Glossary of the British Raj

The following is based on a glossary attached to the fifth Report of the Committee of the House of Commons on Indian affairs, appointed in 1810, comprising Hindi-Urdu words commonly used in the administration of the British Raj (British India).

It used British spellings and contemporary interpretations, many which have passed into the English vocabulary:[1]


  • Adalat. Justice, equity; a court of justice. The terms Dewanny Adawlut, and Foujdarry Adawlut, denote the civil and criminal courts of justice. See Dewanny and Foujdarry.
  • Ameer, Meer, Emir. A nobleman. Ameer ul Omrah. Noble of nobles, god of gods,lord of lords
  • Anna. A piece of money, the sixteenth part of a rupee.
  • Aumeen. Trustee, commissioner. A temporary collector or supravisor, appointed to the charge of a country on the removal of a Zemindar, or for any other particular purpose of local investigation or arrangement.
  • Aumil. Agent, officer, native collector of revenue. Superintendent of a district or division of a country, either on the part of the government, Zemindar, or renter.
  • Aumildar. Agent, the holder of an office. An intendant and collector of the revenue, uniting civil, military, and financial powers, under the Mahomedan government.
  • Aurung. The place where goods are manufactured.
  • Bala-Ghaut. Above the Ghauts, in contradistinction to Payeen Ghaut, below the Ghauts. The terms are generally applied to the high tableland in the centre of India, towards its southern extremity.
  • Banyan. A Hindu merchant, or shopkeeper. The term Banyan is used in Bengal to denote the native who manages the money concerns of the European, and sometimes serves him as an interpreter. At Madras, the same description of persons is called Dubash, which signifies one who can speak two languages.
  • Batta. Deficiency, discount, allowance. Allowance to troops in the field.
  • Bazaar. Daily market, or market place.
  • Bega. A land measure equal, in Bengal, to about the third part of an acre.
  • Begum. A lady, princess, woman of high rank.
  • Bice, Vaishya. A man of the third Hindu caste, who by birth is a trader, or husbandman.
  • Brahmen, Brahmin, Brahman, Bramin. A divine, a priest; the first Hindu cast.
  • Brinjarrie, Binjary, Benjary, Banjary. A grain merchant.
  • Bungalow. The name used in Bengal, for a species of country-house, erected by Europeans.
  • Caly Yug, Calyoogum. The present, or fourth age of the world, according to the chronology of the Hindus.
  • Caste, Cast. A tribe, or class of people.
  • Caravan-Serai. The serai of the caravan. See Serai and Choultry.
  • Cawzi, Cazi, Kazy. A Mahomedan judge, or justice, who also officiates as a public notary, in attesting deeds, by affixing his seal. The same as the officer we name Cadi, in Turkey.
  • Cauzy-ul-Cazaut. Judge of judges; the chief judge, or justice.
  • Chandala. One of the names for the most degraded Hindu casts.
  • Choky, Chokee. [Chowkidar = chokidar] A chair, seat; guard, watch. The station of a guard or watchman. A place where an officer is stationed to receive tolls and customs.
  • Choultry. A covered public building, for the accommodation of passengers.
  • Chout. A fourth: a fourth part of sums litigated. Mahratta chout; a fourth [xxxii] of the revenues, exacted as tribute by the Mahrattas.
  • Chubdar. Staff-bearer. An attendant on a man of rank. He waits with a long staff, plated with silver, announces the approach of visitors, and runs before his master, proclaiming aloud his titles.
  • Chunam. Lime.
  • Circar. Head of affairs; the state or government; a grand division of a province; a head man; a name used by Europeans in Bengal, to denote the Hindu writer and accountant, employed by themselves, or in the public offices.
  • Colluries, Colerees. Saltworks, the places where salt is made.
  • Coolites, Cooly. Porter, labourer.
  • Coss. A term used by Europeans, to denote a road-measure of about two miles, but differing in different parts of India.
