Indian English

Indian English

Indian English is an umbrella term used to describe dialects of the English language spoken primarily in the Republic of India. As a result of British colonial rule until Indian independence in 1947, English remains an official language of India and continues to be widely used in both spoken and literary contexts. The rapid growth of India's economy towards the end of the 20th century led to the establishment of English as a common lingua franca between Indians of diverse regional backgrounds due to large-scale population migration between regions of the Indian subcontinent. The majority of speakers in India learn English as an auxiliary language to their native regional language, and may also have some proficiency with vocabulary (if not the grammar) of other Indian languages, which has caused idiomatic forms derived from Indian literary and vernacular language to become assimilated into Indian English, in differing ways according to the native language of speakers. Nevertheless, there remains general homogeneity in phonetics, vocabulary, and phraseology between variants of the Indian English dialect.

With the exception of the relatively small Anglo-Indian community, speakers of English in the Indian subcontinent learn it as a second language in school. Children in cities commonly attend English medium schools, whereas, it is far more common for children in towns and villages to attend local medium schools, and learn English as a modular subject. Science and technical education is mostly undertaken in English and, as a result, most university graduates in these sectors are fairly proficient in English.[1]



The role of English within the complex multilingual society of India is far from straightforward: it is used across the country, by speakers with various degrees of proficiency; the grammar and phraseology may mimic that of the speaker's first language. While Indian speakers of English use idioms peculiar to their homeland, often literal translations of words and phrases from their native languages, this is far less common in proficient speakers, and the grammar itself tends to be quite close to that of Standard English, while exhibiting some features of American English.


Indian accents vary greatly. Some Indians speak English with an accent very close to a Standard British (Received Pronunciation) accent (though not the same); others lean toward a more 'vernacular', native-tinted, accent for their English speech.


In general, Indian English has fewer peculiarities in its vowel sounds than the consonants, especially as spoken by native speakers of languages like Hindi, which in fact has a vowel phonology very similar to that of English. Among the distinctive features of the vowel-sounds employed by some Indian English speakers are:

  • Many Indian languages do not natively possess a separate phoneme /æ/ (as in <trap>). Thus, many speakers do not differentiate between the vowel sounds /ɛ/ (as in "dress") and /æ/ (as in <trap>), except in cases where a minimal pair such as <bed>/<bad> exists in the vocabulary of the speaker. Such a speaker might pronounce "tax" like the first syllable of "Texas".[2] Speakers of Southern languages and Sinhalese, which do differentiate /ɛ/ and /æ/, do not have difficulty making this distinction.[citation needed] Eastern IE languages, notably Bengali does have the /æ/ sound for both the vowels ā আ (hāñcco—the sneezing sound—pronounced as hæñcco)and /e/ এ (henglā—greedy—pronounced as hængla). The vowel a অ has two sound values in Bengali:as au in aura (tatkāl) and as o ও (Kalikātā). It lacks the short vowel value for a অ (parāthā). Nowadays most Indian students learn English from childhood which enables them to produce almost all phonetics used in English.
  • Chiefly in Punjab and Haryana states and western Uttar Pradesh, the short [ɛ] becomes lengthened and higher to long [eː], making <pen> sound like <paenn>.
  • When a long vowel is followed by "r", some speakers of Indian English usually use a monophthong, instead of the diphthong used for many such words in many other accents. Thus "fear" is pronounced [fir] instead of [fiə].[2]
  • Indian English often uses strong vowels where other accents would have unstressed syllables or words. Thus "cottage" may be pronounced [kɒtedʒ] rather than [kɒtədʒ]. A word such as "was" in the phrase "I was going" will be pronounced [ʋɒz] or [ʋas] in Indian English: in most other accents it would receive the unstressed realization [wəz].[2] Another example is that many Indian English speakers often pronounce <the> as /d̪iː/, irrespective of whether the definite article comes before a vowel or a consonant, or whether it is stressed or not. In native varieties of English, <the> is pronounced as [ðə] when it is unstressed and lies before a consonant, and as [ðiː] when it is before a vowel or when stressed even before a consonant.
  • Continuing the above point, the indefinite article <a> is often pronounced by many Indian English speakers as [eː], irrespective of whether it is stressed or unstressed. In native varieties of English, <a> is pronounced as [ə] when unstressed and as [eɪ] when stressed.[citation needed]
  • The RP vowels /ʌ/, /ə/ and /ɜː/ might be realized as /ə/ in Indian English.[3] Bengalis often pronounce all these vowels as a, including the <r>-colored versions of these vowels. Thus, <firm> may be pronounced the same as [farm].[citation needed]. "Van" as bhan etc.
  • General Indian English realizes /eɪ/ (as in <face>) and /oʊ/ (as in <goat>) as long monophthongs [eː], [oː].[3]
  • Many Indian English speakers do not make a clear distinction between /ɒ/ and /ɔː/. (See cot–caught merger.)
  • Unlike British, but like American English, some Indian speakers don't pronounce the rounded /ɒ/ or /ɔː/, and substitute /a/ instead. This makes <not> sound as [nat]. The phoneme /ɔː/, if used, is only semi-rounded at the lips.[citation needed]. Similarly in South India "Coffee" will be pronounced kaafi, "Copy" will be kaapi etc.
  • Words such as <class>, <staff> and <last> would be pronounced with a back <a> as in British English but unlike American English, i.e., [klɑːs], [stɑːf] and [lɑːst] rather than American [klæːs], [stæːf] and [læːst] and in South of India "Parent" is pɑːrent.
  • Most Indians have the Trap–bath split of Received Pronunciation. Those who don't are usually influenced by American accents; not using the trap–bath split is often popularly construed as attempting to imitate an American accent.


