Hindi-Urdu - interesting facts


Hindi is the native language of 310 million people (4.5% of the world's population) and ranks 4th in the list of the world's most spoken languages in the number of native speakers. Urdu is spoken by 70 million people (1% of the world's population, 21st place on the list of the most popular languages). Both languages will be discussed together due to their genetic kinship and mutual intelligibility (all language examples are given in Hindi).

Hindi and Urdu are the official languages of India. Hindi, like English, is the official language of India. It is also the regional official language in 12 states (22 in India alone). Urdu is the official language in two states: Jammu and Kashmir. In addition, it is the official language of Pakistan alongside English.

Both languages belong to Indo-European languages, specifically the Indo-Iranian language group. Hindi and Urdu emerged from the Hindustani language as its literary variations. As with many languages from this region, the genetic ancestor of both languages was Sanskrit. Their development was influenced by, among others, Turkish, Persian and Arabic. It is worth noting that the Hindi lexicon is very much derived from Sanskrit, while Urdu borrowed words mainly from Arabic and Persian. As a result, the lexical differences between the two languages are quite significant, especially in the terminological layer. On the other hand, their grammar systems and lexis related to the realities of everyday life are almost identical.

Both languages are written in different alphabets. The Hindi script uses the syllabic alphabet Devanagari, while the Urdu script is based on the modified Persian alphabet (from right to left).

Due to the larger number of native speakers, Hindi is more dialectically diverse than Urdu. There are two main groups of dialects: Western Hindi and Eastern Hindi. There are also several related languages, some researchers consider to be Hindi dialects.

The Central Directorate of Hindi handles promoting and regulating Hindi in India. Urdu is regulated by the National Council for the Promotion of the Urdu Language (in India) and the Department of the National Language (in Pakistan).

Hindi has many words that are spoken in modern European languages. Polish, through other languages (mainly English), received such words as avatar, jungle, guru and... swastika.

Hindi and Urdu are flexibly moderate languages. Nouns come in two grammatical types and change in three cases.

One variant of the Hindi language has even found its way to the island of Fiji. About 400 thousand people speak Fijian Hindi. Their ancestors were forced labourers expelled from two Indian states 100 years ago.

Urdu speakers of English (especially in Pakistan) sometimes combine elements derived from both languages in spontaneous communication. This phenomenon is called code-switching, and this specific language variant is called urdish.


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The fourth most popular language in the world

Hindi-Urdu, often known as Hindustani, is the fourth most spoken language in the world, representing a major linguistic and cultural phenomenon. This Indo-Aryan language, primarily spoken in India and Pakistan, is the mother tongue of an estimated 341 million people, with millions more speaking it as a second language.

This large number of speakers is primarily due to the significant populations of India and Pakistan, where Hindi and Urdu are official languages respectively. Hindi, written in the Devanagari script, is one of the primary languages of India, while Urdu, written in a modified Perso-Arabic script, is the national language of Pakistan. However, despite the different scripts and minor variances in vocabulary, Hindi and Urdu are linguistically considered the same language.

The global spread of Hindi-Urdu has also been facilitated by the substantial diaspora communities of South Asia worldwide, especially in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Middle East. This has increased the number of speakers and influenced local cultures and languages. For instance, English has borrowed a range of words from Hindi-Urdu.

The significance of Hindi-Urdu extends beyond its number of speakers. It’s a language rich in history, with roots going back to Sanskrit, and has given rise to a vibrant tradition of literature, poetry, film, and music. The high ranking of Hindi-Urdu among the world's languages underlines its importance in global communication and cultural exchange.



Hindi-Urdu is written in Devanagari, unlike the Latin alphabet used in many European languages. Devanagari is one of the world's most widely adopted writing systems, serving as the primary script for several languages of the Indian subcontinent.

The name 'Devanagari' itself is derived from the Sanskrit words "deva," meaning 'god', and "nagari," meaning 'city', hence is often translated as "the city of the gods." It evolved from the Brahmi script, one of the earliest writing systems of ancient India, around the 11th century AD.