  • Crore. A unit in the Indian numbering system equal to 100 lac i.e. ten million or 107 in scientific notation, and written as “1,00,00,000” (rather than “10,000,000”) in the Indian convention of digit grouping.
  • Csnatriya, Kshatriya, Chetterie, Khetery. A man of the second or military caste.
  • Cutcherry. Court of justice; also the public office where the rents are paid, and other business respecting the revenue transacted.
  • Cutwal, Katwal. The chief officer of police in a large town or city, and superintendent of the markets.
  • Dar. Keeper, holder. This word is often joined with another, to denote the holder of a particular office or employment, as Chob-dar, staff-holder; Zemin-dar, land-holder. This compound word, with i, ee, y, added to it, denotes the office, as Zemindar-ee.
  • Darogah. A superintendent, or overseer; as of the police, the mint, &c.
  • Daum, Dam. A copper coin, the fortieth part of a rupee.
  • Deccan. Literally, the south. A term employed by Mahomedan writers, to denote the country between the rivers Nerbuddah and Crishna.
  • Decoits. Gang-robbers. Decoity, gang-robbery.
  • Dewan, Duan. Place of assembly. Native minister of the revenue department; and chief justice, in civil causes, within his jurisdiction; receiver-generad of a province. The term is also used, to designate the principal revenue servant under a European collector, and even of a Zemindar. By this title, the East India Company are receivers-general of the revenues of Bengal, under a grant from the Great Mogul.
  • Dewanny, Duannee. The office, or jurisdiction of a Dewan.
  • Dewanny Court of Adawlut. A court for trying revenue, and other civil causes.
  • Doab, Doowab. Any tract of country included between two rivers.
  • Droog. A fortified hill or rock.
  • Dubash. See Banyan.
  • Durbar. The court, the hall of audience; a levee.
  • Faqueer, Fakir. A poor man, mendicant, a religious beggar.
  • Firmaun, Phirmaund. Order, mandate. An imperial decree, a royal grant, or charter.
  • Foujdar, Fojedar, Phousdar, Fogedar. Under the Mogul government, a magistrate of the police over a large district, who took cognizance of all criminal matters within his jurisdiction, and sometimes was employed as receiver-general of the revenues.
  • Foujdarry, Fojedaree. Office of a Foujdar.
  • Foujdarry Court. A court for administering the criminal law.
  • Ghaut. A pass through a mountain; applied also to a range of hills, and the ford of a river.
  • Ghee. Clarified butter, in which state they preserve that article for culinary purposes.
  • Ghirdawar, Girdwar. An overseer of police, under whom the goyendas, or informers, act.
  • Gomastah. A commissioner, factor, agent.
  • Gooroo, Guru. Spiritual guide.
  • Goyenda. An inferior officer of police; a spy, informer.
  • Gunge. A granary, a depot, chiefly of grain for sale. Wholesale markets, held on particular days. Commercial depots.
  • Gurry. A name given to a wall flanked with towers.
  • Haram. Seraglio, the place where the ladies reside.
  • Hircarra, Harcarrah. A guide, a spy, a messenger.
  • Howda. The seat of great men fixed on an elephant, not much unlike the body of a sedan in shape.
  • Jaghire, Jagheer. Literally, the place of taking. An assignment, to an individual, of the government share of the produce of a portion of land. There were two species of jaghires; one, personal, for the use of the grantee; another, in trust, for some public service, most commonly, the maintenance of troops.
  • Jamma, Jumma. Total, amount, collection, assembly. The total of a territorial assignment.
  • Jammabundy, Jummabundy. A written schedule of the whole of an assessment.
  • Jeel, Keel. A shallow lake, or morass.
  • Jinjal. A large musket, fixed on a swivel, used in Indian forts, and fired with great precision.
  • Jug. See Yug.
  • Jungle, Jangle. A wood, or thicket; a country overrun with shrubs, or long grass.
  • Khalsa. Pure, unmixed. An office of government, in which the business of the revenue department is transacted: the exchequer. Khalsa lands, are lands, the revenue of which is paid into the exchequer.
