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"Guru", "Pundit" and now "Avatar".....

Are we speaking the same language?

I thought that this would be interesting to you. Lately we have been seeing so many words that sound so Indian used by everyone around us.


I have heard "guru", "pundit" and now "avatar".....


Some of these words are easily recognizable as Indian words. There are others, though a part of modern day spoken English, which are seldom recognized as being of Indian origin. Most of these words were assimilated during the later part of the 16th to the 20th century, when the British were following an aggressive imperial policy in the Indian subcontinent.


The Oxford dictionary, with every edition, faithfully records all the Indian words absorbed into the English vocabulary. English has accepted words from Sanskrit, Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Gujarati and Marathi. The following is an interesting list.

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Philosophical and Spiritual terms

  • Aryan (Sanskrit) a group of people who spoke the parent language of the Indo-European group of languages.

  • Chakra (Sanskrit) center of spiritual energy in the human body, wheel or circle.

  • Dharma (Sanskrit) moral law.

  • Guru (Sanskrit) a teacher, guide or mentor.

  • Nirvana (Sanskrit) a state of perfect happiness.

 Social and Religious terms

  • Juggernaut (Hindi) an overwhelming force that crushes everything in its path.

  • Pariah (Tamil) - social outcast.

  • Pundit (Hindi) a learned person.

  • Purdah (Urdu) a curtain or screen used for purposes of sex segregation.

 Terms of Fashion

  • Bandana (Hindi) a large, handkerchief brightly colored.

  • Bindi (Hindi) a dot marked on the forehead by Hindu wives.

  • Bangle (Hindi) a rigid bracelet or anklet.

  • Dhoti (Hindi) a loincloth worn by Hindu men in India .

  • Jodhpur (Rajasthani) long riding breeches.

 Culinary Terms

  • Curry (Tamil) a spicy dish.

  • Basmati (Hindi) a type of rice.

  • Ghee (Hindi) clarified butter.

  • Kebab (Urdu) roasted meat.

  • Chutney (Hindi) a side dish for food.


  • Bungalow (Bengali) a small house.

  • Loot (Hindi) stolen goods.

  • Chit (Marathi) a note or letter.

  • Catamaran (Tamil) a raft made of wood.

  • Cheetah (Sanskrit) long legged, African or South West Asian wild cat that can run at tremendous speed.

 The Concise Oxford Dictionary has made around 80 additions.

Some of the new words that appear in this version are bhagwan, bhakti, bhajan, adda, parishad, dicky (car boot), videshi, deshi, chamcha, badmash, hawala, bandh, dhaba and others. Names of culinary delights like bhelpuri, bhindi and bhuna are now English.

 The most recently added are bindaas, desi, Hinglish and batchmate.

I find as we merge as a society we find ourselves speaking the same language....a global English !


 Here is a link to the story on CNN -IBN




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