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Oxford Hindi English Dictionary: With Transliteration

Oxford Hindi English Dictionary: With Transliteration
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Item Code: HAA340
Author: R.S. Mc Gregor
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi
Language: Hindi To English Translation
ISBN: 9780195638462
Pages: 1103
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 9.0 inch X 5.5 inch
weight of the book: 948 gms


The tradition of lexicography in Hindi-Urdu goes back some two centuries, but in most of the work undertaken in this field before the present century it was the Urdu aspect of Hindi-Urdu, with its extensive Persian and Arabic vocabulary, that was stressed. The monumental Hindi sabd-sagar (1929) was the first major dictionary in the field of Hindi-Urdu to reflect the new circumstances of use of Hindi in the twentieth century. During this period Hindi has developed dramatically in scope, status, and literary versatility and has become effectively standardised as a language of public life, with corresponding effects upon its lexicon. Several successful monolingual and bilingual dictionaries of the modern language have been based upon the Hindi sabd-sagar during recent decades. Yet the monolingual Hind, sabd sagar itself drew on its predecessors. One of these, J. T. Platts's Dictionary of Urdu, Classical Hindi and English (1884), has continued to be regarded by speakers of English as a valuable complement to it for the study of both modem and early Hindi. The organisation of Platts's work as an Urdu dictionary has limited its accessibility to students of Hindi, however, while the datedness of its lexical record, style of presentation, and treatment of etymology has made production of a new Hindi-English dictionary of comparable scale desirable for some time. The present work is an attempt to meet that need. There was good reason to make an editing of Platts's dictionary (as proposed by Oxford University Press, its publisher) the first stage in producing such a work, but clearly the task would go far beyond this, and would involve not only a complete revision of Platts's material but also collation of the Hindi sabd-sagar and reference to other modern lexicographical materials, together with collection of new material from Hindi literary texts and other printed sources.


The chief requirement in a modern dictionary of Hindi was without doubt a treatment of the spoken and written language of the twentieth century in which the broad standard of urban usage was emphasised. Many words and expressions falling outside that standard which were recorded in the late nineteenth century also deserved inclusion, however, being still current in north India. It seemed desirable to retain, and to supplement, Platts's treatment of the vocabulary of early Hindi literature, and to retain some nineteenth century material illustrating the early development of the modern language. Items belonging to the more literary ranges of Urdu in prose and poetry might, however, in many cases be excluded from a dictionary of Hindi.

The work was planned in 1971 and I began to collect materials in that year. Benveen 1972 and 1975 Dr S. K. Mathur of Agra read through and commented on the text of Platts's dictionary and a part of the text of the Manak hindi kos (1962) from the viewpoint of a speaker of the modern standardised language. He also compiled a file of words from modern newspaper and journal. During the years 1975- 80 and 1984-92 I produced the present text. This involved reconsidering Platts's entire materials, revising and reorganising each entry to be retained, collating other lexicographical materials, reading Hindi sources, and adding in consequence many new entries. I was assisted in the earlier stages of the work by Dr Mathur's comments on standardised usage) and later, in considering regional usage, by those of Dr T. N. Sharma of Ambikapur, Madhya Pradesh (my colleague from 1975 to 1980) and Dr S. M. Pandey of Ballia. Many modern Hindi words and expressions were reconsidered during the years 1987-92 by Dr S. N. Srivastava, of Banaras, and myself. Dr Srivastava, my colleague from 198o to the present, gave generously of his time to comment on innumerable points of detail that arose during this period. He also read through and commented on the text of the dictionary before its publication and made various suggestions for its improvement. Various of the etymologies proposed have benefited from comments by Professor K. R. Norman.

By the time the work was nearing completion, production by computer combining roman and Devanagari scripts had become feasible. Dr K. E. Bryant of the University of British Columbia designed the Devanagari font; it was redrawn for typesetting this dictionary by Bruno Maag. The processing and sorting of the materials and their preparation for final production were carried out by Dr J.L. Dawson, Dr D. R. de Lacey, and their colleagues of the Literary and Linguistic Computing Centre of Cambridge University. The Centre's support for the project was indispensable in all these stages of the work, and its members' constant assistance from 1984 onwards is greatly appreciated. Dr J. D. Smith assisted the Centre in adapting the font for use with the Cambridge University computer. I would like to thank the British Academy for an award made in 1985 which covered most of the costs of inputting the materials to the computer. Most of this work was done by E. McGregor and by S. K. Y., Zangmo.

