19 November 2012

Word: Wallah

Wallah or Walla

From the Hindi/Urdu suffix -wālā, which has the sense of 'pertaining to or connected with' that preceding, which may be compared with the English suffix -er (as in, for example, baker, walker). Thanks to the Raj, in English it has progressed beyond its Indian roots and has come to mean:
  1. One employed in a particular occupation or activity (eg. kitchen wallah; rickshaw wallah).
  2. An important person in a particular field or organization.
  3. One carrying out a routine administrative job; a civil servant, a bureaucrat.
Thus it is also a component of Indian names, eg. Unwalla (originally a wool worker or merchant).

Other examples of Anglo-Indian usage include:
  • banghy-wallah, a porter who carries loads with a banghy or shoulder-yoke
  • dhobi-wallah, a laundry worker (photo right)
  • punkah-wallah, a servant who works a fan
  • Dillī-wālā, inhabitant of Delhi.

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