Among the most distinctive features of consonants in Indian English are:

  • Most pronunciations of Indian English are rhotic, but many speakers with higher education are non-rhotic.
  • Standard Hindi and most other vernaculars (except Punjabi & Bengali) do not differentiate between /v/ (voiced labiodental fricative) and /w/ (voiced labiovelar approximant). Instead, many Indians use a frictionless labio-dental approximant [ʋ] for words with either sound, possibly in free variation with [v] and/or [w]. So wet and vet are homophones.[2]
  • Because of the previous characteristic many Indians pronounce words such as <flower> as [flaː(r)] instead of [flaʊə(r)], and <our> as [aː(r)] instead of [aʊə(r)].
  • The voiceless plosives /p/, /t/, /k/ are always unaspirated in Indian English, whereas in RP, General American and most other English accents they are aspirated in word-initial or stressed syllables. Thus "pin" is pronounced [pɪn] in Indian English but [pʰɪn] in most other accents. In native Indian languages (except Tamil), the distinction between aspirated and unaspirated plosives is phonemic, and the English stops are equated with the unaspirated rather than the aspirated phonemes of the local languages.[4] The same is true of the voiceless postalveolar afficate /tʃ/.
  • The alveolar stops English /d/, /t/ are often retroflex [ɖ], [ʈ], especially in the South of India.[5] In Indian languages there are two entirely distinct sets of coronal plosives: one dental and the other retroflex. To the Indian ears, the English alveolar plosives sound more retroflex than dental. In the Devanagari script of Hindi, all alveolar plosives of English are transcribed as their retroflex counterparts. One good reason for this is that unlike most other native Indian languages, Hindi does not have true retroflex plosives (Tiwari, [1955] 2001). The so-called retroflexes in Hindi are actually articulated as apical post-alveolar plosives, sometimes even with a tendency to come down to the alveolar region. So a Hindi speaker normally cannot distinguish the difference between their own apical post-alveolar plosives and English's alveolar plosives. However, languages such as Tamil have true retroflex plosives, wherein the articulation is done with the tongue curved upwards and backwards at the roof of the mouth. This also causes (in parts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh) the /s/ preceding alveolar /t/ to allophonically change to [ ʃ ] (<stop> /stɒp// ʃʈap/). Mostly in south India, some speakers allophonically further change the voiced retroflex plosive to voiced retroflex flap, and the nasal /n/ to a nasalized retroflex flap.
  • Many Indians speaking English lack the voiced postalveolar fricative (/ʒ/), the same as their native languages. Typically, /z/ or /dʒ/ is substituted, e.g. treasure /trɛ.zəːr/,[5] and in the south Indian variants, with /ʃ/ as in <"sh'"ore>, e.g. treasure /trɛ.ʃər/.
  • All major native languages of India lack the dental fricatives (/θ/ and /ð/; spelled with th). Usually, the aspirated voiceless dental plosive [t̪ʰ] is substituted for /θ/ and the unaspirated voiced dental plosive [d̪], or possibly the aspirated version [d̪ʱ]. is substituted for /ð/.[6] For example, "thin" would be realized as [t̪ʰɪn] instead of /θɪn/.
  • South Indians tend to curl the tongue (retroflex accentuation) more for /l/ and /n/.[citation needed]
  • Most Indian languages (except Urdu variety) lack the voiced alveolar fricative /z/. While they do have its nearest equivalent: the unvoiced /s/, strangely, it is not used in substitution. Instead, /z/ is substituted with the voiced palatal affricate (or postalveolar) /dʒ/, just as with a Korean accent. This makes words such as <zero> and <rosy> sound as [dʒiːro] and [roːdʒi:]. This replacement is equally true for Persian and Arabic loanwords into Hindi. The probable reason is the confusion created by the use of the devanagari grapheme < ज > (for /dʒ/) with a dot beneath it to represent the loaned /z/ (as < ज़ >). This is common among people without formal English education.
  • Many Indians with lower exposure to English also may pronounce / f / as aspirated voiceless bilabial plosive [pʰ]. Again note that in Hindi (devanagari) the loaned / f / from Persian and Arabic is written by putting a dot beneath the grapheme for native [pʰ] < फ >: < फ़ >. This substitution is rarer than that for [z], and in fact in many Hindi-speaking areas /f/ is replacing /pʰ/ even in its native words.[citation needed]
  • Inability to pronounce certain (especially word-initial) consonant clusters by people of rural backgrounds. This is usually dealt with by epenthesis. e.g., school /is.kuːl/, similar to Spanish.
  • Sometimes, Indian speakers interchange /s/ and /z/, especially when plurals are being formed. Whereas in international varieties of English, [s] is used for pluralization of a word ending in a voiceless consonant, [z] for that ending in a voiced consonant or vowel, and [ɨz] for that ending in a sibilant.
  • Again, in dialects like Bhojpuri, all instances of /ʃ/ are spoken like [s], a phenomenon which is also apparent in their English. Exactly the opposite is seen for many Bengalis.[citation needed]
  • In case of the postalveolar affricates /tʃ/ /dʒ/, native languages like Hindi have corresponding affricates articulated from the palatal region, rather than postalveolar, and they have more of a stop component than fricative; this is reflected in their English.
  • While retaining /ŋ/ in the final position, Indian speakers usually include the [ɡ] after it. Hence /riŋ.iŋ//riŋ.ɡiŋɡ/ (ringing).[citation needed]
  • Syllabic /l/, /m/ and /n/ are usually replaced by the VC clusters [əl], [əm] and [ən] (as in button /buʈ.ʈən/), or if a high vowel precedes, by [il] (as in little /liʈ.ʈil/). Syllable nuclei in words with the spelling er (a schwa in RP and an r-colored schwa in GA) are also replaced VC clusters. e.g., meter, /miːtər//miːʈər/.[citation needed]
  • Indian English uses clear [l] in all instances like Irish English whereas other varieties use clear [l] in syllable-initial positions and dark [l] (velarized-L) in coda and syllabic positions.

