Ṭallī, kuṛī, baniyān: The intriguing story of where our words come from

Some magic hides in plain sight. Take the languages we converse. Every phrase represents not solely itself — intricate, complicate, duplicate, talk — but additionally the story of how that phrase got here to be. With English, the story is intricate sufficient. The 1.7 lakh phrases within the dictionary come largely from Greek and Latin, with new phrases being added from as distant as Korea, Zimbabwe and Tahiti.

With Indian languages, the paths are shorter however delightfully tangled. “There was a lot trade within the final 1,000 years that each language right here has a shared historical past,” says Abhishek Avtans, lecturer of Indic languages at Leiden College within the Netherlands. “Hindi and Urdu phrases derive not solely from Sanskrit however Pali, Prakrit, Tamil, Kannada, Portuguese, English, Persian and Arabic too.”

There are Frankish phrases from a West Germanic language that’s not less than a thousand years previous. “It’s from ‘Frankish’, in reality, that we get the phrase ‘Firangi’ for foreigner,” Avtans says. “Many different phrases come from historical Dravidian languages which have advanced into fashionable south Indian lects or tongues. It makes etymology of Indian phrases rather more complicated.”

However it additionally provides the Indian tongue a novel flavour. “Now we have echo-formations… gaadi-vaadi, tana-bana, theek-thaak. We regularly re-duplicate for emphasis: Bade bade deshon mein aisi chhoti chhoti baatein, hoti rehti hai (Such little-little issues preserve occurring in big-big international locations),” Avtans says, quoting from the movie Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995).

Avtans’s linguistics analysis has taken him to the foothills of Meghalaya, the place Jaiñtias converse an Austroasiatic language referred to as Pnar, and to the Andamans, the place language has actually saved lives. The Nice Andamanese have a folktale that has been handed down by means of generations. Primarily, its message is: When the ocean recedes from land, run to the hills. “It’s what made the neighborhood take shelter forward of the 2004 tsunami,” he says. “All of them survived.”

And so historical knowledge, hard-won, is preserved and handed on. Historic commerce routes rear their heads, in linguistic milestones. Practices lengthy lifeless grow to be footnotes in how we identify or describe an object. See why ganjī is ganjī, and never remotely an Indian-origin phrase for vest. Discover out why our phrases for sugar are each “Egyptian” (“misrī”) and “Chinese language” (“chīnī”). See how a Dravidian Jack gave the jackfruit its identify, and meet its fruity seafaring cousin.

Social media has introduced languages nearer, says Avtans. On Twitter (@avtansa), he recurrently fields requests from Indians who wish to know extra concerning the phrases we take without any consideration. He upset Punjabis by telling them that kuṛī, the native time period for woman, is of Dravidian origin. Different language fanatics have been translating Urdu couplets, Dakkani idioms and posting movies on pronunciation.

“A language is extra within the mouth than within the books,” Avtans says. Through the years, his listing of on a regular basis phrases with shocking histories has solely bought longer.

Check out Avtans’s listing of among the most fascinating journeys phrases have taken to reach on Indian tongues, and to journey from our lexicons to languages world wide.

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Ilāyachī (cardamom)

The ever-present spice present in all the pieces from garam masala powder to mithai has its origin in a Dravidian language supply phrase, ēl (cardamom), which was borrowed into Sanskrit as ēlā. Evaluate the phrases for cardamom in Tamil (ēlakkāy), Kannada (ēlakki), Tulu (ēlakki) and Malayalam (ēlatt-ari). It’s not shocking that cultivation of ilāyachī is concentrated within the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats in South India. Even the fashionable botanical identify of inexperienced cardamom, Elettaria cardamomum, has preserved the Dravidian root.

