Skip To Content
  • Quiz badge

Which One Of These Words Was Stolen During Colonialism?

Some people call them "loanwords," but that implies being paid back one day.

by ,

This week on See Something Say Something, I talked to Mona Haydar about her video "Hijabi" and to Kiren Rizvi (@Gothistani) about being bitter about colonialism.

Mona Haydar / YouTube

Click here to listen to the full episode.

when u do a presentation on the atrocities caused by western imperialism

At the end, we played a little game called "Did The English Steal This Word From Your People?", preceded by a rant about colonialism from yours truly, which you can listen to below.

.@seesomething @mona_haydar @gothistani Here's me playing a game of "DID THE ENGLISH STEAL THIS WORD FROM YOUR PEOP… https://t.co/W3jRIxpYud

Excerpt: There's an interesting thing that happens I think for a lot of South Asian/North Indian kids, where you realize so many of the words you use are a product of colonialism. I had this moment, just a year ago, where I used to always think the word "jungli" was so funny, because it sounds like, "oh, they're from the jungle? Why did we come up with that? It's such a funny thing that we took that from English." And then I thought about it for a sec. And I was like, "Jungle... it sounds way more Urdu or Desi than it sounds (like) English." And then I looked it up and I was like, "Yeah, the colonizers literally took the word 'jungle' from us and put it into English.'

During the many years of European colonialism in India, the Middle East, and Africa, many words transferred between cultures.

Disney

Most people only think of the English words that appeared in languages like Hindi, Urdu, and Arabic, but English took words from those languages as well. Can you guess which?

(All etymologies sourced from Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Also, I can't guarantee 100% of these words come directly from colonialism, but at the very least, it makes you think about the way English was influenced by other languages.)

  1. WHICH WORD COMES FROM HINDI?

    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    Shampoo comes from the word “champo,” meaning massage it. A massage often accompanied a trip to the barber in the subcontinent.

  2. WHICH OF THESE WORDS WAS NOT TAKEN FROM INDIA TO ENGLAND?

    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    Armada come from Spanish. The rest come from Hindi. Cummerbund literally means “closed waist." “Khaki” was the word used to refer to the dust color of the colonial officers' uniform. “Pariah” comes from the Tamil word for drummer.

  3. WHICH OF THESE WORDS COMES FROM HINDI/URDU?

    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    "Loot" was taken from the Hindi word “loot”, which means to steal/plunder.

  4. WHICH OF THESE WORDS COME FROM BRITISH COLONIAL TIMES?

    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    Thug comes from the word "Thug" or "Thugee," meaning a thief or bandit. The British were fascinated by them — and sought to eradicate them in the 1800s.

  5. WHICH OF THESE WORDS COME PERSIAN/FARSI?

    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    Pajama comes from Persian "pay-jama" (foot-clothing, literally) which went through Urdu to English. Checkmate comes from "Shaa Maat," meaning “the king is unable to escape” And seersucker comes from the phrase “Sir o Sakar,” meaning milk and sugar, referencing the brown and white stripes of Seersucker.

  6. WHICH WARRIOR WORD COMES FROM ARABIC?  

    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    The word assassin is believed to come from the term “hasishiyyin," which refers to an Ismail Nizari group from Alamut in Iran. Though not confirmed, the hasishiyyin had a reputation for murdering powerful political opponents under the influence of hashish.

  7. WHICH OF THESE WORDS COMES FROM THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT?

    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    "Juggernaut" comes from Vishnu's title, Jaggnath ("Lord of the World"). The word came into English after stories of the massive carts that carried his image through the streets were told by travelers from the region.

  8. WHICH ANIMAL TERM COMES FROM ARABIC?

    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    The Arabic word gazelle is actually from the word "ghazaal," which is the name of the animal in Arabic.

  9. WHAT LANGUAGE DOES THE WORD "SAFARI" COME FROM?

    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    Safari comes from the Arabic word “safar,” which means to travel.

  10. WHICH WORD WAS TAKEN FROM HINDI?

    Correct! 
    Wrong! 

    Bangle comes from the word "bangli," meaning a glass bracelet.

How to listen to See Something Say Something:

1. If you’re on a mobile device, click this link to open in your native podcasting app.

2. Or, search for “See Something Say Something” in your podcast app of choice, like Overcast, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Acast, Apple’s built-in Podcast app, and more.

3. Be sure to subscribe, so you never miss a new episode!

If you like the show, please rate and review it on iTunes. Questions? Comments? Email saysomething@buzzfeed.com.

BuzzFeed Daily

Keep up with the latest daily buzz with the BuzzFeed Daily newsletter!

Newsletter signup form