28 February 2009

English words of Urdu and Hindi origin

Avatar - from Avatar means incarnation

Bangle - from Bāng~, a type of bracelet.

Bandanna – Bandhna to tie a scarf around the head.

Bungalow - from banglA & Urdu banglA, literally, "(house) in the Bengal style".

Cheetah - from cītā~, meaning "variegated body."

Chit - from Chitthi, a letter or note.

Cot - from Khāt~, a portable bed.*

Cushy - from khushi خوشی - easy, happy, soft.*

Jungle - from jangal, another word for wilderness or forest.

Khaki - of dust colour in Urdu.

Mug, Mugger - Mugger, meaning crocodile. Faddish Victorian purses were made of crocodile skin. Street robbers were thus called "muggers".

Pundit - from Pandit, meaning a learned scholar or Priest. [“Amradorn”, take note]

Sentry - from Santri, an armed guard.*

Shampoo - Champu, a scalp massage with some kind of oily or treacly mixture just before a bath.

credit here
* = see notes in comments


  1. The OED says that "sentry" is from Middle French and that "cot" is from Old German. Seems more probable than the Wikipedia version.

    Wouldn't "cushy" just come from "cushion?"

  2. You missed a few:

    • Bazaar: from bazaar, a marketplace
    • Blighty: from vilāyatī विलायती, foreigner
    • Caravan: from karvaan, moving house
    • Chai: from चाय, tea made with spices, commonly cardamon
    • Cummerbund: from Kamar Bandh, meaning waist band or waist cloth.
    • Dinghy: dungaree
    • Guru: from Guru, An intellectual or spiritual guide or leader, any person who counsels or advises; mentor. e.g. "The elder senator was her political guru."
    • Jodhpur: from Jodhpur जोधपुर, a city in Rajasthan
    • Juggernaut: from Jagannath, the deity of a temple in Puri, Orissa. The annual event where devotees are frequently trampled while pulling the deity's chariot gives rise to this usage.
    • Karma: from karma, fate or the consequences of one's actions
    • Kismet: from kismat, fate
    • Loot: from Lūtnā लूटना, to loot.
    • Mogul: from Mughal, a dynasty that ruled India
    • Nirvana: a state of perfect happiness
    • Pajama: from Payjamo, a garment worn as a trouser.
    • Path: way or road
    • Punch: from paanch पाँच , five
    • Raja: king
    • Thug: from thag ठग, meaning thief
    • Toddy: from tArI, juice of the palmyra palm
    • Verandah: from baraamdaa बरामदा
    • Yoga: from yog, meditation

  3. Oh come on now. Some of these words well predate contact between the English and the Indians.

    "Path" comes from archaic Dutch, "punch" comes from the Latin "punchus."

    Seriously, don't believe everything you read on Wikipedia. I'm tempted to go add some bullshit etymology just for fun.

  4. "punch" in most of its forms in English comes from the old English pounce. Punch meaning the drink is from the word paanch (5) as there were five ingredients in the original form of the drink - sugar, water, spices, lime juice, and arawak.


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