The Indian Origin of some English Words

A historical dictionary with the strange and long title ‘Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, and of Kindred Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical and Discursive’ was written by two English scholars, Henry Yule and Arthur Coke Burnell, and published in 1886. It compiled a long list of words of Indian origin that had been assimilated into English during the colonial rule of the Indian sub-continent. Here are some examples I like:

If someone has gone doolally it means they have lost their mind. It can also be used to suggest that someone is particularly eccentric. The word comes from Deolali, the location of a military camp where soldiers appear to have suffered from such severe homesickness that they went doolally.

Shampoo, the liquid we use to wash our hair, was first recorded in English in 1860. The word derives from the Hindi word champa meaning ‘massage’. It must have meant that in English at first, too, until the meaning gradually morphed from an action in to substance.

A juggernaut is a large, powerful, destructive object such as a battleship. The word comes from Jagannath, a name for the Hindu god Krishna, and was inspired by an annual festival where very large chariots were paraded around in celebration of the deity.

Jungle comes from the Hindi word jangal meaning ‘uncultivated ground’, which in tropical parts of India means land that is overgrown with trees and plants.

Others include loot, avatar, thug and bungalow.
All of these are interesting historical examples of how words can move from one language to another.


I really enjoy these posts! I have a good one: MORTGAGE. I recently learned that it comes from the two French words “mort” (death) and “gage” (pledge). :sweat_smile:


Hi @FrauDrInda

thank you for this information.
Very curious and of course very real …
It’s like the Spanish expression “cavar tu propia tumba” ( “dig your own grave” )

Regards and have a nice day.

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