Spelling pronunciation

A number of distinctive features of Indian English are due to "the vagaries of English spelling".[6] Most Indian languages have a very phonetic pronunciation with respect to their script, and unlike English, the spelling of a word is a highly reliable guide to its modern pronunciation.

  • In words where the digraph <gh> represents a voiced velar plosive (/ɡ/) in other accents, some Indian English speakers supply a murmured version [ɡʱ], for example <ghost> [ɡʱoːst]. No other accent of English admits this voiced aspiration.[5]
  • Similarly, the digraph <wh> may be aspirated as [ʋʱ] or [wʱ], resulting in realizations such as <which> [ʋʱɪtʃ], found in no other English accent (except in certain parts of Scotland).[7]
  • In unstressed syllables, native English varieties will mostly use the schwa while Indian English would use the spelling vowel, making <sanity> sound as [sæ.ni.ti] instead of [sæ.nə.ti].[citation needed] Similarly, <above> and <ago> can be heard as [e.bʌv] and [e.go] instead of [ə.bʌv] and [ə.go].
  • English words ending in grapheme < a > almost always have the < a > being pronounced as schwa /ə/ in native varieties (exceptions include words such as <spa>). But in Indian English, the ending < a > is pronounced as the long open central unrounded vowel /aː/ (as in <spa>) instead of schwa. So, <India> is pronounced as /ɪn.ɖɪ.aː/ instead of /ɪn.dɪ.ə/, and <sofa> as /soː.faː/ instead of /soʊ.fə/.[citation needed]
  • The word "of" is usually pronounced with a /f/ instead of a /v/ as in most other accents.[6]
  • Use of [d] instead of [t] for the "-ed" ending of the past tense after voiceless consonants, for example "developed" may be [dɛʋləpd] instead of RP /dɪvɛləpt/.[5]
  • Use of [s] instead of [z] for the "-s" ending of the plural after voiced consonants, for example <dogs> may be [dɒɡs] instead of [dɒɡz].[6]
  • Pronunciation of <house> as [hauz] in both the noun and the verb, instead of [haus] as noun and [hauz] as verb.
  • The digraph <tz> is pronounced as [tz] or [tdʒ] instead of [ts] (voicing may be assimilated in the stop too), making <Switzerland> sound like [sʋɪt.zər.lænd] instead of [swɪt.səɹ.lənd].[citation needed]
  • In RP, /r/ occurs only before a vowel. But many speakers of Indian English use /r/ in almost all positions in words as dictated by the spellings.[6] The allophone used is a mild trill or a tap. Indian speakers do not typically use the retroflex approximant /ɻ/ for <r>, which is common for American English speakers.[citation needed]
  • All consonants are distinctly doubled (lengthened) in General Indian English wherever the spelling suggests so. e.g., <drilling> /dril.liŋɡ/.
  • English pronunciation of the grapheme < i > varies from [ɪ] to [aɪ] depending upon the dialect or accent. Indian English will invariably use the British dialect for it. Thus, <tensile> would be pronounced as [tɛn.saɪl] like the British, rather than [tɛn.sɪl] like the American; <anti> would be pronounced as [æn.ti] like the British, rather than [æn.taɪ] like American.[citation needed]

Supra-segmental features

Any of the native varieties of English produce unique stresses on the language. English is a stress-timed language, and both syllable stress and word stress, where only certain words in a sentence or phrase are stressed, are important features of Received Pronunciation. Indian native languages are actually syllable-timed languages, like Latin and French. Indian-English speakers usually speak with a syllabic rhythm.[8] Further, in some Indian languages, stress is associated with a low pitch,[9] whereas in most English dialects, stressed syllables are generally pronounced with a higher pitch. Thus, when some Indian speakers speak, they appear to put the stress accents at the wrong syllables, or accentuate all the syllables of a long English word. Certain Indian accents are of a "sing-song" nature, a feature seen in a few English dialects in Britain, such as Scouse and Welsh English.[10]

