Wednesday, July 03, 2013


While tracking down some etymologies, I came across a number of common words that entered English from Hindi. They seem a bit more exotic than words derived from Latin and Greek, so I’ve assembled a representative list.

  • bangle: originally a colored glass ring worn on the wrist by women.
  • basmati [fragrant]: a variety of Indian rice, characteristically light and fragrant when cooked.
  • bindi: a decorative mark or jewel usually worn in the middle of the forehead by married women.
  • bloke:  slang for fellow or man.
  • camphor:  a crystalline substance having a bitter aromatic taste and a strong characteristic smell.
  • cheetah [speckled]:  a hunting leopard.
  • chintz: a name for the painted or stained calicoes imported from India.
  • chop [impression]:  a seal or the impression of a seal.
  • chutney: a strong hot relish or condiment.
  • coolie: in India [later in China] a hired laborer.
  • cot [hammock]:  a light bedstead.
  • cowrie: the porcelain-like shell of a small gastropod.
  • cushy [pleasant]:  an easy or comfortable job.
  • dinghy:  a small boat.
  • dungaree: a kind of coarse Indian calico.
  • ganja:  a narcotic made from Indian hemp.
  • ghee:  butter made from the milk of a cow or buffalo.
  • gunny: a coarse material used chiefly in making sacks.
  • guru: a Hindu spiritual teacher or head of a religious sect.
  • juggernaut [lord of the world]:  a title of Krishna, whose statue was carted annually on an enormous wheeled vehicle, under whose wheels devotees hurled themselves.
  • jungle [desert, wasteland]:  ultimately, land overgrown with impenetrable vegetation.
  • lilac [bluish]:  a shrub with fragrant blossoms.
  • loot [spoils]:  goods taken from an enemy in time of war.
  • mung:  a plant of the bean family.
  • punch: a drink made from a mixture of alcoholic and non-alcoholic ingredients.
  • sari: a long wrapping garment of cloth or silk worn by Hindu women.
  • shampoo:  to wash and scrub the scalp with a cleansing agent.
  • swami [master, lord]: a title for a Hindu religious teacher.
  • thug [swindler]:  professional robber and murderer in India.
  • toddy:  sap from a palm tree fermented to produce an intoxicating liquor.
  • veranda [balcony]:  a portico extending across the front and sides of a building to offer protection from sun or rain.
  • yoga [union]:  a system of ascetic practice.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

Nook edition

Check out Mike's program-based books here:

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Dona Sheehan's prints