I would like to record my gratitude to my above-mentioned former and present colleagues for the help which I have received in preparing this dictionary, as well as to other persons who have given me assistance in various ways. For the shortcomings that will undoubtedly be found in the work I am of course responsible. My warmest thanks are due to my wife Elaine, for her generous support and help, as well as for her patience and encouragement, without all of which this work might not have reached completion.



The term 'modern Hindi' denotes a language written in the Devanagari script and relatively standardised in its written form (but less so in pronunciation and spoken usage) which is in general use today in most of north and central India. Modern Hindi co-exists in this region with regional forms of speech more or less closely cognate to it and with many local dialects, as well as with Urdu, a complementary style of language: one potentially identically with modern Hindi at the spoken level while expressing a distinctively Persian cultural orientation at more literary levels. Urdu, an earlier specialisation than Hindi of a mixed speech of the Delhi area which had gained currency as a lingua franca, had arisen broadly because of an increasing artificiality in the use of Persian for literary and other formal purposes in Indo-Muslim circles during the later Mughal period. Modem Hindi by contrast arose in the nineteenth century to meet a different need: that for a linguistic vehicle which should allow communication with, and among, a wider section of the north Indian population than had been possible in practice in the case of Urdu. The use of an Indian script, and of a smaller component of Persian and Arabic vocabulary than was often used in the Urdu of the time, were essential prerequisites to this end. There was a correspondingly increased use of words of Indian origin in the new style, and in particular of Sanskritic words.

The modem Hindi style gained currency in the period up to the I86os above all because it was a medium of education and instruction. The rise of a modern sense of Indian identity in north India from the 186os onwards became the mainspring of an accelerating increase in the use of Hindi in the later nineteenth century. The new style won increasing official recognition first in parts of north and central India where Urdu was less firmly established and finally, by 19oo, in the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh). It had by this time become a well established vehicle for journalism and belles lettres. The factors responsible for its rise continued to operate during the following decades, and this meant that its further development in terms both of numbers of users and range of functions was assured" By contrast the development of Urdu suffered some retardation in the twentieth century. The potential of Hindi as a favoured form of Hindi- Urdu, and the great geographical range of Hindi-Urdu across the sub-continent and indeed beyond (which makes this language probably the world's third in terms of number of users) brought it about that 'Hindi in the Devanagari script' was recognised in 1947 as the official language of lndia. The main factors influencing the further development of Hindi were to be, first as before, the rate of spread of education and literacy, and secondly the relationships of competition and contact existing between Hindi and English and between Hindi and the Indian regional languages.

The lexicon of Hindi comprises in historical terms a body of words which has evolved from Old and Middle Indo-Aryan linguistic forms (and from non-Indo-Aryan forms assimilated at an early period into Indo-Aryan) together with a large accretion of words borrowed at later periods from different sources. Of the words which have evolved organically from OIA and MIA, many are everywhere in use today among speakers of the standardised language. Others, however, are restricted in their currency to the regional and local varieties of Hindi which are the mother tongues of a large proportion of Hindi speakers. Regional and local words are always liable to intrude into the standardised language as used locally, and also as used by writers in conveying local atmosphere or for other stylistic purposes. Of the loanwords, many of Persian or Arabic origin, and some of Turkish origin, are fully acclimatised in everyday usage, especially in urban usage. Other readily distinguishable groups of loanwords are those borrowed from Sanskrit, or based on Sanskrit forms, and those borrowed from English and other European languages.

Loanwords of Sanskritic origin have been used in north Indian vernacular speech and also in vernacular poetry over many centuries. Many became acclimatised in early Hindi dialect poetry, and we may presume these to have been widely known. Their currency in dialect poetry provided an important typological precedent for the later Sanskrit loanwords and other Sanskritic formations of modern Hindi and was crucial in aiding the assimilation of many of these, both into literary style and formal usage, and also into more everyday usage. The latter words and formations have tended to be pronounced in ways more conformable to their spellings than had been the case with their predecessors in dialect poetry: a tendency owing something to the desire to express a sense of modem cultural identity lexically, in terms of age-old values. Such words can show changes of meaning as compared to the central meaning or meanings they or their constituent parts originally had as Sanskrit words. The immediate source for a number was not Sanskrit itself, but the Sanskritised Bengali of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: some words borrowed via this route have yielded ground today to alternatives drawn more directly from Sanskrit. Other Sanskrit loanwords and coinages of modern Hindi had limited success from the outset, however, and are today obsolete; .while some found in the contemporary written language are clearly experimental, and likely in many cases to prove ephemeral. Various Sanskritic loanwords and expressions are acclimatised chiefly in poetry of more formal style.

