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.
coolie (plural coolies)
- (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.
- (offensive, slang, Trinidad, West Indies, Guyana and parts of Africa) A person of Indian descent.
- 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.