Ten English Words You Probably Didn’t Know Derived From India

Posted by - Published on September 24, 2014

It is common knowledge to know about English borrowing from languages all over the world but did you know that so many English words derive from India that there is a 1,000 page dictionary on it? These borrowings date back to the colonial period and are often labelled “Anglo-Indian”. We selected 10 such words from an exhaustive list to choose from that will make you go, “I didn’t know that”.

Etymology

1. Punch

The word punch derives from the Sanskrit word panch, which means ‘five’, as the drink was originally made with five ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water, and tea or spices. Punch, as we know it today, was brought to England from India by employees of the British India Company in the early 17th century.

2. Blighty

The word blighty is a term of endearment among British troops stationed in Colonial India to describe Britain. The term originates from the Hindi word vilayati meaning ‘foreign’.

3. Shampoo

Shampoo derived from the Hindi term champu, dating to 1762. When Indian elders wanted a massage they would ask their servants to champu their scalp.

4. Navigation

The English term navigation originates from Hindi words naav meaning ‘boat’ and gati meaning ‘movement’.

5. Bungalow

Bungalow originates from the Indian term bangla literally meaning ‘a house in the Bengal style’. Such houses were traditionally small, only one storey and detached, much like how we know and describe a bungalow in English today.

6. Cot

The English term cot for a child’s portable bed derives from the Hindi word khat, meaning ‘bedstead’ or ‘hammock’. It arrived in the English language during the 17th century.

7. Pyjamas

The term pyjamas is used to describe loose fitting sleeping clothes and derives from the Hindi word payjamah, meaning ‘leg garment’. The worldwide use of the word came as the result of British presence in South Asia in the 18th and 19th centuries.

8. Juggernaut

The English term juggernaut used to describe an unstoppable and crushing force or object, originates from the Hindi word jagannatha, meaning ‘Lord of the world’.

9. Bandana

The word bandana for a fashionable handkerchief tied around the head or neck is borrowed from the Hindi term bandhna, which means to tie.

10. Cummerbund

Another article of clothing that originates from  India is the cummerbund, a broad sash that is worn around the waist as part of formal dress, with a dinner jacket. The word originated in the 1610s and comes from the Hindi kamarband, meaning ‘waist band’.

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