry and catamaran.


The pronunciation also changed in the Indian borrowings. We think that the pronunciation was adapted to 'English conventions'. 'Borrowed words are usually remodelled to fit the phonological and morphological structure of the borrowing language, at least in early stages of language contact'. (Campbell 60).

Vowels may appear in Hindi in two different ways: as a syllable in its own or going together with a consonant. When consonants appear isolated without surrounding vowels in a syllable, then the phoneme /a/ is pronunciated although it is not written.

In the Hindi alphabet vowels appear in the following order:












Vowels with a diacritic symbol are long, except the vowel e, which is equivalent to a wide open e in Spanish. (Thapar 3-4).

There are 36 consonants + 5 consonants from Urdu.

k(a), velar.

kh(a), velar + aspirated h.

g(a), velar.

gh(a), velar + aspirated h.

ng(a), nasal, velar.

ch(a), pre-palatal.

chh(a),pre-palatal + aspirated h.

ll(a), pre-palatal, as in joy.

llh(a), pre-palatal + aspirated h.

nll(a), nasal, pre-palatal.

t(a), dental.

th(a), dental + aspirated h.

d(a), dental.

dh(a), dental, retroflex + aspirated h.

nr(a),nasal + retroflex r.


th(a), dental + aspirated h.

d(a), dental.

dh(a), dental + aspirated h.

n(a),dental, nasal.


ph(a), labial + aspirated h

b(a), bilabial.

bh(a),labial + aspirated h.

m(a),labial, nasal

y(a), palatal, semi-vowel.

r(a), alveolar, post-dental.

l(a), alveolar.

v(a), labio-dental.

sh(a), sh(a), pre-palatal, fricative, as in 'shadow'.

s(a), fricative, alveolar.

h(a), glotal.

ksh(a), velar + pre-palatal, fricative.

tr(a), dental, alveolar.

gy(a), velar + palatal, semi-vowel.

Consonants from Urdu to Hindustani:

k(a), velar.


kg(a), velar.

zs(a), post-dental, fricative, as in zipper.

f(a), labio-dental fricative.

(Data obtained from Thapar 3-22),(see appendix 3)

As we said above, we think that the pronunciation was adapted to 'English conventions'. For instance, the word 'calico', from Malayalam Kōļikōdu, appears in Hindustani as calico, pronounced /kaliko/ according to Hindi phonemes, and pronounced in English.

The major difficulty we have faced during this research has been the phonological aspect. Due to the huge diversity of vernacular Indian languages it has been impossible to determine how a word exactly sounds in the original language. Since linguistical areas do not have a standard pronunciation system, for instance a Hindi speaker ignores how a Tamil word is pronounced 'in Tamil' dialect, then in order to know the original pronunciation of a word we should have found a speaker for every Indian language.

Appendix 1

National or official languages: Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Panjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, English (Associate Official). 1,000,000,000 (1999 IMA). 7% classified as tribals. Indo-Aryan languages: 491,087,116, 74.24%, Dravidian languages: 157,836,723, 23.86%, Austro-Asiatic languages 7,705,011, 1.16%, Tibeto-Burman languages 4,071,701, .62% (1987 Mahapatra). 15 national languages. 1,683 'mother tongues' (official figure). An estimated 850 languages in daily use (Todd and Hancock 1986). Literacy rate 36% to 52%. Also includes Judeo-Iraqi Arabic, Armenian 560, Burushaski, Western Farsi 18,000, Geman Deng, Lisu 1,000, Northern Pashto 15,000, Portuguese 250,000, Russian 1,036, Thami, Chitwania Tharu, Kathoriya Tharu, Uyghur, Walungge, Arabic, Chinese. Information mainly from G. Marrison 1967; R. Hugoniot 1970; C. Masica 1991; K.S. Singh 1994, 1995; J. Matisoff et al. 1996; R. Breton 1997; R. Burling ms. (1999).


