Saturday, 4 January 2014

Heard in India (Part 1: A to M): The answers

Here are the answers to the first part of the quiz I set a couple of days ago.
  • Abdar: A servant who sets the table.
  • Alkalak: The long coat worn by horsemen.
  • Angrezi Raj: British Rule.
  • Anna: A coin worth one-sixteenth of a rupee.
  • Atchan: A uniform jacket.
  • Ayah: A female servant, often a nursemaid for young children.
  • Baba: A good or loyal person.
  • Baba log: Good (loyal, honest) people.
  • Baboo (or Babu): A clerk or scribe.
  • Badmash: An evil person, insurgent, rioter etc.
  • Badshah: A great King.
  • Bakhsheesh: Gratuity, alms … or even a bribe!
  • Bahadur: When used as a title = champion, hero.
  • Bandobast (or Bundobast): Arrangement or organisation.
  • Bandook (or Bundock): A long gun such as a matchlock, musket, rifle etc.
  • Banya (or Buniah): A corn chandler.
  • Barkandaze: A matchlockman.
  • Basan (or Basunta): A yellow flowering bush whose flowers are usually the first sign of Spring.
  • Begum: A Queen.
  • Beyla: A dry river bed.
  • Bhang: Hemp when used as a narcoitic.
  • Bhagwan Jhanda: The holy standard of the Marathas.
  • Bhat: The native dialect.
  • Bhisti (or Bishti): A water carrier, such as Gunga Din.
  • Bibighar: The women’s quarters. It was often used to describe the Indian wives of British Officers.
  • Bilaitee: A Kabuli or Afghan.
  • Bowrie: A well.
  • Brahman: The highest caste within the cast system. Hindu priests belong to this caste. The majority of Brahmans are land owning farmers.
  • Bungalow: A square single storey building. Literally a ‘house in the Bengal style’.
  • Bunnia: A money lender.
  • Burquha (or Burqua, Burkha, Bourkha, or Burka): a Female garment which covers the wearer from head to toe.
  • Chai: Tea made in the Indian manner (i.e. the tea, water, milk, and sugar are all boiled together before serving).
  • Chapattis (or Chupattis): Flat discs of unleavened bread.
  • Chaprassi: A messenger.
  • Chapplis: Native sandals.
  • Char (or Cha): Tea made in the English manner (i.e. the tea is added to boiling water, and after it has brewed it is strained, and then milk [or lemon] and sugar are added to suit the taste of the drinker).
  • Charpoy: A low, framed bed.
  • Chick: A hanging screen.
  • Chirag: Clay saucers of oil with a wick that are used as lamps.
  • Chit: A note or slip of paper. In the British Army it was used for a note that gave the carrier permission to do something (e.g. an ‘excused boots’ chit).
  • Chittak: A measure of weight that was slightly less than two ounces.
  • Chota: Little (e.g. Chota Peg = a small drink).
  • Chowkiedar: A policeman.
  • Coorta: A Muslim women’s clothes.
  • Cutcherry (or Kutcheri): A court of law that dealt with civil offences.
  • Dacoit: A professional bandit.
  • Dai: A nurse and/or midwife.
  • Dak: The Postal Service
  • Darzee (or Darzi or Derzi): A tailor.
  • Dharma: Duty.
  • Dhobie: Washing.
  • Dhobie Wallah: A laundryman.
  • Dholli: Traditional gift given to a landlord in addition to taxes and rent.
  • Dhoti: The loin cloth worn by most Indians.
  • Dhoolie: A litter for carrying the wounded.
  • Doad: Land between two rivers.
  • Dogra: A mountain man or mountaineer. Usually used when referring to a Rajput.
  • Duffadar: A Native Cavalry Sergeant.
  • Duffadar Major: A Native Cavalry Sergeant Major.
  • Durbar: The Royal Court.
  • Dustoori: An expression meaning ‘Nothing can be done about it’.
  • Fakir: A poor holy man.
  • Feringhee: An unbeliever (e.g. a Christian).
  • Gerbauchs: A type of swivel gun.
  • Ghadi: A throne.
  • Gharry (or Ghari): A two-wheeled passenger carriage.
  • Ghat: A landing place on a river bank.
  • Ghazi: A Muslim holy warrior. They were fanatics intent upon dying after killing a non-believer and so qualifying to enter Paradise as a result.
  • Ghora Wallah: A groom or carriage driver.
  • Gingal (or Jingal): Small bore cannon that were often mounted on walls or tripods.
  • Golundaz: A gunner.
  • Gonda: A hereditary cowherd.
  • Goojur: A hereditary brigand or thief.
  • Goomtasha: An envoy, or agent acting for an important person.
  • Guru: A teacher and/or wise man.
  • Hafiz: A Muslim who knows the entire Koran by heart.
  • Halwi: A sweetmeat seller.
  • Havildar: A Native Infantry Sergeant.
  • Havildar Major: A Native Infantry Sergeant Major.
  • Hookah: A hubble-bubble pipe.
  • Hookah burdwar: The servant who recharges the hookah with tobacco and rosewater.
  • Howdah: An elephant carriage fixed to the back of the animal.
  • Hurkara: A runner or foot messenger.
  • Imam: A Muslim elder and/or priest.
  • Jang dida: Someone who has experienced war; a campaign veteran.
  • Jangli: A forest.
  • Jat: The hereditary warrior tribe of Rajputs.
  • Jellabi: Sweets.
  • Jemadar: A Native Infantry Lieutenant.
  • Jheel: A swamp.
  • Juldi (or Juldee): Hurry up
  • Kala Pani: The sea (literally ‘Black Water’).
  • Kansama: A butler.
  • Kalakasi: Someone employed to pitch tents.
  • Khitmagar: A bearer or male servant.
  • Khotwal (or Kotwal): A Native Official or Magistrate of the Bazaar.
  • Khud: A Steep slope, precipice, or abyss.
  • Kit (or Khit): Equipment.
  • Kootub (or Kutub): A small village.
  • Koss: The Indian measurement for a distance of two miles.
  • Kot Duffadar: A Native Cavalry NCO.
  • Ksatriya: The Lordly or Warrior caste. The second highest caste in the caste system.
  • Kurta: A frock coat.
  • Lakh: One hundred thousand rupees (A lakh of rupees was worth about £10,000 in 1857).
  • Lascar: A camp follower, general labourer, or native sailor.
  • Lat: Great, big, or large.
  • Loot: Plunder.
  • Lotah: A drinking vessel.
  • Maidan: The plains or any large, flat area.
  • Maharajah: A King.
  • Mahout: A hereditary elephant driver.
  • Mall: The main street in a town or city.
  • Maulvi: A learned man, often a doctor. (Usually used to describe a Muslim.)
  • Maund: A measure of weight of approximately 80 pounds.
  • Memsahib: A lady; the term was common usage for an British Official’s or Officer’s wife.
  • Mistry: A workman, builder, or mason.
  • Mleccha: The casteless ‘Untouchables’ who were outside the caste system. They were usually employed doing the most menial and/or degrading tasks that no Indian of caste would do.
  • Mofussil: The countryside.
  • Mohur: A gold coin worth sixteen rupees.
  • Muezzin: The man who calls Muslims to prayer from the minaret of a mosque.
  • Mufti: Civilian clothes as opposed to uniform.
  • Mullah: A Muslim religious leader.
  • Muggar: A river crocodile.
  • Munshi: A tutor or teacher.