Devanagari is notably used for Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi, and Nepali, among other languages, and is written from left to right. The script consists of 47 primary characters including 14 vowels and 33 consonants, and uses diacritical marks to express other sounds.

A unique feature of Devanagari is the horizontal line that runs along the top of the letters, linking them together. This line, known as 'shirorekha', makes the script distinctive.

In the realm of literature and culture, Devanagari holds immense significance. It is the script used for some of South Asia's oldest and most profound texts, including the Vedas and Upanishads. Additionally, it’s the medium through which much of India's rich literary and philosophical traditions have been conveyed over centuries.

In recent years, with the rise of digital communication, Devanagari has also found its place in the digital world. Unicode, the global standard for text representation in computers, has a dedicated range for Devanagari, ensuring its continued relevance and adaptability in the modern era.


Influence of Hindi-Urdu on English

As a global language, English has incorporated words and phrases from many different languages, including Urdu. Although the direct influence of Urdu on English is not as extensive as Latin, French, or other Germanic languages, a handful of Urdu words have become part of the English lexicon.

Avatar: In Hindu mythology, an avatar is a deity who descends to the earthly realm. In English, the term has taken on the meaning of a character or persona, particularly in digital spaces.

Bungalow: This term comes from the Hindi word "bangla", meaning a house in the Bengal style. In English, it refers to a low, one-story house.

Chutney: Derived from the Hindi word "chatni," this term refers to various spiced condiments.

Dungaree: Originally from the Hindi "dungri," referring to a particular type of fabric, this word is now used in English to refer to a kind of casual work or play clothes, or specifically, denim overalls.

Guru: A guru in Hindi is a spiritual teacher. In English, the term is used more broadly for anyone who is an expert or leader in their field.

Jungle: Comes from the Hindi word "jangal," which means a wild wasteland. In English, it refers to a dense forest in a tropical area.

Thug: From the Hindi word "thag," which refers to a thief or swindler. In English, it has taken on a similar meaning, referring to a violent, rough person, especially a criminal.

Yoga: This practice of physical, mental, and spiritual exercises originated in ancient India. The English usage has kept the same meaning.

Cheetah: From the Hindi word "chita," which means spotted one. It refers to the large cat of the family Felidae, native to Africa and parts of Asia.

Cummerbund: Derived from the Hindi word "kamarband," which is a sash or belt for the waist. In English, it often refers to a broad waist sash, usually pleated, often worn with a black tie.

Dhurrie: A kind of thick flat-woven rug or carpet used traditionally in India.

Jodhpurs: A type of trousers made for horse riding, which are tight-fitting below the knee and baggy above it. The word is derived from the city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan, India.

Loot: Originated from the Hindi word "lut," which means to rob or plunder. In English, it's used as a noun to describe stolen goods or as a verb meaning to steal goods typically in a war, riot, or disaster.

Pundit: Originally means a learned person or scholar in Hindi, but in English, it's used to refer to an expert who frequently gives opinions in the media about a topic.

Sari/Saree: A garment from the Indian subcontinent that consists of a drape varying from five to nine yards in length and two to four feet in breadth.

Veranda: Originating from the Hindi word "baranda," meaning a porch or balcony. In English, it's used to describe a roofed platform along the outside of a house, level with the ground floor.

Bandana: This term comes from the Hindi word "bāṅdhnū," which means a tied, dyed cloth, and now refers to a large colored handkerchief, typically with spots, tied around the head or neck.

Chintz: Derived from the Hindi word "chint," meaning spotted or variegated. In English, it refers to a printed multicolored cotton fabric with a glazed finish, used for curtains and upholstery.

Khaki: From the Urdu word meaning "dust-colored." It was originally used to describe the uniform of British Indian soldiers. In English, it now refers to a specific color and type of fabric, commonly used in military uniforms and casual wear.

Pyjamas: Derived from the Urdu word for "loose trousers." In English-speaking countries, it is now widely used to refer to a type of sleepwear.

