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From Urdu پردہ(parda), and its source, Persian پرده(parda, curtain).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈpəːdɑː/, /ˈpəːdə/
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purdah (countable and uncountable, plural purdahs)

  1. (chiefly South Asia) A curtain, especially as used to conceal and divide women from men and strangers in some Hindu or Muslim traditions. [from 17th c.]
    • 1888, Rudyard Kipling, ‘A Wayside Comedy’, Under the Deodars, Folio Society 2005, p. 34:
      As she passed through the dining-room, she heard, behind the purdah that cloaked the drawing-room door, her husband's voice []
    • 1924, EM Forster, A Passage to India, Penguin 2005, p. 11:
      ‘Come and see my wife a little then,’ said Hamidullah, and they spent twenty minutes behind the purdah.
  2. (rare, obsolete) A striped cotton cloth which is used to make curtains. [19th c.]
  3. The state or system of social gender seclusion in some Muslim or Hindu communities. [from 19th c.]
  4. A long veil, or other all-enveloping clothing, worn by women in some Muslim societies. [from 20th c.]
  5. (figuratively) Secrecy, isolation. [from 20th c.]
  6. (Britain) The period immediately before an election or referendum during which restrictions are in force on the activity of civil servants.

Usage notes[edit]

The use of a term that refers to the practice of secluding women for the pre-election period in the UK may be found offensive.

Related terms[edit]




purdah (plural purdah-purdah, informal 1st possessive purdahku, impolite 2nd possessive purdahmu, 3rd possessive purdahnya)

  1. veil (for a woman's face)