Vocabulary and colloquialisms

While Indian English is historically derived from British English, recent influences from American English can be found to have created its own idiosyncrasies. For instance, both "program"[11] and "programme"[12] can be found in Indian newspapers. Indians also continue to use phrases from British English that other English speakers now consider antiquated. Official letters include phrases such as "please do the needful" and "you will be intimated shortly".

  • Rubber - Pencil eraser
  • Flat - 'Apartment' / 'Apartment house'
  • pant - 'Trousers'
  • Mess - A dining hall, especially used by students at a dormitory. 'Mess' is also used in reference to eateries catering primarily to a working class population. Originated from the military term of similar meaning.
  • Eve teasing - 'Verbal sexual harassment of women'
  • Where are you put up? means 'Where are you currently staying'?.
  • Where do you stay? is the same as 'Where do you live?' or 'Where's your house?'. This is also used in Scottish and South African English.
  • to shift - to relocate (e.g. He shifted from Jaipur to Gurgaon).
  • Wheatish (complexion) - light, creamy brown, or having a light brown complexion.[13]
  • "Out of station": "out of town". This phrase has its origins in the posting of army officers to particular 'stations' during the days of the East India Company.
  • "acting pricey": playing "hard to get", being snobbish.
  • "pass out" is meant to graduate, as in "I passed out of the university in 1995". In American/British English, this usage is limited to graduating out of military academies.
  • "on the anvil" is used often in the Indian press to mean something is about to appear or happen. For example, a headline might read "New roads on the anvil".
  • "under scanner" is used often in the Indian press to mean something is being investigated by authorities. For example, a headline might read "Power Station under scanner for radiation".
  • "tight slap" to mean "hard slap".
  • Time-pass - 'Doing something for leisure but with no intention or target/satisfaction', procrastination, pastime.
  • Time-waste - Something that is a waste of time; procrastination. Presumably not even useful for leisure.
  • Dearness Allowance - Payment given to employees to compensate for the effects of inflation.[14]
  • Pindrop silence - Extreme silence (quiet enough to hear a pin drop).
  • chargesheet n. formal charges filed in a court; v. to file charges against someone in court
  • redressal: n. redress, remedy, reparation
  • "Hill Station" - mountain resort.
  • "Railway Station" - Train station.
  • "stepney" refers to a spare tyre. The word is a genericized trademark originating from the Stepney Spare Motor Wheel, itself named after Stepney Street, in Llanelli, Wales.[15]
  • "specs" means spectacles or glasses (as in colloquial UK English).
  • Cooling glasses - Sunglasses
  • "cent per cent" - "100 per cent" as in "He got cent per cent in maths".
  • "loose motion" - diarrhoea
  • "expire" - To die, especially in reference to one's family member.
  • "prepone" - To bring something forward in time. As opposed to postpone.
  • "bunking" - To skip class without permission.
  • "carrying" - to be pregnant, as in "She is carrying".
  • "pressurize" - to put pressure on someone, to influence.
  • "non-vegetarian" or non-veg - Food that is not vegetarian; a person who eats such food.
  • "'club'" or "'clubbing'" - To merge or put two things together. "'Just club it together'"
  • "'cantonment'" - permanent military installation.