Languages recognized by the Indian constitution: Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telegu, Urdu.





Campbell, Lyle. Historical Linguistics, An Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998.

Gumperz, J & Wilson, R. 'Convergence and creolisation: A case from the Indo-Aryan / Dravidian border' pp. 151-167 of Pidginization and creolisationof languages, ed. By Dell Hymes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971.

Grey Thomason, Sarah. On the unpredictability of contact effects. University of Pittsburgh, 1997.

Grey Thomason, Sarah. Linguistic areas and language history. University of Michigan, 1999.

Pyles, T & Algeo, J. The Origins and development of the English language. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc, 1993.

Thapar, Ana. Gramática de Hindi. Madrid, Alhambra, 1987.


Skeat, W.W.

OED. Oxford English Dictionary.

Electronic References





The following list of words has been taken from Skeats dictionary. The definitions have been obtained from the OED, 2nd edition.


Anaconda (>Cingalese)

Occurs in Ray, in a List of Indian serpents from the Leyden Museum as “ anacandaia” of the Ceylonese, i.e. he that crushes the limbs of buffaloes and yoke beasts”, but not now a native name in Ceylon, and not satisfactorily explained either in Cingalese or Tamil. Cf. However anaik'k'onda 'having killed an elephant`. Originally applied by English writers to a large snake of Ceylon and loosely applied to any large snake which crushes its prey.


An East Indian denomination of money, the 16th part of a rupee.

Avatar (>Sanskrit)

Hindoo Myth. The descent of a deity to the earth in an incarnate form. Loosely, manifestation, display, phase.


Bandanna (>Hindustani from Sanskrit-Hindi)

Hindustani bāndhnū 'a mode of dyeing in which the cloth is tied in different places, to prevent the parts from receiving the dye`. The name is now applied to cotton hankerchiefs also, and the pattern is produced by chemical agency.

Bandicoot (>Telegu)

Corruption of Telegu pandi-kokku, 'pig-rat`. A large Indian rat, as big as a cat, and very destructive. Also applied to a genus of insectivorous Australian marsupials.


Hindi bangrī, orig. a coloured glass ring worn on the wrist by women. Anglo-Indian bangle, a ring-bracelet or anklet.


It has been adopted in Hindustani and seems to have come into English through Italian.

An Oriental market consisting of ranges of shops where all kinds of merchandise are offered.

Brahma. (>Sanskrit)

The supreme god. In the later pantheistic systems, the divine realitity, of which the entire universe of matter and mind is only a manifestation.


A variety of domestic fowl, said to have been first brought on the river Brahmaputra.

Brahmin (>Sanskrit)

Sanskrit brāhmana, praise, worship. The form brahmin, is a corruption of the Indian vernacular pronunciation. During the present century Orientalists have adopted the more correct Brahman. A member of the highest or priestly caste among the Hindus.

Derived words: Bramanhood, Brahminee, Brahminic, Brahminical, Brahminicide, Brahminism, Brahmism/Bramism.

Bungalow (>Hindi-Hindustani)

Hindustani banglā, meaning 'belonging to Bengal'. A one-storied house (or temporary building), lightly built, usually with a thatched roof.


Calico (>Hindustani)

From the name of Indian city called in Malayalam Kōļikōdu, . It is not clear how the word calico arose, it may have been an English corruption. 1. The name of a city on the coast of Malabar, in the 16th c the chief port of intercourse between India and Europe. 2. Hence: a general name for cotton cloth of all kinds imported from the East. 3.adj. Of calico, calico ball, a ball where the ladies wear only cotton dresses. 4. calico-printer/calico-printing, the art of producing a pattern on calico by printing in colours.

Cash (>Tamil from Sanskrit)

Tamil kāsu, a small coin, or weight of money. Sanskrit karsha, a wight of silver or gold, Singhalese kāsi, coin. 1.A name applied by Europeans to various coins of low value in the East Indies and China. 2. money in the form of notes and coins.

