Monday, April 29, 2013

Hindi Loanwords: Part 2

Yesterday, we looked at the etymology of several English words, including "cheetah" and "bangle". Today we're continuing our look at loanwords from Hindi, the most spoken language in India.

Guru - Though it is mainly used to refer to a "mentor" in the United States, this term means "teacher" or "priest" in Hindi. Translated literally it means "heavy", presumably because they are "heavy with knowledge". 

"In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight..."
Jungle - Generally defined as land covered with dense vegetation, its name comes to English from the Hindi word jangal meaning "wilderness". The Hindi word originated as jangala in Sanskrit, meaning "uncultivated land". 

Loot - Hopefully you don't often have use for this word, which comes from the Hindi word lut meaning "steal". It is also used to refer to stolen property in both languages. 

Punch - Our favorite Hindi loanword may have to be punch, as in everyone's favorite party drink. It comes from the Hindi word panch meaning "five". This seems like a pretty random name for a drink, but it turns out that the original drink was made using five ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water, and spices. You learn something new every day!

Shampoo - What would modern society do without this product that gives us luxurious, silky hair that glides perfectly through the air just as it's shown in all the advertisements? Its name comes from the Hindi term champo meaning "to massage", which certainly makes sense given the mantra "lather, rinse, repeat". 

Three typhoons over the Pacific Ocean.
Thug - This term comes from the Hindi word thag meaning "thief", though it made its way into English for more historical reasons. Over several hundred years, a gang of professional assassins in India were referred to as Thuggee. They often targeted travelers, who they would then rob and gruesomely murder in order to honor a Hindu goddess. When the British took control of India, they eventually drove the group out of existence. At the same time, the term passed into the English language, first to refer to the gang members, and eventually as a generic term for violent criminals.

Typhoon - These tropical cyclones get their name from the word tufan, which came to English from either Arabic or Hindi.

Do you know any other interesting loanwords from Hindi? Let us know in the comments below, and please include a definition!