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Words of Indian Origin

25-06-2017 12:00 AM | Lathika Saju | My Indian Dream

Words of Indian Origin | My Indian Dream

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There is no doubt that English is the most widely spoken language in the world, but only a few know that there are as many as thousand words of Indian origin in the English language

During the industrial boom in India in the 17th century, the English merchants as well as Europeans- the French, Portuguese and Spanish came to India for trade, and along with raw materials and other products, they also picked up some Indian words which later got incorporated in the English language.

The study of the origin of words is called etymology and it is an interesting linguistic discipline. The story of the origin of words is very fascinating. The word ‘palanquin’ is derived from the Oriya palanki and Sanskrit  palyanka while Cashmere is the anglicized name for Kashmir that stands for the fabric of the region.

Here are some words that originated from India and have found its way into the English dictionary:


Bandana is a large, colourful scarf tied around the head. Its usage originated in the 18th century from the Hindi word ‘ bandhana’ which means to tie.


Bangle’s  connection with India seems to go unnoticed as it rhymes with some quintessentially English words such as dangle, mangle, angle. Bangle which means an ornamental band worn around the wrist was called bangle (a glass bracelet) in India.


It is derived from the Tamil word ‘ kattumaram’ which means tied wood which was used as a raft. The word catamaran means yacht or a boat with twin hulls in parallel.


Curry is a preparation of meat or vegetable in gravy which contains a variety of strong spices. It is said to be derived from the Tamil word ‘kari’ which means the same.

Gunny: gunny is a rough fabric made from jute and used for preparing sacks. It comes from the Marathi and Sanskrit word ‘goni’


It is a gem. A precious stone is called ‘upala’in Sanakrit and the word opal is said to have derived from it.


The origin of the word’ shampoo’ which is a liquid preparation for washing hair has been traced to the Hindi word ‘ Champo’ which means to massage.


Bungalow originates from the Hindi word ‘bangla’ which according to the Oxford English dictionary is a type of cottage built for early European settlers in Bengal.


India’s staple food, roti also known as Indian bread in English is also part of the Oxford English Dictionary.


It is another word for huge, powerful and overwhelming force and takes inspiration from Lord Jagannath an incarnation of Krishna, whose procession is taken out in the streets of Puri where devotees throng to pray and pay respects. Juggernaut, therefore, can mean a large heavy vehicle.

Thus, India has not only given zero to Maths, it has also gifted many words to the English language.

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I love to read and am passionate about writing. I like to absorb ideas and information and spread it among my readers. After all, knowledge is always an asset.
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