Catamaran (>Tamil)

Tamil kaţţa-maram tied tree or wood. (katta tie, bond; maram wood). A kind of raft or float, consisting of two, three or more logs tied together side by side, used in the East Indies. Also applied to similar craft used in the West Indies for short voyages.

Champak (>Hindustani from Sanskrit)

Hindi champak, Bengali champaka, Sanskrit chāmpākā. A species of Magnolia, a beautiful Indian tree.

Cheetah (>Hindustani from Sanskrit)

Hindi chītā, Sanskrit chitraka, speckled, variegated.The Hunting Leopard, which is tamed and used for hunting deer in India.

Chintz (>Hindustani from Sanskrit)

Hindi chīnt, Mahrati chīt, Sanskrit chitra. A name for the painted calicoes imported from India; now, a name for cotton cloths fast-printed with designs of flowers in a number of colours.

Chutney (>Hindustani)

Hindi chatni. A strong hot relish or condiment compounded of ripe fruits, acids, or sour herbs, and flavoured with chillies, spices, etc.

Coir (>Malayalam)

Malayalam kāyar. The prepared fibre of the husk of the coco-nut, used for making ropes, cordage, matting, etc. Originally, the thread or cordage made of this fibre.

Coolie (>Hindustani)

Found in the Indian vernaculars generally: Urdu qulī, Bengali kūlī, Malayalam kūli. A name of a numerous aboriginal tribe of Guzerat, formerly noted as robbers, but now settling down respectable labourers and cultivators. 2. The name given by Europeans in India and China to a native hired labourer or burden-carrier; also used in other countries where these men are empleyed as cheap labourers.

Corundum (>Tamil from Sanskrit)

Tamil kurundam, Telegu kuruvindam, Hindi kurund, Sanskrit kuruvinda. A crystallized mineral belonging to the same species as the sapphire and ruby. 2. Used as the name of a mineral species, it consists of crystallized alumina variously coloured.

Cotta (>Hindi)

Hind. Katthā. A small land measure containing eighty square yards.

Cowry (>Hindustani from Sanskrit)

Hindi and Urdu kauri, sanskrit kaparda, kapardika. The porcelain-like shell of a small gastropod, found abundantly in the Indian Ocean, and used as money in some parts of Africa and Southern Asia, also the animal itself.

Crore (>Hindustani from Sanskrit)

Hindi kărōr, krōr, Prakrit krodi, Sanskrit koti. Ten millions, or one hundred lakhs (usually of rupees).

Cutcherry (>Hindustani)

Hindi kachahri, kacheri, hall or chamber of audience, hence, court for administration of business, office, town-house.

Curry (>Tamil)

Tamil Kari, Canarese Karil. Sauce, relish for rice. A preparation for meat , fish, fruit, or vegetables, cooked with a quantity of bruised spices and turmeric, and used as a relish or flavouring for dishes composed of or served with rice.


Dacoit (>Hindustani from Sanskrit)

Hindi dakait, Sanskrit dashtaka. A member of a class of robbers in India and Burmah, who plunder in armed bands.

Dawk (>Hindustani)

Hindi and Marathi dāk, Sanskrit drāk. Post or transport by relays of men or horses stationed at intervals; a relay of men or horses for carrying mails, etc. or passengers in palanquins.

Deodar (>Hindustani)

Hindi de'odar, dewdar. Sanskrit deva-dara. A divine tree. It is given in various parts of India to other trees besides this with which has come into Europe.

Dinghy (>Hindi)

Hindi dēngī, small boat. Originally, a native rowing-boat in use upon Indian rivers. In the West India applied to a small sailing-boat used on the coast.

Dungaree (>Hindi)

Hindi dungrī. A kind of coarse inferior Indian calico.

Durbar (>Hindi)

Persian and Urdu darbār. The court kept by an Indian ruler; a public audience held by a native prince or by a British governor or viceroy in India. 2. The hall or place of audience.