Very different in kind from the above loanwords are the neologisms of the modem language. These words are either, again, loanwords from Sanskrit or coinages based on Sanskrit words. Many such coinages can be seen to be lexical calques on English words of Latin or Greek origin. Acclimatisation of words of this kind was impeded from the outset by several facts. First, knowledge of the things or concepts they refer to often spread slowly, and in the more technical fields has so far generally remained restricted to small sections of the Hindi-speaking population. In these quarters, moreover, the English words in question have remained generally more familiar than the new coinages. Components of the coinages were, again, sometimes used in ways which bore little relationship to their main senses or areas of meaning as Sanskrit words; and their Sanskritic origins could seem awkwardly at variance with a modem context of use. The above factors have worked against ready acceptance of the neologisms (especially those in more technical fields) that have been proposed in numbers both by lexicographers and by Indian Government agencies, as well as introduce by writers and journalists on an ad hoc basis. A further factor working against wide acceptance of neologisms has been that there has been no agreement on the forms to be used, or on their exact senses, so that competing expressions have sometimes gained a confusing, nominal currency. It was always unlikely given the importance of English in India throughout the years from, c.1800, and the cultural and linguistic distance at which modem India stands from its Sanskritic past, that the lexical modernisation of Hindi could have proceeded solely via a process of coining Sanskritic neologisms.

In the case of most scientific and technical terms it seems that the English words themselves are now being successfully acclimatised; although in other spheres (such as those of law and non-technical journalism) many coinages have established themselves in the written language and appear in various cases to be gaining currency in the spoken.

The different sections of the Hindi vocabulary described in the above paragraphs have been treated in this dictionary as follows. Of the words of Old and Middle Indo-Aryan derivation and the acclimatised loanwords of Persian, Arabic, and Turkish origin, which together form the bedrock of the later language, a relatively comprehensive record has been aimed at, except in the case of words restricted to regional and local varieties of Hindi. These are represented more selectively. Regional words listed by Platts or in the Hindi sabd-sagar and for which some contemporary verification has been found have generally been included, together with a selection of regional usages found in modern literature and some regional items confirmed for earlier periods of the modern language. To avoid ambiguity in a dictionary intended to display both the vocabulary of the modem standardised language and other aspects of the Hindi word-stock, regional words and other words not current in the contemporary standardised language are marked with distinguishing labels. Of the Sanskrit loanwords and Sanskritic formations found in early and modern Hindi literature and in modem usage more generally, a generous representation has been given. Neologisms of the modern language are represented more selectively, for the reasons indicated above.

Many English words are used naturally in everyday contexts by Hindi speakers not educated in English and are indisputably part of the modern Hindi lexicon, e.g. aspatal hospital', aktubar 'October', rediyo radio', gramophon 'gramophone'. The pronunciation of these words is' often Indianised appreciably, especially in the case of words long current in Hindi, such as the first two examples. English loanwords which are substantially Indianised in pronunciation (such as aspatal) have frequently been included in this dictionary as Hindi words in their own right; but while words of the type of rediyo (everyday words of modern life borrowed more recently, but known to all) are no less acclimatised, their claims to inclusion in a bilingual dictionary of Hindi to English did not seem strong. The same applied to the large class of technical and scientific terms and words dealing with less familiar spheres of modern life, despite the crucial importance of these words in modern usage.

Finally, Hindi contains loanwords from a number of other languages than those referred to above. A few words ultimately of Greek or Latin origin have made their way into the language via Persian and Arabic. Some common Hindi words are derived from Portuguese. There are some isolated borrowings from other European languages than English and Portuguese, and a few from Malay /Indonesian and Chinese. Other words have been acquired by Hindi speakers from contact with particular Indian languages or regions, especially in more modern times.

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