Basic Hindi Vocabulary for Lucky English-Speaking Learners

Brian Steel

Copyright © Brian Steel 2011

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If you speak English and wish to speed up your acquisition of general Hindi vocabulary, consider the 400 words listed below in translitarated form as a beginners’ bonus. Most of the items, which are commonly used loanwords from English, will not help much with your travel or with conversations in the street but they are useful for beginning to understand bits and pieces of the spoken and written Hindi currently used by the media and in political life as well as by the Indian middle classes in their daily conversation. There are many more of these to be picked up as you listen to or read the media.

This windfall for English speakers is entirely due to the very special historical links between Hindi and English. In contemporary Hindi, English loan words and phrases (and the much more complex and fascinating phenomenon of “code-switching”), have become an essential part of contemporary Hindi. The total number and rate of borrowings far exceed the number of English words used in French, which so upsets French purists. In India the thousands of loanwords are taken for granted, especially as part of globalisation.You will already have witnessed the usage in practically any Bollywood film you have seen. It is a linguistic wonder to behold, and it is not confined to scripted dialogue or commentaries. At the more basic word and phrase level, a striking advantage which facilitates these borrowings is the ability of Hindi to represent most English sounds fairly accurately (in a rough and ready way) within Hindi phonetics. This is simply not possible in languages like French, Spanish and many (most?) others.

To allow the English words to ‘emerge’ from the transliterations below, simply pronounce what you see. Some may amuse you: smile while you learn!

It is essential to know that Hindi ‘ee’ = ee in English but single 'e' rhymes with 'rate', or sometimes with 'ten. So ‘peeem’ in Hindi is pronounced more or less as 'pee aim' = P.M. Similarly, 'tren' = train, and 'eme' is M.A. ('aim-eh'). The double vowel ‘aa+ee’ rhymes with ‘my’ or 'high': hence Hindi 'haaee kort' (High Court), or 'aaeeeess' (IAS: I = aaee; A = e; S = ess, the Indian Civil Service).

Also the letter ‘v’ is often pronounced as a soft version of ‘w’ as in ‘vikeeleeks’. Do not be distracted by the lack of capital letters in the transliterations. That is the Devanagari alphabet in action. Also, for your and my convenience, I have not used Devanagari alphabetical order.

To allow those who wish to see how these ‘English’ Hindi words are written I had intended to add a few transliterations of the Devanagari forms – but they are not printable online with my very rudimentary (hand-crafted!) web page HTML. My apologies for the technical shortcomings. A much more complete Word document is available for those interested.(This also includes columns and an attempt to distinguish between the different types of 'd', t', 'r', etc.)

Although most of the items below are single lexical items, special notice should be given to those marked (E/H). These are hybrid English-Hindi phrases, which give a very fleeting glimpse of the sorts of complex and very dexterous code-switching that goes on all the time in contemporary sophisticated Hindi. If you wish to see an analysis of this real code-switching, I strongly recommend this academic paper by Dr Tomasz Borowiak on “Hindi Englishization”.

Basic Loanwords

aaeeaaeetee, IIT = Indian Inst of Technology
aaee.e.ess., IAS, India Administrative Service: ('Bharateey prashaasnik sevaa')
aaee.es.aaee., ISI (Pakistani Military Intelligence)
aaee.see.see., ICC, International Cricket Council ('antarrashtreeyaa krikat parishad')
aaee.see.yoo., ICU (Intensive Care Unit)
aiscrim, icecream,
aksijaan, oxygen,
aaut, Out! (cricket)
aktoobar, October
alteemetam, ultimatum
apeel, appeal
aprail, April
athoritee
auph, of

baiNk, bank
baklash
beebeesee, BBC
beeesef, BSF, Border Security Force
beejepee, BJP
bil, bill & Bill (Political)
bildar
bildiNg
bituman
biznas
blad preshar, blood pressure
blaikmel, blackmail
blem gem, blame game
bloo laain, Blue Line (buses)
boiNg, Boeing
boks
boleevud, Bollywood
brek, break

