Introduction to a Glossary of 2,000 Hindi Words and Expressions of English origin
As I have recently pointed out here,
the growing phenomenon of Hinglish as a hybrid language has aroused public interest and is the subject of academic research. Since Hinglish is widely used by urban Indians (especially young ones and especially in the northern ‘Hindi belt’), by advertisers, and by Bollywood, Hinglish does not lack media publicity. With its impressive linguistic gymnastics, code-switching and code-mixing of Hindi and English at a very fast colloquial rate, Hinglish well deserves continued professional study and tracking because it may have a strong long-term impact on the shape of Hindi. However, from the viewpoint of teaching practical Hindi as a Second Language (HSL), especially to non-Indians, it is not of vital concern at the moment. What does need incorporating into HSL now, via Hindi to foreign language dictionaries and other teaching materials, is a selection of the extraordinary large number of loanwords and loan translations (calques) from English which have already entered into contemporary daily life, and on which Hinglish is partly based.
This sizeable windfall of English Hindi words for lucky English speakers is entirely due to the very special historical links between Hindi and English. In contemporary Hindi, English loan words and phrases have become an essential part of contemporary Hindi. They are taken for granted by Hindi speakers.
Most of the items in this selection will not help students much with conversations in the street or booking a train ticket (although tren and tikat are two very commonly used borrowings, as is a whole family of words based on rel – rail). The borrowings are, however, useful for English speakers to begin to understand bits and pieces of the spoken and written Hindi currently used by the media and in bureaucratic life as well as by the Indian middle classes in their daily conversation. (Many are also understood by Indians from other social backgrounds.) There are many more of these anglicisms to be picked up as you listen to or read the media or watch Bollywood films.
My credentials are a lifetime interest in language, lexicography, and teaching, and four years as a keen student of HSL (for the purposes of comprehension of written and spoken current affairs in India, rather than as a means of personal communication, which can be more efficiently achieved in English). In the process of this arduous learning experience, I have sought shorcuts. In addition to my personal Romanised Glossary of Hindi words, I have compiled two separate lexical collections, the major one being this list of 2,000 English loanwords encountered in contemporary urban Hindi, and a minor but substantial collection of acronyms used in Hindi, which are also based on the English phonetic system and are therefore instantly recognisable to “us” – like bee.je.pee (BJP), see.bee.aaee (CBI), bee.bee,see, BBC, etc. The smaller acronym collection consists of two types: entities restricted to India and other more universal references, which are also of importance to foreign learners, as well as to native Hindi speakers. The short acronym glossary will be published soon in this series, as ‘Hindi Learning Hints, 5’. (Parts 2 and 3, on Affixes (a VERY essential shortcut for serious students of any language), are still in preparation.) A few very common acronyms, familiar to urban Hindi speakers (and others), are included in the present list.
Notes on the Devanagari and Roman scripts and on my transliteration system
English speakers have an advantage over other HSL learners because of the extraordinary capacity of Hindi phonetics to present near equivalents of almost all English sounds. (This is just not possible with French, Spanish, etc.) The English loans sound like Hindi to Hindi speakers but they also (usually) sound like English and so are instantly recognisable for us in the flow of speech. Although this helps a little in the comprehension process, for most foreign learners, Hindi is a very distant cousin, twice removed, in lexicon (virtually NO cognate words) and in its arcane syntax.
Because of my inbred ‘Roman’ bias, I have found reading Hindi to be a major issue, so my simple transliteration system has been tailored to allow speedy transfer of the Devanagari script to Roman script, for writing and typing. In my opinion, this system also allows more efficient transfer to Internet bilingual translating and transliteration aids, such as those offered by Google and Microsoft. For these purposes, the short ŏ sound of English (as in ‘box’, and ‘Bollywood’) is often best represented by the digraph ‘au’.
Using a capital N or M for nasals seemed a good idea and my laborious attempts to distinguish with italics between various alternative sounds and spellings (Hindi’s multiple t’s, th’s, d’s, dh, r, rh, sh, n, h, and ri, etc.) do seem to work. In short, I find this system more practical and easier to read than some of the official transliteration schemes.
To allow the English words to ‘emerge’ from the transliterations below, simply pronounce what you see. Some may amuse you; smile while you learn!
Here Hindi ‘ee’ is equivalent to ‘ee’ in English, but single ‘e’ rhymes with ‘rate’, or sometimes with ‘ten’. So ‘pee.em.’ in Hindi is pronounced more or less as P.M. Similarly, ‘tren‘ = train, and ‘em.e.‘ is M.A. (‘aim-eh’). The very frequent double vowel ‘aa+ee’ rhymes with ‘my’ or ‘high’: hence Hindi ‘haaee kort‘ (High Court), or ‘aaee.e.ess.‘ (IAS: I = aaee; A = e; S = ess, the Indian Administrative Service).
Also the letter ‘v’ is often pronounced as a soft version of ‘w’, as in ‘vikeeleeks’. Do not be distracted by the lack of capital letters in the transliterations. That is the Devanagari alphabet in action. Also, for your and my convenience, I have not used Devanagari alphabetical order. I am sorry if that offends language purists but this makes it easier for me to cope with a daunting task.
Although most of the items below are single lexical items, special notice should be given to those marked (EH). These are hybrid English-Hindi phrases, which give a very fleeting glimpse of the sorts of ways in which Hindi speakers can assimilate some English words into the Hindi morphological system (the commonest case being combinations of English loan + karnaa, to form compound verbs, which, as Rupert Snell (1990, p.55) has pointed out, are constantly being coined. denaa and honaa also appear in such hybrid compounds.
To obtain a Devanagari version of any (or most) of the words and phrases listed below, type them into the Google or Microsoft ‘Hindi to English’ box and press Enter (for each word).