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Ālpin (pin)

From the sixteenth century on, as Portuguese merchants and colonialists settled within the subcontinent, Indian languages started to attract from Portuguese. Many phrases for frequent objects particularly have been borrowed. Ālpin, the phrase for paper pin in lots of Indian languages, is derived from the Portuguese alfinete (pin), which is finally from the Andalusian-Arabic al-ḵilāl (pin / peg). Andalusian Arabic was quite a lot of the Arabic language spoken in Spain and Portugal throughout the interval of Moorish domination and affect, from the eighth to 14th century. By the way, the Malaysian peniti (pin) comes from the identical Portuguese supply.

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Ṭharkī (lewd individual)

It is a phrase used for an individual who’s lewd, lustful, has useless wishes. The phrase is drawn from the Punjabi ṭharak, which suggests need or behavior. So, the verb ṭharaknā in Punjabi means to have useless wishes, to be shaken. In Dogri and Punjabi, tharkī can also be an addict or slave of some behavior. In fashionable slang, it’s usually used to point that an individual is an addict or a pervert.

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Kuṛī (woman)

One in all many in style phrases drawn from Punjabi, kuṛī merely means woman. An analogous phrase is utilized in Kashmiri (kūr). Each phrases are linked to a North Dravidian supply phrase for “younger” or “youth”. It’s a phrase that endures in Tamil (“kur̤a” is “younger”), Kannada (“koḍa” is “youth”) and Telugu (“kurra” is “younger”). The phrase is immortalised in Punjabi poet Shiv Kumar Batalvi’s Seventies tune, Ikk Kuṛī Jidā Nām Mōhabbat (A Lady Whose Title is Love).

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Jeb (pocket)

The Hindi / Urdu phrase for pocket is said to the Arabic jaib (opening on the neck and bosom of a shirt). The usage of jeb for pocket caught on as a result of pockets have been initially far nearer to the neckline. Even after they moved to the chest after which the hips of trousers, the phrase stayed. Curiously, the Hindi / Urdu phrase for collar or fabric across the neck is the Persian garebān or girebān, which has its origins within the Sanskrit grīvā́ (neck).

In an fascinating occasion of loaning, the phrase for buttonhole in a number of Indian languages attracts from the Portuguese “casa de botão” (home of the button). However the Indian languages borrowed simply the primary aspect — and so button gap is kāj ghõr in Bengali, kāj in Hindi / Urdu and gājā in vernacular Tamil, all of which simply draw on the home bit. The Bengali, in reality, would translate actually as “home home”.

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Pājī (imply individual)

Paji is actually foot-soldier. It comes from the Sanskrit padya (foot-related), and pājī was the time period for infantryman in medieval North India. Since soldiers usually harassed commoners, the phrase acquired a unfavourable connotation and stays synonymous with scoundrel. It has the identical which means, in reality, in Persian.

Curiously, it bears no relation to the Punjabi phrase that’s pronounced pājī however is definitely bhrājī (for brother), from the Sanskrit bhrātā (brother). How did bhrājī grow to be pājī? In Punjabi, there’s a tendency to not pronounce bh. So bhrājī turns into prājī turns into pājī.

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Kaṭhal (jackfruit)

That is an fascinating one as a result of jackfruit truly attracts from a Dravidian supply, and kathal from Sanskrit. Evaluate the phrases for jackfruit in Malayalam (cakka), Tamil (cakkai), Kodagu (cakke) and Kannada (jaka) and also you see how the English, arriving in India, ended up at jackfruit. In Sanskrit, the fruit was referred to as kaṇṭaphala. And from there comes the Hindi / Urdu and Bengali kaṭhal.

Curiously, by the late 1500s the pineapple was being referred to as kaṭ’hal-i-safari, or travelling jackfruit, probably due to a observe of planting pineapples in pots, to mature en route as ships sailed to faraway lands.

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Chaḍḍī (underwear)

One of many oldest phrases for loincloth in India is langōṭ, whose smaller type is langōṭī. Langōṭ is said to the Sanskrit liṅgapaṭṭa (loincloth), with liṅga being genitals and paṭṭa being fabric. Kacchā, one other phrase for underwear, comes from the Sanskrit kakṣyā (girdle, girth). Chaḍḍī, or underwear, in all probability comes from the Sanskrit phrase chanḍātak, which was a brief skirt worn by ladies as innerwear.