chain
chaiMpiyan, champion
chalk
charj sheet

daairektar
dayaaree, diary
dedlaaeen

dee.em., DM
dee.em.jee., DMG
dee.em.ke., DMK
dee.je.see., DJC
dee.jee.em., DGM
dee.jee.see.e, DGCA (Civil Aviation)
dee.see.pee., DCP (Deputy Commissioner of Police)
dee.vee.dee., DVD
deelar
deezal, diesel
denmark
desk
digree
diktatar
disaMbar, December
diskaoont, discount
diskvoleephaaee, disqualify
dizaain, design
doktar
draaeevar
drags, drugs
dram, drum
drapht, draught
dres
dubaaee

echaaivee, HIV
edishaan
editar
edmishan
ee-mel
efdeeaaee, FDI (Foreign Direct Investment)
ekspres
eksre, X-ray
ektars, actors
elbam, album
elfaa kutta (E/H) alpha male [lit.alpha dog]
embuleNs, ambulance
eme, M.A.
en.dee.e., NDA
en.dee.tee.vee. (Indeeyaa), NDTV (India)
enjan, engine
es.aaee.tee., SIT
esemblee
esheeyaa(n), Asia(n)
es.aaee.tee., SIT
es.pee, S.P. (Superintendent of Police)
eyar, air
eyar iNdiyaa
eyarlaain(s)
eyarport

faail daraaz, (E/H) filing cabinet
faayariNg, shooting [See 'shooting']
faktaree, factory
feet, (unit of measurement)
fesbuk
film
fon, phone; fon karnaa (E/H), to phone/call
foto
fraans, France

gais, gas
gard, (railway) guard
gavarnar
godaam, [pron, godaoN] warehouse, storage, "go-down"
googal, Google

haaeekort, High Court
haaidrolojikal, hydrological
haeevay, highway
haik, hack(er)
hart atak
hausiNg
heeroin, actress
helo, (phone)
hit, hit (record, etc.)

imej
iNdastree
iNdiyaa
inform karnaa (E/H), to inform
iNglaind
iNjeeniyar
inphleshan
iNtarnat
iyarport

jaaj, judge
jaapaan
janaral, General
jarman, German (language); jarmanee, Germany
jeepeeess, GPS [SatNav]
jel, jail
jepeesee, JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee)
jesmin
jokar, joker
joon
julaaee
juneeyar

kaanfrens
kaarpareshan, Corporation
kafan, coffin
kaibinet
kaimra, camera [vs. kamraa, room]
kainsar
kairiyar, career
kaish
kalektar, Collector (Indian official)
kamaNdo
kameeshaan
kameeshanar, commissioner
kamitee
kaMpanee, company
kampootar
kamyunikeshaNs
kamyunist
kaNgres, Congress Party
kaNstebal, constable
kantrol, control
kap, cup (trophy)
kaptaan, captain
karaNsee, currency
karnal, colonel
kartoon
kavrej, coverage
kes, case [to investigate]
ketring, catering
kilar, killer
kilomeetar
klaas, class (social)
kleenar, vacuum cleaner
komanvelth, Commonwealth
komedee
konstebal, constable [variant spelling]
kopy
korporeshan, corporation
korporet, corporate
kort, court
kot, coat
koton, cotton
kraaim, crime
krikat, cricket; krikatar, cricketer
krishchyan, Christian

laaiseNs, licence
laatheecharj (E /H) lathi charge (police)
lainding
laNdan, London
leebeeyaa
leek
lepht frant, Left Front (Political)
let, late
liNk, link (Internet)
list
lotaree

maaee, May
maarbal, marble
maarch, March
mainajar'
maiths
majistret
masheen
meediya
meetar, metre(s)
mekovar, makeover
mel, email; mel karnaa (E/H), to email
meltdaoon
membar
mesej
metro, New Delhi rail system
meyar, Mayor
mishanairee
mobaail, mobile (phone)
mol, Mall, shopping centre
mood
motar marg (E/H), motorway, freeway

