English has been called a magpie language, since like the bird that collects shiny things, English also collects lots of words from many different languages. One of these languages is Hindi. People don’t always think of Hindi as a language that has influenced (had an impact on) English, but there are a number of (many) Hindi loan words in English! Hindi loan words are more common in English than you may think.

To help expand your knowledge of English, whether you’re learning English or you’re a native speaker, check out this list of common Hindi loan words. Some of them may surprise you!

Bandana

From bandhna (बांधना), meaning to tie.

Have you ever worn a bandana? A bandana is a square piece of cloth that you can tie around your head to keep your hair out of your face or tie around your neck to use like a scarf. Bandanas are very versatile (have many different uses), so how you use a bandana is not limited to these two ways! Bandana is a Hindi loan word in English that comes from the word meaning to tie.

For example:

  • Whenever I go hiking, I always wear a bandana to keep the sweat out of my eyes.
  • In the old days, bank robbers would wear a bandana over their mouth and nose to cover their face.

Chit

From chitthi (चिट्ठी), meaning a letter or a note.

chit is not such a common word, but it is one that you’ll hear once in a while. A chit, which is one of many Hindi loan words, is a small scrap of paper with a note or a reminder written on it. Now I use my phone, but when I was younger, I would write small notes to myself on scraps of paper (small, torn pieces of paper). These small notes could be reminders of what homework I had to do, or could be someone’s phone number. These small notes to myself could also be called chits!

For example:

  • She accidentally left the chit with his phone number on it in her pants pocket and put the pants in the wash.
  • I wrote the time of the meeting on a chit while sitting at my desk, but I couldn’t find it. I hope it didn’t get thrown out by mistake!

Guru

From guru  (गुरु) , meaning teacher or priest.

As a yoga teacher, I hear the word guru all the time. Guru is the Hindi word for a teacher or a priest and are usually seen as a very wise person. If you have ever taken a yoga class or been involved in the wellness industry, you’ve probably heard the word guru. Your yoga teacher could have been talking about their teacher and what they learned from them, referring to (talking about) them as their guru. Once you start looking for this word, I’m sure you’ll start seeing it everywhere.

For example:

  • She was called a guru of interior design. People loved her designs and looked to her for advice about how to set up their homes.
  • He studied with a guru for months to learn how to meditate and improve his life.

Juggernaut

From the Sanskrit jagannātha (जगन्नाथ), a form of the god Vishnu. Literally meaning lord of the universe.

The word juggernaut, one of the most interesting Hindi loan words, has a fascinating history of how it came to be in the English language. The original word, Jagannath, is a form (version) of the Hindu god Vishnu. Worshipers (religious followers) of this form of Vishnu pull a 14ft statue of the god through the streets on carts during an annual festival. Early Europeans in India saw these festivals and brought back stories about the festival to Europe. They told stories of worshipers committing suicide under the wheels of the carts as the statues of the gods moved through the streets, although these stories were probably false (wrong). Since then, however, the word juggernaut has come into English meaning an immense (huge), unstoppable, powerful force.

For example:

  • The richest man in the world has been called a juggernaut of his industry. He is so good at what he does, that he seems unstoppable.
  • Her company is an advertising juggernaut. They are the best in their field and have been very successful.

Loot

From loot (लूट), meaning to steal.

Have you ever heard of lootingLooting is when people steal from somewhere, usually during a riot or a war. They may steal things from stores or people’s houses. Loot is a Hindi loan word in English which comes from the word meaning to steal. Sometimes when there are riots, some rioters will start looting stores and stealing from places. The same thing can happen in war after a battle, where the victors (winners) will steal from the losers.

For example:

  • The police arrested looters during the riots. They would catch them on their way out of stores with their arms full of stolen goods.
  • During the Middle Ages, many armies would loot villages that they passed through.

Did you know that these words are all Hindi loan words? Do you know any other words that come from Hindi? Share them with us in the comments below!


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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and would love to go to India and learn more about Hindi loan words!

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