Numbering system

The Indian numbering system is preferred for digit grouping. When written in words, or when spoken, numbers less than 100,000 are expressed just as they are in Standard English. Numbers including and beyond 100,000 are expressed in a subset of the Indian numbering system. Thus, the following scale is used:

In digits (Standard English) In digits (Indian English) In words (Standard English) In words (Indian English)
10 ten
100 one hundred
1,000 one thousand
10,000 ten thousand
100,000 1,00,000 one hundred thousand one lakh
1,000,000 10,00,000 one million ten lakh
10,000,000 1,00,00,000 ten million one crore

Larger numbers are generally expressed as multiples of the above.[16][17]

Medical terms

Often the cause of undesirable confusion.

  • Viral Fever: influenza
  • Jaundice: Acute Hepatitis. While standard medical terminology uses jaundice for a symptom (yellow discolouration of skin), in India the term is used to refer to the illness in which this symptom is most common.
  • Allopathy, used by homeopaths to refer to conventional medicine.


  • Brinjal : aubergines / eggplant
  • Capsicum : called chili pepper, red or green pepper, or sweet pepper in the UK, capsicum in Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India, bell pepper in the US, Canada, and the Bahamas; paprika in some other countries
  • Curds : Yogurt
  • Sooji or Rava : Semolina
  • Pulses, dal : pulses, e.g. lentils
  • Karahi, kadai : wok
  • Sago : tapioca, Yuca in US
  • Ladyfinger, bhindi : okra
  • Sabzi : greens, green vegetables

Addressing others

  • , strangers or anyone meriting respect as "ji"/"jee" (Hindi: जी used as a suffix) as in "Please call a taxi for Goyal-ji" (North, West and East India)
  • Use of prefixes "Shree"/"Shri" (Devanagari: श्री meaning Mister) or "Shreemati"/"Shrimati" (Devanagari: श्रीमती meaning Ms/Mrs): Shri Ravindra Patel or Shreemati Das Gupta. "Shreemati"/"Shrimati" is used for married women. "Kumari" (Devnagari: कुमारी literally meaning a virgin) can be used for unmarried (as opposed to single) women or girls. "Sushri" (Devnagari: सुश्री a more recent addition and appropriate translation of Ms where marital status cannot be determined or is unimportant)
  • In Telugu, either "Sree"-as a prefix or "Garu"-as a suffix are used in formal contexts.
  • Analogous titles "Thiru" and "Thirumathi" are used in Tamil.
  • As with Shree/Shreemati, use of suffixes "Saahib/Sāhab" (Mr) and "Begum" (Mrs)(Urdu) as in "Welcome to India, Smith-saahib" or "Begum Sahib would like some tea".
  • Use of "mister" and "missus" as common nouns for wife/husband. For example, "Jyoti's mister stopped by yesterday" or "My missus is not feeling well".
  • "Master" is a common honorific for young boys (children, teenagers). e.g.: Master Kumar.
  • Use of honorifics (Mr, Mrs, Ms) with the first name. For example, Swathi Ashok Kumar might be addressed as "Ms Swathi" instead of "Ms Kumar". This is the only possible correct usage in South India, especially in Tamil Nadu, where most people don't use a surname (in order to have caste neutral name).
  • Use of the English words 'uncle' and 'aunty' as suffixes when addressing people such as distant relatives, neighbours, acquaintances, even total strangers (like shopkeepers) who are significantly older than oneself. E.g., "Hello, Swathi aunty!" In fact, in Indian culture, children or teenagers addressing their friends' parents as Mr Patel or Mrs Patel (etc.) is rare and may even be considered unacceptable or offensive (in the sense of referring to an elder person by name). A substitution of Sir/Ma'am, while common for addressing teachers/professors or any person in an official position, would be considered too formal to address parents of friends or any other unrelated (but known) elder persons. On the contrary, if the person is related, he/she will usually be addressed with the name of the relation in the vernacular Indian language, even while conversing in English.[citation needed] For example, if a woman is one's mother's sister, she would not be addressed (by a Hindi speaker) as "auntie" but as Mausi (Hindi: मौसी) (by a Kannada speaker as Chikkamma Kannada: ಚಿಕ್ಕಮ್ಮ),(by a marathi speaker as "mavashi", Marathi: मावशी ). Calling one's friends' parents aunty and uncle was also very common in Great Britain in the 1960s and 70s but is much rarer today. The terms 'Uncle' and 'Aunty' with certain intonations can also connote a derogatory reference to the advanced age of an individual.
  • Use of Respected Sir while starting a formal letter instead of Dear Sir. Again, such letters are ended with non-standard greetings, such as "Yours respectfully", or "Yours obediently", rather than the standard "Yours sincerely/faithfully/truly".
  • Sharma sir is not here - same as Sharma-ji is not here, a respectful address. No knighthood suffix.

