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Indian English

Indian English consists of the various usages of the English language throughout India. In some states, English is the only official language and is considered to be the lingua franca on a national level. In spite of this, only 0.1 % of the population have English as their first language and 12.7% know English. These figures are according to the 2001 National Census.


The English language first arrived in India with the East India Company in the eighteenth century. By the 1830s this ‘honorable company’, as it was known, had achieved such dominance over India that English replaced Persian as its official language. From the 1840s onwards, English language was taught in most high schools, and some subjects were taught entirely in English. After Independence in 1947, Hindi replaced English as India’s first official language, while English was declared an ‘associate language’ until such time as every state agreed it was no longer needed. This has not yet happened and English remains in widespread use throughout India.

Unique words and idioms

Indian English is a combination of local Indian culture and the English language. Some examples of words that have entered the English language from Indian English include tiffin, hill station and gymkhana. The word airdash is a fast journey by air due to an emergency; a press person is, as you might guess, a journalist or reporter; and freeship is a scholarship which pays a student’s fees in full.

The numbering system is different for large numbers. 100,000 (one hundred thousand in English) is written 1,00,000 and is called one lakh in Indian English. One million in English, or 1,000,000, is written 10,00,000 in Indian English and is called ten lakh. Finally, 10,000,000, or ten million in English, is written 1,00,00,000 in Indian English and is called one crore. Confused? You should try using these numbers when bartering for goods in a market!


In general, Indians tend to speak English with a pleasant-sounding ‘sing-song’ quality, which is most likely due to similar tones used when speaking Hindi. Their accents vary according to where they are from in India, but there are some similarities. For example, most speak with a ‘non-rhotic’ accent, which means they do not pronounce the letter ‘r’ at the end of words such as ‘water’. Another example is that most Indian speakers of English do not differentiate between the vowel sounds in words such as ‘cot’ and ‘caught’ or ‘not’ and ‘nought’.

Please feel free to add your own examples of Indian English words or how they are pronounced to this post!