The extent to which English permeates Hindi is perhaps most easily visible in the use of English initial letters not only for acronyms but for Hindi names. Note that each (English) letter is followed by a full stop (period). This is particularly important if entering a search term on Wikipedia in Hindi, e.g, Pee. Jee. Chidambaran प.ग. चिदंबरम
And, for even more instant evidence of English penetration of the Hindi system, here is the frequently used English alphabet as it appears in Hindi, for example in Hindi acronyms.
e. , A
bee. , B
see. , C
dee. , D
ee. , E
ef, , F
gee. , G
ech. , H
aaee. , I
je. , J
ke. , K
el. , L
em. , M
en. , N
o. , O
pee. , P
kyoo. , Q
aar. , R
es. , S
tee. , T
yoo. , U
vee. , V
dablyoo, , W
eks. , X
vaaee. , Y
zed. , Z
(zee. , Z – USA)
English loanwords, a sample:
My 2,000 item collection covers most aspects of contemporary Indian life. Many have been carried over from Imperial times but the majority are post-Independence coinages.
karnaa, honaa, denaa compounds:
aapreshan karnaa, to operate
kvaalifaaee karnaa, to qualify
dismis karnaa, to dismiss
distarb karnaa, to disturb
iNvaait karnaa, to invite
iNfaurm karnaa, to inform
saspaiNd karnaa, to suspend
paas honaa, to pass (exam)
naurmalaaeez honaa, to normalise
riport denaa, to report
vot denaa, to vote
From English -tion, -sion
standiNg oveshan, standing ovation
blad doneshan, blood donation
Countries and nationality
vetikan (sitee), The Vatican, V. City
yoo.pee., UP (Uttar Pradesh)
fan, fan; seeliNg fan, ceiling fan
peNsil, f, pencil
saiNtimeetar, centimetre, centimeter
shatar, m, shutter
sileNdar, (gas) cylinder
Food and drink
sodaavaatar, soda water
tee baig, teebag
aaisd tee, iced tea
aaisd vaalee chaaee, iced tea (EH)
chuiNgam, chewing gum
Travel and transport
kaar, f, car
start karnaa, to start (car, etc.)
bas, bus; bas adda, bus station
rel, rail; relve, railway
rel bhavan, railway office(s) (EH)
ekpatraa rel, monorail (EH)
tez gati rel, hidhspeed rail (EH)
relgaree, f, train
rel maarg, (railway) track
riNg rod, Ring Road
tikat baaboo, ticket clerk
meetar se chalo!, drive by the meter (taxi/rickshaw)
traival ejensee, travel agency
Media, Films & Internet
satalaait dish, satellite dish
seeriyal, serial, and cereal
film , f, film
aakaash taiblet, Sky Tablet (Indian)
sim kard, Sim card
priNt kareN, Print!
storee ko ret kareN, Rate this story
mobaail, mobile phone
sailfon, mobile phone, cellphone
vee.see., V.C. (Vice Chancellor)
aaut!, Out! (cricket)
saspaiNd karnaa, to suspend
rikaard tornaa, to break a record(EH)
vestiNdees, West Indies
olampik (kheloN), Olympic (Games) (EH)
Careers and Offices
depyootee kamishnar, Deputy Commissioner
see.em., C.M (Chief Minister (of a State)
mejar jenral, major general
kaimraman, camera man
klarkee, f, clerical job (EH)
baiNk, bankl; b. akaauNt, b. account
vishva baiNk, World Bank
hed ofis, head office
sheyar markat, share market
sheyar bazaar, share market (EH)
pepar klip, paper clip
blad, blood; b. preshar, b. pressure
hart atak, heart attack
kainsar, cancer; kainsar vigyaan, oncology
veNtiletar, breathing apparatus; life support,
shart sarkat, short circuit
staurm vautar drenej, storm water drainage
maiNgneez, m, manganese
global varmiNg, global warming
gobar gais, methane from cow dung (EH)
Administration, Politics and Law
sartificat, m, certificate
vipaksh leedar, Leader of the Opposition
lokpaal bil, ombusdsman Bill/. Law (EH)
bil paas, the passing of a Bill
chaarj sheet, f, charge sheet
laain auf kantrol, Line of Control (Kashmir)
pop, the Pope
A further alphabetical sample is available here:
‘Basic Hindi Vocabulary for Lucky English Speakers’
The above selection represents just one tenth of my (Romanised) alphabetical list of 2,000 selected English loanwords (not exhaustive by any means) which will shortly be available by email as a .pdf document to those who are particularly interested in the phenomenon. (ompukalani AT hotmail.com)
For those of you who will not see the full document, I would like to share my Acknowledgments for this whole project since there are references which may be of special use to you, as they were to me.
Over the two and a half years of my search for English loanwords, etc. I have gleaned vital information from many written sources (dictionaries, grammars, and articles on the Hindi language), which substantially supplemented my own intensive observations of media and Internet usage.
I am grateful to my Hindi tutor, Mr Indramohan Singh, for his constant help and encouragement.
I was also extremely fortunate to come across three immensely useful sources of English borrowings in Hindi. From these three sources, my collection was boosted by several hundred examples, even though I made a judicious selection of their offerings.
My very special sources were:
Hardev Bahri’s Advanced Learner’s Hindi-English Dictionary (2 vols.). This is an excellent (and Romanised) reference book, the only Hindi dictionary of those I consulted which has methodically tried to cover this important aspect of the contemporary Hindi language. (An updated version would be most welcome.)
Volker Schuermann’s Bollywood Dictionary – available online.
DK Visual Bilingual Dictionary of Hindi, which deals realistically and in great depth with the nomenclature of everyday life. [dk.com]