Kebab: An Urdu word that refers to a dish of pieces of meat, fish, or vegetables roasted or grilled on a skewer or spit. It's now a common term in English, particularly in relation to Middle Eastern cuisine.

Biryani: Borrowed from the Urdu word for a dish made with Indian spices, rice, and meat (such as chicken, beef, goat, pork, fish), or eggs, or vegetables. The term is commonly used in English, particularly in regions with South Asian diaspora communities.

Chai: An Urdu word for tea, particularly a style of sweet, milky tea spiced with cardamom and cinnamon that's popular in the Indian subcontinent. The term has been adopted in English to refer to this specific type of spiced tea.

Bangle: This term comes from the Urdu word for a type of bracelet. It has been adopted into English and refers to a rigid bracelet or anklet.

Shampoo: Derived from the Urdu word "chāmpo," which means "to massage." It is now an everyday English vocabulary term, used to refer to a hair care product used for cleaning hair.


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A wealth of literature

Literature in Hindi-Urdu is extremely rich and diverse. It contains works such as classic poems, stories, novels or essays. Learning Hindi-urdu allows you to discover this fascinating literature, which may be difficult to find in translations into Polish. Reading the original texts allows you to understand India's culture better and appreciate the beauty of the language, the sound and rhythm of which can be lost in translations.

Diversity of dialects

The Hindi-urdu language has numerous dialects that differ in grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. These dialects are used in various regions of India, which testifies to the country's cultural richness. For Hindi -urdu learners, this can be a challenge and an opportunity to learn about India's linguistic and cultural diversity. Learning the standard Hindi -urdu allows you to communicate with most people in India; however, gaining knowledge of local dialects can help you understand the subtleties and nuances of communication.

The language of Bollywood cinema

Hindi-Urdu is the main language in the Indian film industry, called Bollywood. Knowledge of this language allows for a fuller understanding of films that often deal with important social, cultural and political topics. Thanks to the knowledge of Hindi-Urdu, you can appreciate the original dialogues, songs and music from Bollywood films, which can often not be fully translated.

Language with a rich musical tradition

Hindi-Urdu has a rich musical tradition associated with both classical Indian music and the contemporary music scene. Knowledge of Hindi -urdu allows you to appreciate this music and understand the lyrics of songs that often touch on important emotional, social and spiritual topics. Learning Hindi-Urdu can therefore be an opportunity to discover the fascinating world of Indian music.

An important language for scientists and researchers

As one of India's most important languages, Hindi-Urdu is also important for scientists and researchers dealing with the country. Knowledge of Hindi -urdu allows you to access scientific sources, articles and publications that may not be available in other languages. In addition, using Hindi-Urdu facilitates conducting field research, establishing contacts with local communities and interviewing informants. Therefore, people interested in studying Indian culture, history, politics or science should consider learning the language of Hindi-Urdu.

A language with complex grammar and rich vocabulary

Hindi-Urdu has complex grammar that can be fascinating for learners of this language. Hindi has two grammatical types (masculine and feminine) and three numbers (singular, plural, and double). Sentence constructions are also different from those that occur in Polish. This allows Hindu science to understand a different way of thinking and expression. In addition, Hindi-Urdu has a rich vocabulary, containing numerous synonyms, and words related to India's culture, religion and philosophy. 


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Essential Hindi Dictionary




yes हाँ (hān)
no नहीं (nahī̃)
please कृपया (kripyā)
thank you धन्यवाद (dhanyavād)
I'm sorry मुझे माफ़ कीजिये (mujhe māf kījiye)
good morning नमस्कार (namaskār)
good evening शुभ संध्या (śubh sandhyā)
goodbye शुभ रात्रि (śubh rātri)
good night अलविदा (alavidā)
hi नमस्ते (namaste) (स्वागत के लिए)
how are you?  आप कैसे हैं? (āp kaise hain?)
well धन्यवाद, मैं ठीक हूँ। (dhanyavād, main ṭhīk hū̃.)
My name is... मेरा नाम है... (merā nām hai...)
I don't understand मुझे समझ नहीं आया (mujhe samajh nahī̃ āyā)



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