Divergent usage

  • "Uncle / Aunty" - Respectful way of addressing anyone who is significantly older than you. "Uncle, can I take your daughter Anouskha out on a date?"
  • Amount - a sum of money, such as "please refund the amount." or "the amount has been billed to your credit card."
  • Compulsorily - Mandatorily
  • Damn - used as an intensifier, especially a negative one, far more frequently and with far more emphatic effect, than in other dialects of English, as in "that was a damn good meal."
  • Dialogue - a line of dialogue in a movie. ("That was a great dialogue!" means "That was a great line!") "Dialogues" is used to mean "screenplay". In motion picture credits, the person who might in other countries be credited as the screenwriter in India is often credited with the term dialogues. Note the usage of British spelling.
  • Dress - (noun) is used to refer to clothing for men, women, and children alike, whereas in international varieties of English a dress is a woman's outer clothing with a bodice and a skirt as a single garment. The usage of dress as clothes does exist in international varieties but only in very rare occasions and in relevant context., e.g. schooldress. Young girls in India invariably wear a dress, which is commonly referred to as a frock in Indian English.
  • Elder - used as a comparative adjective in the sense of older. For example, "I am elder to you", instead of "I am older than you."
  • Engagement - not just an agreement between two people to marry, but a formal, public ceremony where the engagement is formalized with a ring and/or other local rituals. Indians will not speak of a couple as being engaged, until after the engagement ceremony has been performed. Similar to the use of term marriage, a person may say "I am going to attend my cousin's engagement next month". Afterwards, the betrothed is referred to as one's "would-be" wife or husband. In this case, "would be" is used to mean "will be" in contrast with the standard and American and British connotation of "wants to be (but may not be)".
  • Even - as well/also/too: "Even I didn't know how to do it." This usage of even is borrowed from native grammatical structure.
  • Graduation - completion of a bachelor's degree (as in the UK): "I did my graduation at Presidency College" ("I earned my bachelor's degree at Presidency College"), whereas in the United States it refers to completion of Highschool, Master's or PhD as well.
  • Hero - a male protagonist, especially of a movie; a person who is often a protagonist. Thus, "Look at Vik; he looks like a hero", meaning "he is as handsome as a movie star."
  • Kindly - please: "Kindly disregard the previous message."
  • Metro - large city (i.e. 'metros such as Mumbai and Delhi') This is a shortening of the term Metropolis. This can be confusing for Europeans, who tend to use the word to describe underground urban rail networks. However, following the popularity of the Delhi Metro, the word Metro now tends to be used to describe both the metropolis and the underground rail network.
  • Music director - a music composer for movies.
  • Non-veg - (short for non-vegetarian) is used to mean food which contains flesh of any mammal, fish, bird, shellfish, etc. or eggs. Fish, seafood, and eggs are not treated as categories separate from "meat", especially when the question of vegetarianism is at issue (milk and its products are always considered vegetarian). E.g., "We are having non-veg today for dinner", whereas the native varieties of English would have: "We are having meat today for dinner". Also note that a non-veg joke is regarded as a joke with mature content.
  • Paining - hurting would be more common in Standard American and British: "My head is paining."
  • Shirtings and suitings - the process of making such garments; a suffix in names of shops specializing in men's formal/business wear.
  • Solid - great or exceptional ("What a solid idea!" means "What a great idea!").
  • Timings - hours of operation; scheduled time, such as office timings or train timings, as opposed to the standard usage such as "The timing of his ball delivery is very good."
  • Gentry - generalized term for social class - not specifically 'high social class'. The use of 'good', 'bad', 'high' and 'low' prefixed to 'gentry' is common.
  • mutton - goat meat instead of sheep meat.
  • Although not mainstream, the insertion of as in describing a designation, where it would be omitted in Standard English: "Mahatma Gandhi is called as the father of the nation". This is similar to the American English usage of the phrase "different than", a form that would be considered erroneous in Britain.