naMbar, number
navaMbar, November
NDTV (endeeteevee) Indeeyaa, NDTV
neshanal, national
normalize honaa (E/H), to normalize
not, note, banknote
notis, notice
nyooyark

oNlaeen
operashan
operetar
overbridge, footbridge
overholiNg (e.g. a system)

paaiplaain, pipeline
paartnar
paasport
pared, parade
partee
peeele, P.L.A. (People’s Liberation Army - China)
peeem, P.M.
peeesee, PAC
pen
pensil
penshan; penshandaree (E/H), pensioner
pharvaree, February
phorensik
pin
pistaul, pistol
pletfarm, platform
postmortam
pradyoosar
pramot karnaa (E/H), to promote
profesar
program
projekt
promo(s)
proseejar, procedure
pulis, police; puliskarmee, (E/H) policeman

raaeet too reekaul, Right to Recall (Indian Politics / Parliament)
radar
raik, rack
ran, run(s) (cricket)
redieshan
rediyo
reeektar
reeport
rel, rail; relbhavan (E/H) railway offices;
relgaaree (E/H) railway; rel maNtree (E/H) Railway Minister
relve, railway
restarent
ret, rate; storee ko ret kareN (E/H), "Rate article." (on Internet)
rikord, record; rikordiNg, recording
riktar, Richter (scale)
riletad, related
rilayaNs, reliance
rileez, (film) release
rileshanshap
riport
ritayard, retired (usually Military)
rivyoo
rol

saaikal, cycle, bike
saain, sign
saainses, sciences
saait
sabsidee
sarvis, service
seebeeaaee, CBI, Central Bureau of Investigation
seebeesee, CBC
seedee
seel
seepeeaaee, CPI
seepeeem, CPM
seepeesee, CPC
seereez
seet, seat(s) (Parliament)
sels, sales
shark
shart, shorts (+? shirt); shart sarkat, (E/H) short circuit
sheyar, share (finance)
sho, show
shok, shock; shok ka lakar {E/H), shock wave;
shooting, filming, ‘shoot’ [vs. fayariNg, shooting, q.v.]
sigret
sinemaa
sistam
sitaMbar. September
skart, skirt
skech
skool
skot, Scotsman
skvid
soonamee, tsunami
soop
sosaayatee, (commercial)
soshal; soshalist; soshalism
speekar, (Political)
Spektram, (2G Spectrum broadband scam, 2010)
spen, Spain
speshal
stedeeam, stadium
staf
steel
steshan
strok
supreem; supreem kort
sveedan, Sweden

taiks, tax
taiksee; taxeevaalaa (E/H) taxi driver; taxi addaa (E/H) taxi stand
tee-partee
teevee
tekaaf, take-off
teknolojee
Teleekom
teraapee, therapy
test
thaaeelaiNd, Thailand
tikat, ticket, postage stamp; tikat ghar (E/H) ticket office
tip: kvik tip(s)
transpondens, transpondence
trast, Trust
trayal, trial
tred, trade
tren, train
treniNg
truck
too jee, 2 G. (scam: see Spektram)
tvitar
tyoob, pipe, tube
tyoonishaa, Tunisia

unfer. unfair

[V: often pronounced W…]

varldkap / vorldkap, World Cup
vebsaait(s)
veeaaeepee, VIP (or ‘weep’)
veediyo
veep, VIP (See above)
veesee, VC, Vice Chancellor
veezaa
veNteeletar, breathing apparatus
vidiyo
vikeeleeks, Wikileaks
viket / vikat, wicket (cricket)
vontad, wanted (police sign)
vot, vote; vot denaa (E/H), to cast a vote; votar, voter

vyatnaam

yoopee, U.P. (Uttar Pradesh)
yoopeees, UPS
yoopeesee, UPC
yoorop, Europe
yooropeeya, European


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