  • Khan, Cawn. A title, similar to that of Lord.
  • Khilaut, Kelaut. A robe of honour, with which princes confer dignity.
  • Killader, Kelladar. Warder of a castle commander of a fort.
  • Kist. Stated payment, instalment of rent.
  • Kushoon, Cushogn. A body of military, corresponding nearest to our term brigade; varying from one to six or eight thousand.
  • Lac, (also spelt Lakh). In the Indian numbering system a unit of one hundred thousand or 105 in scientific notation, and written as “1,00,000” (rather than “100,000”) in the Indian convention of digit grouping.
  • Lascar. Properly a camp-follower, but applied to native sailors and artillery-men.
  • Limber. A low two-wheeled carriage, on which the trial of a gun is fixed when travelling: it is released in a moment if wanted to fire, which is called unlimbering; the cattle being yoked to the limber, guns are of course always dragged breech first.
  • Maal, Mahl, Mehal, Mhal. Places, districts, departments. Places, or sources of revenue, particularly of a territorial nature; lands.
  • Maha. Great.
  • Mocurrery. As applied to lands, it means lands let on a fixed lease.
  • Mofussil. Separated, particularized; the subordinate divisious of a district, in contradistinction to Saddur, or Sudder, which implies the chief seat of government.
  • Mofussil Dewanny Adawlut. Provincial court of civil justice.
  • Molungee. Manufacturer of salt.
  • Moofty, Muftee. The Mahomedan law-officer who declares the sentence.
  • Monsoon. The rainy season. The periodical winds and rains.
  • Moolavy, Mohlavee. A learned and religious man, an interpreter of the Mahomedan law.
  • Moonshee. Letter-writer, secretary. Europeans give this title to the native who instructs them in the Persian language.
  • Mosque. A Mahomedan temple.
  • Musnud. The place of sitting; a seat; a throne, or chair of state.
  • Mutseddey, Mutaseddee. Iutent upon. Writer, accountant, secretary.
  • Nabob, Nawab. Very great deputy vicegerent. The governor of a province under the Mogul government.
  • Naib. A deputy.
  • Naib Nazim. Deputy of the Nazim, or Governor.
  • Naig, Naik. A petty military officer.
  • Nair. Chief. The Nairs are a peculiar description of Hindus, on the Malabar coast.
  • Nazim. Composer, arranger, adjuster. The first officer of a province, and minister of the department of criminal justice.
  • Nizam. Order, arrangement; an arranger.
  • Nizam ul Mulk. The administrator of the empire.
  • Nizamut. Arrangement, government; the office of the Nazim, or Nizam.
  • Nizamut Adawlut. The court of criminal justice.
  • Nulla. Streamlet, water-course.
  • Nuzzer. A vow, an offering; a present made to a superior.
  • Omrah. A lord, a grandee, under the Mogul government.
  • Pagoda. A temple; also the name of a gold coin, in the south of India, valued at eight shillings.
  • Palankeen. A litter in which gentleman in India recline, and are carried on the shoulders of four men.
  • Pariar. A term used by Europeans in India to denote the outcasts of the Hindu tribes.
  • Patan. A name applied to the Afghaun tribes.
  • Peshwa, Peishwa. Guide, leader. The prime minister of the Mahratta government.
  • Peon. A lootmon, a foot soldier; an inferior officer or servant employed in the business of the revenue, police, or judicature.
  • Pergunnah. A small district, consisting of several villages.
  • Peshcush. A present, particularly to government, in consideration of an appointment, or as an acknowledgment for any tenure. Tribute, fine, quit-rent, advance on the stipulated revenues.
  • Pettah. The suburbs of a fortified town.
  • Polligar, Polygar. Head of a village district. Military chieftain in the Peninsula, similar to hill Zemindar in the northern circars.
  • Pollam. A district held by a Polligar.
  • Potail. The head man of a village. The term corresponds with that of Mocuddim and Mundul in Bengal.
  • Pottah. A lease granted to the cultivators on the part of government, either written on paper, or engraved with a style on the leaf of the fan palmira tree
