WWI British Slang that May Have Come from India

I’ve been meaning to compile this list for a while, if for no other reason than the fact that you really have to see this list to believe it!  The number of words borrowed from Hindustani in particular is pretty remarkable.

I used several sites found via a Google Search; by far the best ones were on the Wakefield Family History Sharing site and  on a site called Legends and Traditions of the Great War.

Some were clearly in use before the war; others seem to have appeared after troops from the British Isles came in contact with colonial troops from India, or with English battalions that had been stationed in India (such as mine).

I don’t think this is a complete list, to be honest, and I don’t think anyone has really looked at just how many words and ideas were shared during this time.  If anyone knows of good resources that explore this, please let me know!

Ak Dum– At once; hurry; from Hindustani

Blighty– Britain; from the Hindustani Bilayati meaning “a faraway place.”

Buckshee– Free; spare; from Arabic or Hindustani Baksheesh meaning “gratuity.”

Bundook– A rifle; from the Arabic or Hindustani for a rifle or crossbow.

Burgoo– Porridge. From Arabic, Turkish, or Hindustani Burghul

Char– Tea; from Hindustani

Charpoy– Bed; from Hindustani

Cherb– Beer; from Hindustani

Chipperow– Quiet; shut up; from Hindustani Chuprao.

Chit– A note or receipt; from Hindustani Cittha via the Sanskrit Citra

Chokey– Jail; from the Hindustani Cauki, meaning “lockup.”

Chup– See Chipperow

Cushy– From the Urdu Kushi meaning “Pleasure” and Hindustani khush meaning “pleasant.”

Dekko– Look; observe; from Hindustani Dekho (to look) and Dekhna (to see)

Doolally– Insane; from Deolali, a place in India

Dum-Dum– A soft-tipped expanding round; from the arsenal at Dum-Dum near Calcutta

Fanti– Insane; from Hindustani

Jildi- Hurry up; from Hindustani

Loose– a thief; from the Hindustani Lus

Lukri– Wood; from Hindustani

Muckim– Butter; From Hindustani

Parnee– Water; from Hindustani

Phut– As in “to go phut;” to cease working; Hindustani, English use attributed to Rudyard Kipling

Rooti– Bread; from Hindustani roti.

Tamboo– A trench dugout; uncertain origin but could be Hindustani.

Wallah– person on duty (e.g. “char-wallah,” one who makes tea); from Hindustani wala, meaning “protector”


3 thoughts on “WWI British Slang that May Have Come from India

  1. Hi

    What an interesting post.

    I wondered if you know if there were any slang words in Hindi or Gujarat among the Indian soldiers during the First World War? There were so many in English that came from these men from different social backgrounds being closely confined together, and it seems logical that colloquial phrases and slang words would have also appeared within other languages, even if it was just naming a specific weapon or other nationalities (such as Jerry in English).


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