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definition - Hindustani_(Hindi-Urdu)_word_etymology

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Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu) word etymology

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Hindustānī also known as "Hindi-Urdu," is a term used by linguists to describe several closely related idioms in the northern, central and northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent. It encompasses two standardized registers in the form of the official languages of Hindi and Urdu language, as well as several nonstandard dialects. Because Hindustani is not an immediate descendant of Sanskrit, the origin of common Hindustani words can be obscure.

Standard Hindi derives much of its formal and technical vocabulary from Sanskrit while standard Urdu derives much of its formal and technical vocabulary from Persian. Standard (shuddha or pāk, meaning "pure") Hindi and Urdu are used only in public addresses and radio or TV news, while the everyday spoken language in most areas is one of several varieties of Hindustani, whose vocabulary contains words drawn from Persian, Arabic, and Sanskrit. In addition, spoken Hindustani includes words from English and other languages as well.

Hindustani or Hindi-Urdu developed over hundreds of years throughout India (which formerly included what is now Pakistan). In the same way that the core vocabulary of English evolved from Old English (Anglo-Saxon) but includes a large number of words borrowed from French and other languages (whose pronunciations often changed naturally so as to become easier for speakers of English to pronounce), what may be called Hindustani can be said to have evolved from Sanskrit while borrowing many Persian and Arabic words over the years, and changing the pronunciations (and often even the meanings) of those words to make them easier for Hindustani speakers to pronounce. Therefore, Hindustani is the language as it evolved organically. This article will deal with the categories of Hindustani words and some of the common words found in the Hindustani language.


Traditional categorization of Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu) words in Hindi pedagogy

Words in Hindustani are analysed in traditional Hindi pedagogy as falling into the following categories:[1]

  • Tadbhava (तद्भव/تدبھو derived from): There are words that are derived from Sanskrit or Prakrit, but often with much transformation.
  • Tatsama (तत्सम/تتسم identical): Words that are in exactly the same form (when written) as standard Sanskrit.
  • Deshaja (देशज/دیشج local): words that are unrelated to any Sanskrit words, and of local origin.
  • Videshi: Loan words from non-Indian languages that include Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Portuguese, or English.

The use of tatsama words was much less common in Apabhramsha.[citation needed] The most common words in Hindustani are tadbhava and are derived through Prakrit and Apabhramsha.[citation needed]

Examples of Hindustani Word Derivations

Origin of hai (है ہے)

One of the most common words in Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu) is hai "is". It originates from the following two sources:

  • Sanskrit: asti ("is") / bhavati ("being") and from Prakrit hoi
  • Prakrit: ahai (here a and i are pronounced separately)[citation needed]

The Sanskrit s sometimes becomes h in Prakrits.

Shortening of ahai produced hai. In some older works in Hindustani literature, one can find usage of ahai. For example, Bharatendu Harishchandra wrote: "निज भाषा उन्नति अहै, सब उन्नति को मूल" ("نِج بھاشا اُنّتِ اَہے، سب اُنّتِ کو مُول "). In Marathi the अ remained, and the cognate of hai is aahe (आहे).

Derivation of jaataa (जाता جاتا) and gayaa (गया گیا)

The word jata ("goes") is from Sanskrit root yaa (yaati, yaata). ya often becomes "ja" in Prakrit.

The word gaya ("went") is from Sanskrit root gam (gachchhati), from gatah. Here t transforms to y in Prakrit.

Aajaa (आजा آجا) and daadaa (दादा دادا)

The word aajaa has also been used in Northern India and Pakistan for "grandfather". It is indeed derived from arya meaning "sir" in this case. Jains nuns are addressed either as Aryika or Ajji.

The word daadaa also has a similar meaning which varies in region. It is used in some regions for "father", in other regions for "older brother", or even for "grandfather" in other regions. This word is an amalgam of two sources:

  • Sanskrit taata used to address intimate persons which means either "sir" or "dear".
  • Tau meaning "father's older brother" is derived from taata


Baḍaa (बड़ा بڑا)

The word "baḍaa" ("older/bigger") is derived from the Sanskrit vridhha through Prakrit vaḍḍha.


  1. ^ Masica, p. 65

development in Hindi, with many period extracts. (Accessed Mar 16, 2006).

  • Hindi Language and Literature, a site about Hindi's usage, dialects, and history by Dr. Yashwant K. Malaiya, Professor at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA.
  • Hindi Language Resources A comprehensive site on the Hindi language built by Yashwant Malaiya
  • Indian Department of Official Language
  • Dua, Hans R. (1994a). Hindustani. In Asher (Ed.) (pp. 1554)
  • Liberman, Anatoly. (2004). Word Origins ... and How We Know Them: Etymology for Everyone. Delhi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-561643-X.
  • Rai, Amrit. (1984). A house divided: The origin and development of Hindi-Hindustani. Delhi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-561643-X.


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