The British Empire, along with the English language, extended into the subcontinent of India in 1612 with the establishment of a trading post on the west coast. For the next three centuries, the English ruled much of the area. While there was relatively little colonization—that is, the settlement of people from England—there was colonialization—that is, rule by the English. As a result, today English is one of India’s official languages and one of the reasons that India serves as the back office for many transnational corporations.
Diffusion of language is rarely a one-way street, and during the three centuries of English rule a number of Hindi words have been incorporated into the English vocabulary:
Bangle: this is a variation of a Hindi term referring to a colored glass bracelet.
Bungalow: The Hindi word “bungalow” actually means “a house built in the style of Bengal.” Many of the Europeans in India lived in a small, one-story house which they called a bungalow. Originally the term referred to a temporary structure.
Toddy: this word refers to the fermented juice of an Indian palm tree. The Hindi “tārī” initially entered English as “tarry” and then become “toddy.”
Shampoo: The Hindi word “champo” means “massage” and was a part of the process of the Turkish bath. The English verb “to shampoo” emerged from “champo” in the 19th century and changed its meaning to “to wash the hair.”
Dungaree: In Hindi, “dungri” referred to a coarse cotton twill fabric which was originally used for sails and tents. The cloth was later used in making durable work cloths and “dungri” was anglicized into “dungaree” in the early 17th century. (Dungaree is a term which was often used on the American east coast to refer to what is mostly now called “jeans.”)
Jungle: “Jungle” was adopted into English from Hindi sometime in the 18th century. Originally the word meant “desert or wasteland” but English speakers used it to mean “forbidding, impenetrable forest.” The Hindi word “jangal” comes from the Sanskrit “jangala” which meant “dry” and hence could be used to describe a desert.
Pajamas: In Hindi, this referred to the loose cotton or silk trousers worn by both Indian men and women. In Hindi “pajama” meant “leg garment.” The English adopted this clothing for nightwear and added a top to complete the ensemble.