From Hindi क़ुली (qulī) and Urdu قلی (qulī, “hired laborer”), possibly from Ottoman Turkish قول (kul, “servant”). Another theory says that it is named after a Gujarati tribe or caste of that name. Other forms occur in Bengali কুলি (kuli) and Tamil கூலி (kūli, “daily hire”). Possibly also influenced by Hindi कोली (kolī, “weaver; low-class”).
coolie (plural coolies)
- (offensive) An unskilled Asian worker, usually of Chinese or Indian descent; a labourer; a porter. Coolies were frequently transported to other countries in the 19th and early 20th centuries as indentured labourers.
- 1913, Elizabeth Kimball Kendall, A Wayfarer in China:
- From Hui-li-chou northwards I was escorted by real soldiers, quite of the new service. They looked rather shipshape in khaki suits and puttees, and their guns were of a good model, but they handled them in careless fashion at first, belabouring laden ponies and even coolies who were slow in getting out of the way of my chair.
- 1992, Jan Breman, E. Valentine Daniel, Conclusion: The Maiking of a Coolie, E. Valentine Daniel, Henry Bernstein, Tom Brass (editors), Plantations, Proletarians, and Peasants in Colonial Asia, Frank Cass & Co., page 268,
- Coolie-identity is as much the product of self-perception as it is the construction of a category by those who did not belong to it. It is these constructions that historically constituted a coolie in the matrix of power relations which this essay seeks to partially comprehend.
- 2008, Lisa Yun, The Coolie Speaks: Chinese Indentured Laborers and African Slaves in Cuba, Temple University Press, page xix,
- Community histories did not necessarily feature the coolie, partly due to the fact that “coolie” is a classed term. Asian coolies were regarded as lowly laborers.
- (offensive, Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean, Guyana, Jamaican, South Africa and other parts of Africa) An Indian or a person of Indian descent.
- 1991, Larry Bond and Patrick Larkin, Vortex, page 56:
- Well, he and his troops had shown the koefietjies-the little coolies-how quickly and how easily Afrikaner explosive shells could knock it down.
- 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.