  • Pundit. A learned Brahmen.
  • Purana, Pooran. Literally ancient: the name given to such Hindu books as treat of creation in general, with the history of their gods and ancient heroes.
  • Pyke. A foot messenger. A person employed as a night-watch in a village, and as a runner or messenger on the business of the revenue.
  • Rajah. King, prince, chieftain, nobleman; a title in ancient times given to chiefs of the second or military Hindu tribe only.
  • Rajepoot. Literally, son of a king. The name of a warlike race of Hindus.
  • Rana. A species of rajah.
  • Ranny, Ranee. Queen, princess, wife of a rajah.
  • Roy Royan. A Hindu title given to the principal officer of the Khalsa, or chief treasurer of the exchequer.
  • Rupee. The name of a silver coin; rated in the Company's accounts, the current (1810) rupee at 2s.; the Bombay rupee at 2s. 3d.
  • Ryot. Peasant, subject; tenant of house or land.
  • Sayer. What moves; variable imposts, distinct from land rent or revenue; consisting of customs, rolls, licences, duties on goods, also taxes on houses, shops, bazars, &c.
  • Sepoy. A native soldier.
  • Serai. The same as Choaltry.
  • Shaster. The instrument of government or instruction; any book of instruction, particularly containing divine ordinances.
  • Shroff, Shrof. A banker, or money-changer.
  • Sirdar. Chief, captain, head man.
  • Soucar. A merchant, or banker; a money-lender.
  • Subah. A province such as Bengal. A grand division of a country, which is again divided into circars, chucklas, pergunnahs, and villages.
  • Subahdar. The holder of the subah, the governor or viceroy.
  • Subahdary. The office and jurisdiction of a subahdar.
  • Sudder. The breast; the fore-court of a house; the chief seat of government, contradistinguished from Mofussil, or interior of the country; the presidency.
  • Sudder Dewanny Adawlut. The chief civil court of justice under the [xxxv] Company's government, held at the presidency.
  • Sudder Nizamut Adawlut. The chief criminal court of justice, under the Company's government.
  • Shudra, Sudra, Sooder. A Hindu of the fourth, or lowest tribe.
  • Sonnud. A prop, or support; a patent, charter, or written authority for holding either land or office.
  • Talookdar. A holder of a talook, which is a small portion of land; a petty land-agent.
  • Tank. Pond, reservoir.
  • Tannahdar. A petty police officer.
  • Teed. A note of hand; a promissory note given by a native banker, or money-lender, to Zemindars and others, to enable them to furnish government with security for the payment of their rents.
  • Tehsildar. Who has charge of the collections. A native collector of a district, acting under a European or Zemindar.
  • Topashes. Native black Christians, the remains of the ancient Portuguese.
  • Tope. A grove of trees.
  • Tuncaw, Tunkha. An assignment on the revenue, for personal support, or other purposes.
  • Tumbril. A carriage for the gun ammunition.
  • Vackbel, Vaqnibl. One endowed with authority to act for another. Ambassador, agent sent on a special commission, or residing at a court. Native law pleader, under the judicial system of the Company.
  • Vizir, Vizier. Under the Mogul government, the prime minister of the sovereign.
  • Vedas, Veds, Beeds. Science, knowledge. The sacred scriptures of the Hindus.
  • Yogies, Jogies. Hindu devotees.
  • Yug, Jug, Yoog. An age; a great period of the Hindus; also a religious ceremony.
  • Zemindar. From two words signifying, earth, land, and holder or keeper. Land-keeper. An officer who, under the Mahomedan government, was charged with the superintendence of the lands of a district, financially considered; the protection of the cultivators, and the realization of the government's share of its produce, either in money or kind.
  • Zemindarry. The office or jurisdiction of a Zemindar.
  • Zenana. The place where the ladies reside.
  • Zillah. Side, part, district, division. A local division of a country having reference to personal jurisdiction.

