Glossary of the British Raj

Wikipedia glossary

The following is based on a glossary attached to the fifth Report of the Committee of the House of Commons on Indian affairs, appointed in 1810, comprising Hindustani words commonly used in the administration of the British Raj (British India).

English language public instruction began in India in the 1830s during the rule of the East India Company (India was then, and is today, one of the most linguistically diverse regions of the world). In 1835, English replaced Persian as the official language of the Company. Lord Macaulay played a major role in introducing English and western concepts to education in India. He supported the replacement of Persian by English as the official language, the use of English as the medium of instruction in all schools, and the training of English-speaking Indians as teachers. Throughout the 1840s and 1850s, primary, middle, and high-schools were opened in many districts of British India, with most high-schools offering English language instruction in some subjects. In 1857, just before the end of Company rule, universities modelled on the University of London and using English as the medium of instruction were established in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. During the British Raj, lasting from 1858 to 1947, English language penetration increased throughout India. This was driven in part by the gradually increasing hiring of Indians in the civil services. At the time of India's independence in 1947, English was the only functional lingua franca in the country.

It used British spellings and contemporary interpretations, many which have passed into the English vocabulary.



  • Adalat, Adawlut: Justice, equity; a court of justice. The terms Dewanny Adawlut, and Foujdarry Adawlut, denote the civil and criminal courts of justice. See Dewanny and Foujdarry.
  • Ameer, Meer, Mir, Emir: A nobleman. Amee... more
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