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Baniyān (vest)

Baniyān is a phrase which travelled throughout and got here again to India with a brand new id. It’s derived from the Sanskrit vaṇijaḥ (service provider, dealer). It entered Portuguese as banian, borrowed from the Sindhi vāṇyāṇī and Gujarati vāṇiyo. In English, banian turned the time period for a unfastened robe or shirt of flannel, as a result of this type of innerwear or nightwear resembled shirts worn by Indian baniyās or retailers in colonial India. These merchants usually sat within the shade of the Indian fig tree Ficus benghalensis, which is why it started to be referred to as the banyan tree.

By the way, ganjī for cotton undershirt shouldn’t be of Indian origin. It comes from Guernsey, an island within the English Channel that first made a seaman’s knitted woollen sweater that got here to be referred to as the Guernsey.

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Tauliyā (towel)

This phrase has its origins in a Germanic language and arrived in India through Portuguese. Tauliyā is from the Portuguese toalha, which in flip comes from the Outdated Portuguese toalla, which has its roots in þwahila, from the Fifth-century Germanic Frankish language. India has equivalents, in fact: angochā and gamchā, which come from the Sanskrit aṅgoccha (towel).

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Kainchī (scissors)

Kainchī or qainchī has its origins in a Mongolic language often called Center Mongolian. In Center Mongolian, the phrase was “qayici”. The phrase entered Indian languages through Persian; Center Mongolian was the language of Genghis Khan. The equivalents for scissors in Marathi (kātrī) and Kannada (kattari) are each associated to the Sanskrit kartarī, for shears.

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Tijorī (treasury)

Tijorī in Indian languages is from the English phrase treasury. It’s in fact a field or different house for the safekeeping of valuables akin to jewelry, money and paperwork. In 1886, other than tijorī, British administrator and anthropologist RC Temple documented different phrases catching on in then-colonial Bombay, akin to cejadarā (from chest of drawers), rijmiṭ (from regiment) and girmiṭ (from settlement).

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Chit (observe)

This phrase has had a little bit of a round route. The Indian-English phrase chit (a brief letter or observe) and chit as in chit-fund (a form of financial savings scheme utilized in India) are each related to the Anglo-Indian phrase chitty, which is finally derived from the Hindi / Urdu ciṭṭhī (letter, observe, or bill).

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Misrī / Chīnī (sugar)

The Egyptians, early consultants in chemical processes akin to dyeing, glass-making, weaving and metalwork, additionally refined historical Indian sugar-making expertise, to supply the world’s first rock-crystal sugar.

By the first century CE, Egyptian rock sugar was so extremely prized, it was nearly a monopoly. And it was being exported to India. So in Hindi / Urdu, sugar as processed by the Egyptians started to be referred to as misrī (of Egypt), from misra, the Arabic time period for Egypt.

The older, Sanskrit phrase for sugar was sharkarā, however that was a rough, yellowish substance nothing just like the pure crystal sweet of Egypt. Then, by the seventeenth century, China entered the sport as effectively, refining sugar so effectively that it was now pure white. By the 18th century, India was importing sugar from China. And calling it chīnī.

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Chaprāsī (peon)

The Hindi / Urdu phrase for orderly, official messenger or peon probably has roots within the Persian phrases for left and proper (chap and rāst), so chaprāsī can be somebody who at all times stood to his grasp’s left or proper (or maybe buzzes between each side). The phrase peon in Indian-English comes from the French pion (foot-soldier or infantryman) and Portuguese peão (foot-soldier). Peon was the foot-soldier of the on a regular basis. In colonial India, there have been evening peons, mail peons, bungalow peons, jail peons, court docket peons and so forth. In Spanish, a peón is an unskilled labourer.