Ghaut (>Hindustani)

Hindi ghāt. 1. The Ghauts: the name applied by Europeans to two chains of mountains along the eastern and western sides of Southern Hindostan. 2. A mountain pass or defile. 3. A passage or flight of steps leading to the river-side; hence a leading place, the place of a ford or ferry.

Ghee (>Hindustani from Sanskrit)

Hindi ghī, Sanskrit ghrta. Butter made from buffalo's milk, clarified by boiling, so as to resemble oil in consistency.


A hindu spiritual teacher or head of a religious sect.

Gunny (>Hindi)

Hindi and Mahrati gōn, gōnī. Sanskrit gōnī.A coarse material used chiefly for sacking and made from the fibres of jute or (in some parts) from sunnhemp; a sack of this material.


Hackery (>Hindi from Sanskrit)

Hindi chhakrā. The common native bullock-cart of India used for the transport of goods; also, in Western India and Ceylon, as formerly in Bengal, applied to a lighter carriage (drawn sometimes by horses) for the conveyance of persons.


Jaconet (>Hindustani from Sanskrit)

Urdu Jagannāthi. A cotton fabric originally imported from India, but now manufactured in England. The application of the name has undergone change; in the trade it now means 'a plain cotton cloth of medium thickness or weight, lighter than a shirting, and heavier than a mull.

Juggernaut (>Hindi)

Hindi Jagannāth. Sanskrit Jagannātha 'lord of the world'. 1. Hindu Myth. A title of Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu. 2. An institution, practice, or notion to which persons blindly devote themselves, or are ruthlessly sacrificed.

Jungle (>Hindi)

Hindi and Mahrati jangal desert, waste forest. Sanskrit jangala dry, dry ground, desert.

1. In India, originally, as a native word, waste or uncultivated ground. 2. A wild, tangled mass.

Jute (>Bengali from Sanskrit)

Bengali jhōto, jhuto. Sanskrit juta. The fibre obtained from the bark of the plants corchorus capsularis and c. olitorius, imported chiefly from Bengal, and used in the manufacture of gunny, canvas, bagging, cordage, etc.


koppara (not found OED)


Lac (>Hindustani from Sanskrit)

Hindustani lākh, Prakrit lakkha, Sanskrit lākshā. 1. The dark-red resinuous incrustation produced on certain trees by the puncture of an insect. It is used in the East as a scarlet dye. 2. The colour of lac, crimson. 3. The varnish made from lac.

Lama (>Thibetan)

Thibetan blama, the b being silent. The title given to the Buddhist priests of Mongolia and Thibet. Derived words Lamaic, Lamaism, Lamaistic, Lamaite.

Loot (Hindi from Sanskrit)

Hindi lūt, Sanskrit lōtra, lōptra. Goods taken from an enemy, a captured city, etc. in time of war; also, in a wider sense, something taken by force or with violence.


Maharajah (>Sanskrit-Hindi)

Hindi mahārājā. The title of certain Indian princes. Derived words maharani, the wife of a maharajah.

Mahatma (>Sanskrit)

Sanskrit mahātman, 'great-souled'. In Esoteric Buddhism, one of a class of persons with preternatural powers, imagined to exist in India and Tibet.

Mahout (>Hindustani)

Hindi mahāut, mahāwat. An elephant-driver.


Hindi marhatta. One of a warlike Hindu race occupying the central and south-western parts of India. 2. The language of the Mahrattas, also written mahratti.


Hindi mahāsir, Sanskrit mahāciras 'big-head'. A large Indian freshwater cyprinoid fish, resembling the barbel.


Hindi mahwa, mahūa, Sanskrit madhūka. 1. An East Indian timber tree. 2. An ardient spirit distilled from the flowers of the mahwa tree.

Mango (>Tamil)

Tamil mān-kāy, Malay magā. The fruit of a tree in India.

Mulligatawny (>Tamil)

Tamil milagu-tannīr 'pepper-water'.An East Indian highly seasoned soup.

