English words that only Indians use

Did you know Indians use some English words and phrases you’ll rarely hear anywhere else in the world – in case you’re travelling to India soon, here’s a helpful list of 21 of my favourites:

1)           Doing the needful.

In India this means doing is what is necessary e.g. I hope you can do the needful and resolve this matter.

2)         Eatables.

Something to eat i.e. food.

3)        Backside.

Let’s be clear from the outset – this does not mean bum. In India this usually means the rear entrance of a building. You may hear someone say, ‘please leave the eatables in my backside.’

4)        Chi chi.

It doesn’t mean chi chi with a soft ‘ch’ which normally means elaborately stylish. No, in India chi chi, with a hard ‘ch’, is an exclamation of disgust. For example ‘you just stepped in dog poo, chi chi.’ For extra disgust, scrunch your nose and extend the final syllable (as in ‘chi cheeee’).

5)           Marketing.

This can mean promoting a product but in India it has a secondary meaning – the act of going to the market i.e. shopping. So you could say, ‘I am marketing for eatables.’

6)           Mind-blasting.

This is the Indian equivalent of mind-blowing; it’s just one level higher. Why blow your mind when you can blast it? As in, ‘Man, that concert was totally mind-blasting.’

7)           Four-wheeler.

This usually refers to a car or a lorry, anything as long as it has four wheels. Technically, it includes bullock carts.

8)           Paying guest-house.

This is really a hotel but, because in India there is a phrase guests are gods, calling it just a guest-house might suggest it’s free of charge – to dispel such doubts they add the word ‘paying’. Guests are still gods mind you, just bring along those other gods, MasterCard and Visa.

9)           Fair.

An old English word that the British left behind meaning food. If the food is average could it be called fair fair?

10)          Hypothecated.

This cumbersome word frequently pops up on the back of auto-rickshaws. It means ‘I have borrowed money from <someone> who will get this auto-rickshaw back if I can’t pay for it.’ This is why the phrase ‘hypothecated to <someone>’ is better and saves on paint.

11)           Dacoit.

A bandit. Dacoits are utter rascals who get up to ‘dacoitery’. They may be after your eatables because your fair may be their needful. Chi cheeee. (You’re getting the hang of this by now right?)

12)         Till date.

This means ‘up to present day’. ‘He is the most successful cricketer having scored  10,000 runs from 2009 till date.’

13)         Pass out.

This means to graduate. It does not mean that someone became unconscious due to drinking too much alcohol. If someone says her son passed out that day with all his friends that day, she should be congratulated. There is no need to shake your head and say ‘Chi chi’ How unfortunate’.

14)         Good name.

This means your official name. Many Indians have formal names, also called good names, for school or work like Aishwarya or Deepak. When they are at home they will have pet names like Pinky, Bobby, Chiku, Chotu or Babu.

It doesn’t mean your good name as in your reputation. If an Indian asks you what is your good name, there is no need to justify that you’ve never stolen things, never been unfaithful etc.

15)         ‘Do one thing’.

This phrase means ‘I advise you to do as follows…’. It doesn’t mean refrain from multi-tasking. For example, ‘do one thing, get me an eatable.’

16)         Prepone.

This is the opposite of postpone. Getting the logical Indian?

17)         Auntie/ uncle.

This means the same as it does in the west, but it can also be used to refer to everyone else of middle-age in the world. So, you now have approximately 3 billion aunties and uncles.

The reason for this: in India it’s considered rude to refer to an elder using just their first name. So just do the needful and call them uncle or auntie.

18)         Wheatish.

It means light-brown in colour, often found in matrimonial adverts to refer to skin complexion. This doesn’t mean your eatables have a mild taste of wheat in them.

19)         To intimate.

This simply means to communicate a piece of information. It is pronounced inti-MATE with the inflexion on the last syllable.

20)         Cho chweet

Meaning: so sweet. For example, on seeing a cute baby an Indian might say, “your baby is cho chweet‘. So why the ‘ch’ sound? Well it’s baby speak but also try puckering your lips in a kiss and saying it. You chee? To add extra emphasis you might like to lengthen the word depending on the cuteness of the infant as in  so ‘cho chweeeeeeet.

21)             Godown.

A warehouse. So, if you’re doing the needful, and you want to find the eatables, just go down the godown.


If you know any more, I’d love to hear them – please do the needful and intimate them to me at heyloons at icloud dot com.

This post was preponed on the blog http://www.heyloons.com


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  1. mind-blasting is not really used..? Also, that ‘marketing’ thing you wrote is wrong. Nobody says that..


  2. No offence meant. I wanted to illustrate how the English language absorbs, evolves and becomes richer, and Indians who speak English are at the forefront of that.


  3. In Bangalore, we are fond of ‘dedend’ when giving directions, as in ‘ dedend right’. And ‘virgnal’, which has nothing to do with virgins, but means original, as opposed to a spurious product.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for that Thelongview. It’s so interesting that many countries have contributed to the development of the English language, and that’s what’s made it so rich over time. It’s always evolving and responding to needs.

      I may need to write a part two to this blog as I have had quite a lot suggestions. May I use your suggestions too, I will certainly credit Thelongview for those?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Prepone!!!!!!!

    Last year I was working on a project, delivering some IT stuff to our Engineering department, and we got an email from the lead developer, Divya, who wrote, “the drop has been preponed to the 12th”. It was as if she’d just proved the existence of God in a Quality Centre update. We stood there, wide-eyed, until somebody said “if there’s a post-poned, why not a pre-poned”. It really blew – pardon, blasted – our minds!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A classic from Divya, Fabrizzio. How logical is that! And just to slip it in to a sentence, with such effortless non-chalance, that just says, we’ve always used this word and everyone gets it. No explanation needed.

      Liked by 2 people

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