Words unique to (i.e. not generally well-known outside South Asia) and/or popular in India include those in the following by no means exhaustive list:

  • batchmate or batch-mate (Not classmate, but a schoolmate of the same grade)
  • "eggitarian" for a person who eats vegetarian food, milk and eggs but not meat; ovo lacto vegetarian.
  • compass box for a box holding mathematical instruments like compasses, divider, scale, protractor etc. Also widely referred to as a "geometry box".
  • cousin-brother (male first cousin) & cousin-sister (female first cousin)
  • foot overbridge (bridge meant for pedestrians)
  • flyover (overpass or an over-bridge over a section of road or train tracks)
  • godown (warehouse)
  • godman somewhat pejorative word for a person who claims to be divine or who claims to have supernatural powers
  • gully to mean a narrow lane or alley (from the Hindi word "gali" meaning the same).
  • long-cut (The "opposite" of short-cut, in other words, taking the longest route).
  • mugging or mugging up (memorising, usually referring to learning "by rote," and having nothing to do with street crime, what the word would mean in British/American English).
  • nose-screw (woman's nose-ring)
  • prepone (The "opposite" of postpone, that is to change a meeting to be earlier). Many dictionaries have added this word.
  • tiffin box for lunch box. The word is also commonly used to mean a between-meal snack.
  • BHK is real-estate terminology for "Bedroom, Hall and Kitchen", used almost exclusively in housing size categorization. "Hall" refers to the living room, which is highlighted separately from other rooms. For instance, a 2BHK apartment has a total of three rooms - two bedrooms and a living room.
    • co-brother indicates relationship between two men who are married to sisters, as in "He is my co-brother"
  • co-inlaws indicates relationship between two sets of parents whose son and daughter are married, as in "Our co-inlaws live in Delhi."
    • co-sister indicates relationship between two women who are married to brothers, as in "She is my co-sister"
  • boss is a term used to refer to a male stranger such as shopkeeper (Its a respect shown to the shopkeeper and not a derogatory remark pass to him/her. If later is the case he would have banged out the customer): " Boss, what is the cost of that pen?"
  • vote-bank is a term commonly used during the elections in India, implying a particular bloc or community of people inclined to cast their votes for a political party that promises to deliver policies favouring them.

Words which are considered archaic in some varieties of English, but are still in use in Indian English:

  • Curd - yoghurt
  • Dicky/dickey - the trunk of a car.[18]
  • In tension - being concerned or nervous. Phrased another way, "He is taking too much tension". Found in eighteenth century British English.[19]
  • Into - multiplied by, as in 2 into 2 equals 4, rather than 2 times 2 is 4, which is more common in other varieties of English. The use of into dates back to the fifteenth century, when it had been common in British English.[20]
  • ragging - hazing(US).
  • equals - is equal to (in calculations)
  • the same - the aforementioned, as in "I heard that you have written a document on .... Could you send me the same?"
  • Use of double and triple for numbers occurring twice or three times in succession, especially for a phone number. For example, a phone number 2233344 would be pronounced as double two, triple three, double four.
  • Use of thrice, meaning "three times", is common in Indian English.
  • Use of the phrases like nothing or like anything to express intensity. For example, "These people will cheat you like anything". Such usage was part of colloquial English language in seventeenth century Britain and America.[21][22]
  • Word pairs "up to" and "in spite" compounded to "upto" and "inspite" respectively.