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Taporī (ruffian)

Taporī is a phrase utilized in Mumbai for avenue punk, ruffian, idler, rogue. It’s an instance of a really specific type of combined language (Hindi-Marathi-Dakkini) spoken in Mumbai and fondly referred to as Bambaiyya. The phrase taporī could relate to the Marathi ṭapor or ṭaporā (massive, greater than others). Tapori may relate to the Marathi ṭappū, which is an affix for an individual, as in uḍānaṭappū (vagabond, dangerous character).

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Naukar-chākar (attendants)

Naukar entered Indian languages from Persian, which bought it from the Mongolian phrase nökür (buddy / comrade). Mongol emperor Genghis Khan referred to as his boon companions nökür. These have been males who had left their earlier supply of patronage (clan or tribe) and pledged loyalty to him. Chākar, alternatively, is a Sogdian (an extinct Center-Iranian language) phrase for private troopers of nobles and kings.

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Ṭallī (intoxicated)

Tallī, in style Delhi slang, is said to the Punjabi phrase ṭall (for bell). The phrase makes use of a metaphorical extension of bell to convey a confused frame of mind. Tall itself comes from the Sanskrit ṭāla (tune, cymbal).

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Lū (scorching winds)

Lū is the identify given to the dry convectional winds that blow from west to east within the northern plains of the Indian subcontinent in summer time. These winds are extraordinarily scorching and contribute to heat-stroke and heat-wave demise tolls. The phrase Lū is said to the Sanskrit alāta (firebrand).

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Aṛʾhul (hibiscus)

Aṛʾhul, the phrase for hibiscus flower in numerous Indian languages, comes from historical Odia, which in flip derived it from the Sanskrit identify for this flower, Oḍrapuṣpa (Flower of the Oḍra Land). Oḍrapuṣpa turned Oḍraphūl turned Aṛʾhul.

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Bãngurī (bangle)

Bangle is an English phrase in style throughout the subcontinent for a ringed bracelet or armband. This phrase has its origins within the Hindi / Urdu bãngurī, the phrase for these conventional ornaments. The phrase can also be current in Marathi (bāngr̤ī) and Gujarati (bangaḍī).

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Hīng (asafoetida)

The phrase hīng is said to the Prakrit hiṁgu and Pali hiṅgu, which has roots within the Tibetan Shin-kun, which is finally from the Khotanese phrase aṃgūṣḍa. Khotanese was a Center-Iranian language spoken in what’s now Xinjiang in China, and was then the Buddhist kingdom of Khotan. A lot of the hīng utilized in Indian households is a really gentle number of asafoetida (combined with starch and resin).

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Ālū (potato)

When the Portuguese introduced potatoes to India’s western coast within the early seventeenth century, the phrase ālū was adopted for it, a phrase used earlier to seek advice from candy potatoes. The phrase ālū has its origins within the Sanskrit āluka (a generic identify for edible roots).

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Padmashrī (Splendid Lotus)

The Padma awards, the best civilian honours in India, confer upon their recipients the title of Lotus! Padma Shrī is actually Stunning as a Lotus (from the Sanskrit padma for lotus and shrī for magnificence or splendour). Padma Bhūṣaṇa is Adorned like a Lotus. And Padma Vibhūṣaṇa is Splendid like a Lotus. The lotus itself, in fact, paying homage to historical Indian fantasy, the place it’s a image of purity and sweetness that rises above the remainder of the pond.

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Satyameva Jayate (Reality Alone Triumphs)

The nationwide motto of India is taken from first stanza of Verse 3.1.6 of the Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad. To be grammatically right in Sanskrit, it needs to be jayati. The change, legend has it, was deliberated over fairly a bit by the Jawaharlal Nehru authorities. In easy phrases, if translated with jayate, the sentence means: “Reality alone triumphs.” If translated with jayati, it will imply: “He (the sage; the implied topic of all Advaita Vedanta) triumphs over the Actual.”

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