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Alternative forms[edit]


From Hindustani क़ुली ‎(qulī) / قلی ‎(qulī, hired laborer, slave), from Turkish köle. Other forms occur in Bengali [script needed] ‎(kuli) and Tamil [script needed] ‎(kuli, daily hire). 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)

  1. (offensive, slang) 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.
  2. (offensive, slang, Trinidad, West Indies, Guyana and parts of Africa) A person of Indian descent.

Derived terms[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.