Etymology of Selected Words of Indian Language Origin
India is the cradle to one of the first civilizations of the world, founded in the banks of the Lower Indus River in Southern India. This culture flourished from 2500 BC, and was named Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, by contemporary archeologists, after the two main cities found in the excavation sites. There were many languages spoken by these inhabitants during this time, and these are collectively known as Dravidian or Dravidian family of languages.
Some Indian borrowings are listed below:
Aryan - A member
of the people who spoke the parent language of the Indo-European languages.
In Nazism, a Caucasian Gentile, especially Nordic type.
chakra - One
of the seven centers of spiritual energy in the human body according to
dharma - A
Buddhist principle and ultimate truth. Social custom and right behavior.
Hindu moral law.
Guru - A teacher
and a guide in spiritual and philosophical matters. A mentor. A recognized
leader in a field. "Fitness Guru"
Something, such as a belief or an institution, that elicits blind and
destructive devotion or to which people are ruthlessly sacrificed.
Mandala - Any
of various ritualistic geometric designs symbolic of the universe, used
in Hinduism and Buddhism, as an aid to meditation.
Nirvana - In
Buddhism, the ineffable ultimate in which one has attained disinterested
wisdom and compassion. A transcendent state in which there is neither
suffering, desire now sense of self, and the subject is released from
the effects of karma. It represents the final goal in Buddhism.
Pariah - A
social outcast. An Untouchable.
Pundit - A
learned person. A source of opinion. A critic. "a political pundit"
- the former Hindu practice of a widow immolating herself on her husbands
Sutra - a rule
or aphorism in Sanskrit literature or a set of these grammar or Hindu
law or philosophy.
A Sanskrit treatise setting forth rules for sexual, sensuous and sensual
love, and marriage: in accordance with Hindu law, made popular today by
Western marital therapists and psychologists.
The emblem of the Nazi Germany, officially adopted in 1935. In Buddhism
and Hinduism, a religious symbol representing noble qualities and good
Yoga - A Hindu
spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which includes breath control,
simple meditation and the adoption of specific body postures widely practiced
- A large handkerchief usually figured and brightly colored.
Bindi - A dot
marked on the forehead, by Hindu wives, and sometimes men, to adorn or
as a sign of the third eye - wisdom or God Shiva.
Bangle - A
rigid bracelet or anklet, especially one with no clasp. An ornament that
hangs from a bracelet or necklace.
Cashmere - Fine downy wool growing in the outer hair of the cashmere goat. A soft fabric made out of this wool or similar fibres. Named after the state of Kashmir in India, where these goats were found in abundance, and famous for woolen clothing during the British Raj.
Chintz - A
printed and glazed cotton fabric, usually of bright colors.
- A broad sash, especially one that is pleated lengthwise & worn as
an article of formal dress, as with dinner jacket.
Dhoti - A loincloth
worn by Hindu men in India. The cotton fabric used for such loincloths.
A sturdy, often blue, denim fabric. Trousers or overalls made of sturdy
Gunny - A coarse,
heavy fabric made of jute or hemp, used especially for bags or sacks.
Jute - Either
of 2 plants yielding a fiber used for sacking and cordage.
Jodhpurs - Long riding breeches, tight from the knee to ankle, named after the ancient city, Jodhpur in the state of Rajasthan in North India. Men in this state wear trousers akin to riding breeches, hence the name 'jodhpurs'.
Khaki - A light
olive brown to moderate or light yellowish brown. A sturdy cloth of this
color. Khakis - trousers made from this cloth.
Musk- A strong
smelling reddish brown substance which is secreted by the male musk-deer
for scent making, which is also an important ingredient in perfumery.
- A lose fitting garment consisting of trousers and a jacket, worn for
sleeping or lounging, often used in plural.
Sari - A garment
consisting of a length of cotton or silk elaborately run around the body,
worn by women in the Indian subcontinent. It has 6 yards of material,
with 1.5 yards hanging from one shoulder down to the ground, intricately
woven with bright or contrasting colors.
Shampoo - A
liquid preparation containing soap for washing hair.
Curry - A heavily
spiced sauce or relish made with curry powder and eaten with rice, meat,
fish or other food.
Ginger - Mid E gingiveri from Old E gingifer, from Old French gingivre, from Med Latin-gingiber, from Latin zungiberi, from Greek - zingiberis from Pali singieram, from Dravidian (similar to Tamil) inciver, inci - ginger + ver- root.
Ghee - A clarified,
semi-fluid butter used especially in Indian cooking
Kebab - Dish
of small pieces of meat and/or vegetables, cooked on skewers
A dish of rice, fish, hard-boiled eggs, often served for breakfast. In
North India kedgeree refers to a mixture of rice cooked with butter and
dhal, with spices and shredded onions.
Mango - A fleshy yellowish-red tropical fruit, which is eaten ripe or used green for pickels. From Portuguese manga, from Malay manga, from Tamil manaky which means mango tree fruit.
Any of various Old World carnivorous mammals having agile body and a long
tail and noted for the ability to seize and kill venomous snakes.
A large non-venomous arboreal snake of tropical South America that kills
its prey by suffocating in its coils.
Cheetah - A
long-legged, swift running wild cat of Africa and Southwest Asia, having
black-spotted, tawny fur and non-retractile claws.
A small house or cottage usually having a single story and sometimes as
additional attic story. A thatched or tiled one-story house in India surrounded
by a wide veranda.
Bazaar - A
market consisting of a street lined with shops and stalls especially one
in the Middle East. A fair or sale at which miscellaneous articles are
sold, often for charitable purposes.
A boat with two parallel hulls or floats, especially a light sailboat
with a mast mounted on a transverse frame joining the hulls: A raft of
logs or floats lashed together and propelled by a paddles or sails.
- A cigar with square cut ends
Coir - Fiber
from the outer husk of the coconut, used in potting compost and for making
ropes and matting.
Coolie - (coolly)
Offensive. An unskilled Asian laborer
Dinghy - A
small open boat carried as a tender, lifeboat, or pleasure craft on a
larger boat" A small rowboat. An inflatable rubber life raft.
Any of various meets at which contests are held to test the skill of the
competitors, as in equestrian ship, gymnastics or sports car racing.
Indigo - A
tropical plant of the pea family, which was formerly widely cultivated
as a source of dark blue dye.
Loot (n) -
Valuables pillaged in time of war: spoils
- A covered litter carried on poles on the shoulders of two or four men,
formerly used in Eastern Asia.
Polo - A game
resembling hockey, played on horse back with a long handled clubs and
a wooden ball. An ancient game of the East still played in upper Indus
valley (extreme West of the Himalayas). Introduced first at Calcutta and
a little later in Punjab and played first in England in 1871.
Teak - hard
durable timbre used in shipbuilding and for making furniture. The large
deciduous tree native to India and South East Asia, which yields this
1. Can you find at
least another five English words that have come from an Indian language?
1. The New Oxford
Dictionary of English Claredon Press, Oxford 1998