Mungoose/mongoose (>Telegu)

Marathi mangūs, Telegu mangisu, Konkani mungasa, Canarese mungisi. 1. An ichneumon, common in India and well-known for its ability to kill venomous snakes unharmed. 2. A species of lemur or maki.


Nabob (>Hindi)

Urdu nawwāb 'deputy governor'. 1. The title of certain officials. 2. A person of great wealth, one who has returned from India with a large fortune acquired there. Derived words: nabo·bery, 'a place frequented by nabobs' , nabo·bical, nabobish, nabobism, nabobical, nabobess, nabobship.

Nautch (>Hindustani from Prakrit from Sanskrit)

Urdu/Hindi nāch. Prakrit nachcha. Sanskrit nrilya. 'dancing, acting'. An East Indian exhibition of dancing, performed by professional dancing girls.

Nullah (> nn6Hindustani)

Hindi nālā ' brook, rivulet, ravine'. A river or stream.


Pajamas (>Hindi)

Persian pāё, pāŸ foot, leg + jāmah clothing, garment. 1. Loose drawers or trousers, usually of silk or cotton, tied round the waist, worn by both sexes amongst the Mohammedas, and adopted by europeans, especially for night wearing. 2. In England often in trade use inaccurately applied to a sleeping suit or loose trousers and jacket.

Pal (>Gipsy)

Eng, Gypsy pal brother, mate=Turkish Gipsy pral, plal, Gipsy peral brother. A comrade, mate, partner, associate 'chum'; an accomplice in crime or dishonesty. Derived words Pallish, Pally, Palliness, Palship.

Pariah (>Tamil)

Tamil Paraiyar, name of the largest of the lower castes in Southern India. 1. A member of a very extensive low caste in Southern India. 2. Hence, extended to a member of any low Hindoo caste, and by Europeans even applied to one of no caste, an outcaste. 3. Any person (or animal) of a degraded or despised class; a social outcast.4. Also applied to animals of low breed or things of base quality.

Patchouli (>Tamil)

Patchouli 'the vernacular name over the greater part of the Madras Presidency', the elements of which are refer by some to Tamil pach, pachai-green and ilai leaf. Bengali pacha-pat (pat leaf) and Eng putcha-leaf, or patch-leaf. 1.An odoriferous plant native to Silhat, Penang, and the Malay peninsula, the dried leaves of which are used for various purposes in the East. 2. A penetrating and lasting perfume prepared from this plant.

Pawnee (>Hindustani from Sanskrit)

pōaī. The person which whom something is deposited as a pawn or pledge. Derived words, Pawner, Pawnshop.


Hindi paisā, a coppet coin, the fourth part of an ana; Skr pad, padī, quarter. A small East Indian copper coin equal in value to one-fourth of an anna. Derived words, Piceworth.

Polo (>Balti)

Balti polo, Tibetan pulu. A game of Eastern origin resembling hockey, played on horseback with long-handled clubs and a wooden ball.

Puggery (>Hindustani)

Hindi pagrī a turban. A light turban or head-covering worn by Indian natives.

Punch (>Hindi from Sanskrit)

Marathi and Hindi word, pānch, Sanskrit pañchan, Persian panj, five, from its five ingredients, which may show an explanation then current in the East. 1. A beverage now generally composed of wine or spirits mixed with hot water or milk, and flavoured with sugar, lemons, and some spice or cordial; but varying greatly in composition with time and place. 2. Applied in Barbados to a drink fermented from sugar. 3. A bowl or drink of punch.

Pundit (>Sanskrit-Hindi)

Hindi pandit, Sanskrit pandita, learned, skilled; a learned man. A learned Hindu; one versed in Sanskrit and in the philosophy, religion and jurisprudence of India. 2. A learned expert or teacher. Derived words, Punditly, Punditship.

Pukka (>Hindi)

Hindi pakkā, cooked, ripe, mature. Strong, severe, malignant. Sure, certain, reliable.

