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What is in a word?

Many Indian words have found an important place in English vocabulary.

The influence of Indian languages on English is evident from the number of Indian words that have made to the English dictionary. The English-speaking world is using more and more Indian words as a part of their regular communication.
English is one of the most widely spoken languages of the world. It is also has a rich vocabulary with Oxford dictionary listing more than 600,000 words. The reason behind the extensive vocabulary is very simple. English has evolved by incorporating words from various languages from all over the world. Many Indian words have made it to the regular English vocabulary. Most of them were added during the British imperialistic rule over India from spanning from 16th to 20th century. More than five hundred words of Indian origin were absorbed into English during that period and it has grown ever since. Currently the Oxford English Dictionary lists over 700 words of Indian origin.

Most of the Indian words that were incorporated into English had no equivalent in English for example yoga, swastika, khaki, sari, and sati. However unlike French and Latin words, Indian words were rarely substituted to English words. Some words, which already had meanings, were borrowed because they sounded different and trendy like pundit, guru, dharma etc.

The earliest terms borrowed by the British were for fabrics. The cloth from Calicut came to be known as Calico. Chint, another word for Calico cloth, which was spraying painted, came from Hindi word, Cheent meaning spray or sprinkle. Dungari, a Hindi word for course fabric is a likely origin for Dungarees or garments stitched using tough cloth.

An ordinary word like cot, which seems like a typical English word has its roots in 'Khaat' a Hindi word for a single bed. The British recorded it in 1634. Payjama, Urdu word for a leg garment seems a likely influence for pajama, a word frequently used in relation to informal parties. Words like jungle and loot have the same meaning in English as well as Hindi. The word 'jungle' meaning a dense, leafy forest, originated from the Sanskrit word jangala, meaning 'wilderness'. Even an Anglo sounding word like calendar has its roots in the Hindi word 'Kalantar' used in reference to lunar calendar. Sugar sounds very much like 'shakkar' a Hindi/Punjabi word for the same meaning. Another Punjabi word 'khand' meaning sugar lumps is a likely origin for candy.

Some Indian words used in relation with food have become an integral part of English speaking. Some common words are masala- a word for spice, chutney -a side dish for food and Basmati -A type of long grained rice. The spellings and pronunciations may have changed a bit but these words remain quintessentially Indian.

Punch, English word meaning -to hit is also used in reference to a soda based drink. Since it's made from five ingredients (soda, water, lemon juice, sugar and spice), this word originated from paanch, meaning five in Hindi and other Indian languages.

Interesting stories are associated with certain words borrowed during British Raj. The European ladies probably used to wear tie-dyed scarves while in India. The process of tie-dying is called bandhana. The connection seems working with the word bandana used frequently for scarves and handkerchiefs. And with the English gentleman, vests under jackets might have been uncomfortable considering the heat in India. They used to tie a bandana (bandhana) around their waists (called kamar in Hindi). Hence the word cummerbund originated from there.

Hindi word lakh (a reddish resin used as sealing wax) is the source for Lac, an English word for a pigment later modified as shellac and lacquer. Thag (thief) particularly means the groups of robbers or cheats in India. English language now uses this word for any criminal.

Bungalow, an English word for a small house having a single story comes from bangala, a Hindi word for the same meaning. Similarly bazaar means a marketplace in both Hindi and English. Pukka used mostly in UK for good or right, means ripe or sure in Hindi. English word cushy (comfortable) probably originates from 'khushi' a word used for happiness in Hindi. Kebab, the meat delicacy comes from Urdu word kabab meaning roasted meat. Another Urdu word Khak, meaning dust is a likely origin for Khaki an English word used for a light yellowish brown cloth. Gunny means a coarse, heavy fabric made of jute in English. It's mostly used in reference to sacks. Ghoni, a Hindi word for sack is the likely source for this word.

Likewise many English words have their origins in Urdu, another widely spoken language in India. In fact Urdu developed along with original Hindi dialects. Somewhere in the middle has developed the language spoken by the great majority of people. This day-to-day language is often referred using an all-inclusive term "Hindustani."

English word attar (perfumed essence/oil) sounds very similar to Itr, an urdu word which is commonly used while referring to perfume or essence specially in North India. Also, Kafur, an Urdu/Persian word is clearly the root word for camphor. Both the words have the same meaning too. Likewise, adventure expedition or Safari and safar, Urdu word for travel not only sound alike they have comparable meanings. Mausam, Urdu for season seems to have inspired monsoon, a term for rainy season. Similarly saffron is derived from Urdu word Zaffrann with the same meaning. Ditto for Verandah evolving out of Baramda, an Urdu term for a porch outside the house.

Indian words like adda, bundh, dal puri, bandobast, chamcha, neta and dhaba were added in earlier editions of Oxford English Dictionary. And now Angrez (Englishman) and Badmash (rogue) have found a place in the latest edition. Due to wide use words like accha, aloo, arre, desi, filmi in England; they are in a queue to get into the upcoming versions of the dictionaries. The fans of Balti style cuisine in UK may not be aware that there is no such style of cooking. It actually originates from the Indian way of serving food in Baltis (buckets) especially to a large gathering of guests. But then this is the way a language evolves and develops. And the addition of numerous Indian words into English language has not only enriched it but also helped it to evolve in a long run.
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