See also


  1. ^ [1] UGC, explaining its reasons for making it mandatory for all PhD theses to be submitted in English
  2. ^ a b c d Wells, p. 627
  3. ^ a b Wells, p. 626
  4. ^ Wells, pp. 627-628
  5. ^ a b c d Wells, p. 62
  6. ^ a b c d e Wells, p. 629
  7. ^ Wells, p. 630
  8. ^ Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language (Cambridge University Press, 1995), page 360
  9. ^ "Onset of Rising Pitch in Focused Words in Hindi: an Experimental Study"
  10. ^ Varshney, R.L., "An Introductory Textbook of Linguistics and Phonetics", 15th Ed. (2005), Student Store, Bareilly.
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ [3]
  13. ^ "Wheatish". MSN Encarta dictionary. Retrieved 2010-08-08. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ BBC. Also see the OED.
  16. ^ "Investors lose Rs 4.4 lakh crore in four days", Business Standard
  17. ^ "Back Corporate chiefs getting crores in salaries: 100 and counting!",
  18. ^ dicky, dickey, n., Oxford English Dictionary, 2009, Accessed on July 1, 2009
  19. ^ 1756 BURKE Subl. & B. IV. iii, "An unnatural tension of the nerves"
  20. ^ multiply, v., Oxford English Dictionary, 2009, Accessed on July 1, 2009
  21. ^ like, a., adv. (conj.), and n.2, Oxford English Dictionary, 2009, Accessed on July 1, 2009
  22. ^, Accessed on July 1, 2009


  • Vellikkeel Raghavan (2010). Worshipping the English Goddess: A Dalit Revisitation to the Colonial Legacy. Unpublished UGC Project Report.
  • Wells, J C (1982). Accents of English 3: Beyond the British Isles. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521285410. 

Further reading

  • Pingali Sailaja (2009). Indian English. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9780748625949. 
  • Andreas Sedlatschek (2009). Contemporary Indian English: variation and change. John Benjamins Publishing Company. ISBN 9789027248985. 
  • Chandrika Balasubramanian (2009). Register variation in Indian English. John Benjamins Publishing Company. ISBN 9789027223111. 
  • Braj B. Kachru (1983). The Indianization of English: the English language in India. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195613538. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Indian English — Indian English, the dialect of English spoken by educated natives in the Republic of India, as distinguished from Anglo Indian …   Useful english dictionary

  • Indian English — noun A major dialect of the English language, having many varieties in India, and also spoken by Indian ex patriates, Indian migrants, and Indian tourists throughout the world. Much more common was the bureaucratic use of Indian English. Below… …   Wiktionary

  • Indian English — /ɪndiən ˈɪŋglɪʃ/ (say indeeuhn ingglish) noun 1. the English language as used in India, including all varieties whether regional or social. 2. the dialect of the English language broadly identified with India, and sometimes with South Asia… …   Australian English dictionary

  • Indian English literature — (IEL) refers to the body of work by writers in India who write in the English language and whose native or co native language could be one of the numerous languages of India. It is also associated with the works of members of the Indian diaspora …   Wikipedia

  • Indian English Academy School — Indian English Academy School, also known as I.E.A.S. or Don Bosco is a CBSE affiliated school in Kuwait. It is recognized by the Ministry of Education, Kuwait. Located in Salmiya, Kuwait, the school offers education to students of all… …   Wikipedia

  • Regional differences and dialects in Indian English — Indian English has developed a number of dialects, distinct from the General/Standard Indian English that educators have attempted to establish and institutionalize, and it is possible to distinguish a person s sociolinguistic background from the …   Wikipedia

  • Anglo-Indian English — /æŋgloʊ ɪndiən ˈɪŋglɪʃ/ (say anggloh indeeuhn ingglish) noun the variety of English spoken in India during the period of British control of India prior to independence in 1947; the precursor to modern Indian English …   Australian English dictionary

  • Indian languages in Singapore — are mainly used by the country s 332,300 ethnic South Asians residents, who form about 9% of Singapore citizens and permanent residents. [] As a result of historical migration and settlement… …   Wikipedia

  • Indian literature — is generally acknowledged as one of the oldest in the world. India has 22 officially recognized languages, and a huge variety of literature has been produced in these languages over the years. In Indian literature, oral is important, as well as… …   Wikipedia

  • English numerals — are words for numbers used in English speaking cultures. Contents 1 Cardinal numbers 2 Specialized numbers 3 Multiplicative numerals 4 Negative numbers …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.