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20 English Words of Indian Origin: Part 2


Last week we shared the first half of our twenty English words of Indian origin – click here to read it.

Because Sanskrit is such an old language, Sanskrit words have entered the English language in a variety of ways. Some are direct loanwords, while others have travelled across the world, evolving as they move from language to language, before finally being adopted into English.

This week we’re going to take a look at ten more words – scroll down to find out more!

  1. Dinghy
    "a small boat of shallow draft, with cross thwarts for seats and rowlocks for oars with which it is propelled"
    The Hindi word ‘dingi’ means ‘small boat’.

  2. Jackal
    “nocturnal canine mammal closely related to the dog; smaller than a wolf; sometimes hunts in a pack but usually singly or as a member of a pair”
    Jackal’ originates from the Sanskrit ‘srgala’ which literally means ‘the howler’. It entered English via the Turkish ‘çakal’, which comes from the Persian ‘shaghal’.

  3. Juggernaut
    “a massive inexorable force that seems to crush everything in its way”
    Juggernaut comes from the Hindi ‘Jagannath’ which means ‘lord of the world’, and comes from the Sanskrit ‘jagat’ meaning ‘world’.

  4. Jungle
    “an impenetrable equatorial forest”
    The Hindi word ‘jangal’ means ‘desert, forest, wasteland, uncultivated ground’, and comes from the Sanskirt ‘jangala’ meaning ‘arid, sparsely grown with tree’.

  5. Mantra
    “a commonly repeated word or phrase”
    In Sanskrit, the word ‘mantra’ means ‘sacred message or text, charm, spell, counsel’. In Hinduism, ‘mantra’ refers to hymns.

  6. Punch
    “an iced mixed drink usually containing alcohol and prepared for multiple servings; normally served in a punch bowl”
    The word ‘punch’, when talking about a drink, comes from the Hindi word ‘panch’ which means ‘five’ and is a reference to the five ingredients used to make it: spirits, water, juice, sugar, and spices.

  7. Samosa
    “small turnover of Indian origin filled with vegetables or meat and fried and served hot”
    The ‘samosa’ is another food that has become a comfort-food staple here in England. It is a direct loan word.

  8. Shampoo
    “cleansing agent consisting of soaps or detergents used for washing the hair”
    As a verb, ‘to shampoo’ means ‘to massage’. It comes from the Hindi ‘champo’, from ‘champna’ meaning ‘to press, knead the muscles’.

  9. Thug
    “an aggressive and violent young criminal”
    In Marathi, the word ‘thag’ means ‘cheat, swindler’.

  10. Toddy
    “a mixed drink made of liquor and water with sugar and spices and served hot”
    The modern pronunciation ‘toddy’ has evolved from ‘taddy’ which, in turn, had evolved from ‘tarrie’ which means ‘beverage made from fermented palm sap’, and comes from the Hindi ‘tari’ meaning ‘palm sap’. In Hindi, the ‘r’ sound is somewhat similar to the English ‘d’ sound.

You can find a spelling list featuring these words here.

If you’re interested on where words come from, make sure to check out our course and some of our previous blog posts:

Have a good week!

Avani Shah


01 Sep 2014
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