  1. Many of these words remind me of the books I have read about India over the years. Kipling comes to mind (of course) but also the excellent fiction works such as by Talbot Mundy,Francis Yeats-Brown (Lives of a Bengal Lancer) and other literature of and about the British Raj era. There are others that come to mind too: The Jewel in the Crown, George MacDonald Frasier’s Flashman Series, E. M. Forester’s A Passage to India, Kayne’s The Far Pavallions and Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet.

    I recommend among the many military and historical non-fiction book James Morris’ Heaven’s Command which is both an overview and a social narrative about what it was to be a colonial Victorian and how it grew from its Georgian East India Company roots.

  2. CoastConFan,

    The is a lot of 'forgotten' literature about British India ... and I hope that I have done my 'bit' to try to revive interest in it.

    John Masters is one author whose books seem to be less read these days, and yet I think that they are excellent.

    All the best,


  3. Masters' works have never been commonly available here in the US outside of a few imports. It's one of those things: "England and America are two countries divided by a common language." George Bernard Shaw. He also touched on wargames (I suspect) when he said, "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." Keep on playing!

  4. CoastConFan,

    I did not realise that John Masters's books were not readily available in the US.

    I like the Bernard Shaw quote ... and it certainly does apply to wargaming, although I suspect that as a confirmed pacifist GBS might not have seen wargaming as a suitable hobby!

    All the best,