Here in Britain, home of the Empire and all things historic, we like to think we exported all the finer things around the globe – most notably, Her Majesty’s English.
So it may come as a surprise when you delve down into our lexicon and learn that many of the words we assume come from these shores are in fact derived from a land far away – India.
Back in the 19th century, two men with the unlikely names Hobson and Jobson began compiling these words into a special book, called the Hobson/Jobson dictionary.
A brief peruse of “the HJ” (as our business copywriters here at Wordsworks lovingly refer to it) reveals several non-surprises: pashmina, khaki, sari and jodhpur are, predictably, all Indian words.
But here are 10 more words which you might not realise are no more English than Mahatma Gandhi himself…
Avatar: a computer alter-ego, yes, but also the incarnation of a Hindu deity.
Dungarees: from the Hindi ‘Dungri’, a district of Bombay where the fabric originated.
Bungalow: from the Hindi ‘bangla’, a house of the Bengal type.
Gymkhana: from the Hindi ‘gend-khana’ literally meaning ‘ball house’.
Thug: formerly a group of professional robbers and murderers in India.
Doolally: military slang from Deolali, a town near Mumbai, which was the location of a military sanatorium.
Blighty: not just a British-sounding word but a word that actually means ‘Britain’, and yet it comes from the Hindi word ‘bilayati’, for foreign land.
Juggernaut: a large destructive force, from the Sanskrit ‘Jagannatha’, meaning ‘lord of the world’.
Polo: a sport so English it’s beloved by the royals, but it’s actually derived from the Kashmiri word for ‘ball’.
Swastika: okay, so you probably thought this was German rather than English, but no – it’s from the Sanskrit ‘svastika’, meaning, rather inappropriately, a belief in good fortune.