Punkah (>Hindustani from Sanskrit)

Hindi pankhā a fan, orig.a hand-fan. Sanskrit pakshaka fan, paksha wing. 1. A portable fan, generally made from the leaf of the palmyra. 2. A large swinging and made of cloth stretched on a rectangular frame, suspended from the ceiling or rafters, and worked by a cord so as to agitate and freshen the air in hot weather.


Rajah (>Sanskrit)

Hindi rājā, Sanskrit rājan king. Originally the title given in India to a king or prince; in the later times extended to petty chiefs or dignataries or confered as a title of nobility on Hindus. Derived words, rajpoot, rajahship.

Ranee (>Hindustani from Sanskrit)

Hindi rānī=Sanskrit rājnī fem rāja. A Hindu queen.

Rupee (>Hindustani from Sanskrit)

Sansk rupya wrought silver. The monetary unit of India, represented by a silver coin.


Sahib (>Hindi)

Urdu çāhib, orig.'friend'. A respectful title used by the natives of India in addressing an Englishman or other European. Also, in native use, an Englishman, a European. Sahiba, lady.

Sari (>Hindi)

Hindi sār(h)ī. A long wrapping garment of cloth or silk, usually of a bright colour, worn by Hindu women; also, the material of which this is composed.

Shampoo (>Hindustani-Hindi)

Hindi čāmpo. 1. To subject a person (his limbs) to massage.2. To subject (the scalp) to washing and rubbing with some cleanasing agent, as soap and water, shampoo powder,etc.

Suffee (>Sanskrit)

Ar çūfi. Lit 'man of wool'. One of a sect of Mohammedan ascetic mystics who in later times embraced pantheistic views.

Swastika (>Sanskrit)

Sk. svastika, svasti well-being, fortune, luck. Su good+ asti being. A primitive symbol or ornament of the form of a cross with equal arms with a limb of the same length projecting at right angles from the end of each arm, all in the same direction and usually clockwise


Teak (>Malayalam)

Malayal tekka, in Tamil tekku, Telugu teku, Tulu tekki, Canarese tegu, tega, tengu. 1. A large East Indian tree. 2. Applied, usually with defining words, to other trees which produce strong or durable timber, or otherwise resemble the Indian teak.

Thug (>Hindustani)

Hindi thag, Mahr thag, thak, a cheat, swindler. One of an association of professional robers and murders in India, who strangled their victims.

Tomtom (>Bengali)

Hindustani or other E.Indian vernacular tam-tam. Sinhalese tamattama, Malay tong-tong; all imitations of the sound of the instrument. 1. A native East Indian drum, extended also to the drums of barbados peoples generally.

Tulwar (>Hindustani)

Hindi talwār. An Indian sabre.


Veda (>Sanskrit)

Sanskrit vēda, knowledge, sacred knowledge, sacred book, from the root vid, to know.

One or other of the four ancient sacred books of the Hindus, the body of sacred literature contained in these books. Derived words, vedaic, vedaism.


Wallah (>Hindustani from Sanskrit)

Hindi wālā, a suffix with the sense 'pertaining to or connected with'. A person of a specified kind or having a specified role.

Wanderoo (Cingalese from Sanskrit)

Sinhalese wanderu, monkey, Hindi handar, Sansk vanara, monkey, believed to mean literally 'forest dweller. A name properly belonging to the langur monkeys, inhabiting Ceylon, but until recently almost always misapplied to the lion-tailed Macaque of Malabar.


Yak (>Thibetan)

Tibetan yag. A bovine animal, found wild and domesticated in Tibet and other highr regions of central Asia.

Yoga (>Sanskrit)

Hindi, Sansk, yoga. Lit union. In Hindu religious philosophy union with the supreme spirit; a system of ascetic practice, abstract meditation and mental concentration, used as a method of attaining this.

1Zvelebil 1990: 79