coolie

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English[edit]

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Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Hindi-Urdu क़ुली (qulī) / قلی (qulī, hired laborer), from Turkish köle. Other forms occur in Bengali [script needed] (kuli) and Tamil [script needed] (kuli, daily hire). Possibly also influenced by Hindi कोली (kolī, weaver; low-class). The Mandarin word 苦力 (kǔlì), meaning "to exert one's abilities; heavy labour work" in Classical Chinese, may have been influenced by cognates of the above Hindi word in other languages and may have further influenced English.

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

coolie (plural coolies)

  1. (offensive, slang) An unskilled Asian worker, usually of Chinese or Indian descent; a labourer; a porter. Coolies, like the early European settlers in North America, were frequently transported to other countries in the 19th and early 20th centuries as indentured labourers.
  2. (offensive, slang, Trinidad, West Indies, Guyana and parts of Africa) A person of Indian descent.

Derived terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

References[edit]

  • Yule, Henry and Burnell, A. C. (1886): Hobson-Jobson The Anglo-Indian Dictionary. Reprint: Ware, Hertfordshire. Wordsworth Editions Limited. 1996.
  • Le grand dictionnaire Ricci de la langue chinoise, (2001), Vol. III, p. 833.