Plundering words from India

Sunday, March 22nd, 2020

As I mentioned, I’ve been enjoying the audiobook version of Sharpe’s Tiger, and I was surprised to learn that the word loot was borrowed from Hindi. It’s included in this list of words English owes to India:

A – atoll, avatar
B – bandana, bangle, bazaar, Blighty, bungalow
C – cashmere, catamaran, char, cheroot, cheetah, chintz, chit, chokey, chutney, cot, cummerbund, curry
D – dinghy, doolally, dungarees
G – guru, gymkhana
H – hullabaloo
J – jodhpur, jungle, juggernaut, jute
K – khaki, kedgeree
L – loot
N – nirvana
P – pariah, pashmina, polo, pukka, pundit, purdah, pyjamas
S – sari, shampoo, shawl, swastika
T – teak, thug, toddy, typhoon
V – veranda
Y – yoga

Most of those are clearly Indian, but plenty surprised me — bandana, catamaran, cheetah, cot, cummerbund, dinghy, jungle, and pundit.


  1. Graham says:

    “Pandit” is the origin of pundit, a Hindi honorific often given to Nehru, for example.

    My favourite, not listed, is “nabob”, as in a rich potentate or corporate titan, a coffee brand, and nattering nabobs of negativism. Other than the coffee, it seems to have slipped out of standard usage since the 70s. It was originally from “nawab”, a Mughal provincial governor, who typically lived in a level of considerably grandeur.

    I was most struck by typhoon, which I had assumed of Chinese origin, and atoll.

  2. Isegoria says:

    I thought typhoon was Chinese as well, but its etymology is odder than I could’ve imagined.

  3. Harry Jones says:

    I say “typhoon” comes from Chinese.

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