By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales
If you’ve ever heard someone talk about their yoga class or claimed they’d reached nirvana, if they called someone a tech guru or said good karma would follow, they’ve borrowed from one Indian language or another.
English has always rifled through the lexicons of other languages and looted (another Hindi word) what it wished, and Indian languages have been no exception. Aside from patently Indian words that have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary like chutney, ghee, and as of last year, gulab jamun, we’ve put together a list of 11 English words you may not know have Indian etymologies. They’ll be sure to jangle your bangles (from Gujarati’s bangdri)!
- CHEETAH: named after the fur-midable pattern of this cat’s coat, from the Hindi word chita (variegated).
- JUGGERNAUT: what’s greater and more unstoppable than a god? Specifically, Lord Vishnu’s form Jagannath, whose worship during the Rath Yatra festival included outsized images of the deity pulled through the streets of Puri in carts.
- JUNGLE: borrowed from the Sanskrit jangala (desert), George isn’t likely to be swinging through that jungle!
- KHAKI: this uninspired colour is reflected in its origins – khaki in Urdu and Hindi, meaning ‘dust-coloured.’
- PUNCH: proving that even our ancestors liked a drink or five, this word comes from the Urdu word paanch (five), a reference to the drink paantsch made of five ingredients.
- PUNDIT: political pundits might not always know what they’re talking about, but at least they can claim that their origins come from the Hindu pandit, meaning learned scholar.
- PYJAMAS: meaning “leg garment” in Hindi and Urdu, the word paijaamaa perfectly encapsulates these snuggly vestments.
- SHAMPOO: Rub-a-dub-tub, this word comes from the old Hindustani word champo meaning, ‘rub.’
- THUG: from thag or thagi, meaning ‘thief’ in Hindi and Urdu, the real thug here is the English language.
- TICKETY-BOO: this old-fashioned Britishism preferred by little old ladies may have found its origins in theek hai, babu, meaning ‘it’s fine, mister,’ in Hindi.
- TYPHOON: Urdu has weathered many centuries of change – the word toofan, meaning cyclonic storm, has survived to this day.