See also

  • Colonial British India


  1. ^ Mill, James, The History of British India, Vol. 1 (of 6), 3rd Edition, London, 1826, Glossary [1]
British Raj

The British Raj (; from rāj, literally, "rule" in Hindustani) was the rule by the British Crown in the Indian subcontinent from 1858 to 1947. The rule is also called Crown rule in India, or direct rule in India. The region under British control was commonly called British India or simply India in contemporaneous usage, and included areas directly administered by the United Kingdom, which were collectively called British India, and those ruled by indigenous rulers, but under British tutelage or paramountcy, and called the princely states. The whole was also informally called the Indian Empire.

As India, it was a founding member of the League of Nations, a participating nation in the Summer Olympics in 1900, 1920, 1928, 1932, and 1936, and a founding member of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945.This system of governance was instituted on 28 June 1858, when, after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the rule of the British East India Company was transferred to the Crown in the person of Queen Victoria (who, in 1876, was proclaimed Empress of India). It lasted until 1947, when it was partitioned into two sovereign dominion states: the Dominion of India (later the Republic of India) and the Dominion of Pakistan (later the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the eastern part of which, still later, became the People's Republic of Bangladesh). At the inception of the Raj in 1858, Lower Burma was already a part of British India; Upper Burma was added in 1886, and the resulting union, Burma, was administered as an autonomous province until 1937, when it became a separate British colony, gaining its own independence in 1948.

Company rule in India

Company rule in India (sometimes, Company Raj, "raj", lit. "rule" in Hindustani) refers to the rule or dominion of the British East India Company over parts of the Indian subcontinent. This is variously taken to have commenced in 1757, after the Battle of Plassey, when Mir Jafar, the new Nawab of Bengal enthroned by Robert Clive, became a puppet in the Company's hands; in 1765, when the Company was granted the diwani, or the right to collect revenue, in Bengal and Bihar; or in 1773, when the Company established a capital in Calcutta, appointed its first Governor-General, Warren Hastings, and became directly involved in governance. By 1818, with the defeat of the Marathas, followed by the pensioning of the Peshwa and the annexation of his territories, British supremacy in India was complete.The East India Company was a private company owned by stockholders and reporting to a board of directors in London. Originally formed as a monopoly on trade, it increasingly took on governmental powers with its own army and judiciary. It seldom turned a profit, as employees diverted funds into their own pockets. The British government had little control, and there was increasing anger at the corruption and irresponsibility of Company officials or "nabobs" who made vast fortunes in a few years. Pitt's India Act of 1784 gave the British government effective control of the private company for the first time. The new policies were designed for an elite civil service career that minimized temptations for corruption. Increasingly Company officials lived in separate compounds according to British standards. The Company's rule lasted until 1858, when, after the Indian rebellion of 1857, it was abolished. With the Government of India Act 1858, the British government assumed the task of directly administering India in the new British Raj.

List of English words of Hindi or Urdu origin

This is a list of English-language words of Hindi and Urdu origin, two distinguished registers of the Hindustani language. Many of the Hindi and Urdu equivalents have originated from Sanskrit; see List of English words of Sanskrit origin. Many others are of Persian origin; see List of English words of Persian origin. Some of the latter are in turn of Arabic or Turkic origin. In some cases words have entered the English language by multiple routes - occasionally ending up with different meanings, spellings, or pronunciations, just as with words with European etymologies. Many entered English during the British Raj. These borrowings, dating back to the colonial period, are often labeled as "Anglo-Indian".


Urdu (; Urdu: اُردُو‬‎ ALA-LC: Urdū [ˈʊrduː] (listen)) (also known as Lashkari, locally written لشکری)—or, more precisely, Modern Standard Urdu—is a Persianised standard register of the Hindustani language. It is the official national language and lingua franca of Pakistan. In India, it is one of the 22 official languages recognized in the Constitution of India, having official status in the six states of Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, as well as the national capital territory of Delhi. It is a registered regional language of Nepal.

Apart from specialized vocabulary, spoken Urdu is mutually intelligible with Standard Hindi, another recognized register of Hindustani. The Urdu variant of Hindustani received recognition and patronage under British rule when the British replaced the local official languages with English and Hindustani written in Nastaʿlīq script, as the official language in North and Northwestern India. Religious, social, and political factors pushed for a distinction between Urdu and Hindi in India, leading to the Hindi–Urdu controversy.According to Nationalencyklopedin's 2010 estimates, Urdu is the 21st most spoken first language in the world, with approximately 66 million speakers. According to Ethnologue's 2017 estimates, Urdu, along with standard Hindi and the languages of the Hindi belt (as Hindustani), is the 3rd most spoken language in the world, with approximately 329.1 million native speakers, and 697.4 million total speakers.

Urdu in the United Kingdom

Urdu is the fourth most commonly spoken language in the United Kingdom. According to the 2011 census, 269,000 people (0.5% of UK residents) listed Urdu as their main language. Ethnologue reports the total number of Urdu-speakers in the UK at over 400,000.

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