Hindi Language Blog

Is it Urdu or Hindi? Posted by on Oct 29, 2021 in Hindi Language, Vocabulary

Why the controversy?

If you look at the news from India today, it seems like everyone is up in arms about the use of vocabulary. As a nation and culture, why this sudden war over words? If you take a deep dive into the languages of India, especially Hindi and Urdu, you can see that they are truly siblings. Each language has its own beauty. Each language has the same origins in Sanskrit.

Politics and Media

Politics driven media ignites this war. What a privilege India has to have so many colorful languages that one can lean on to communicate with its diverse population!

Diwali and Ads

Recently there was an ad that had to be taken down due to the uproar it caused on social media! All because of one tweet from a politician.

Sister Vocabulary

Invaders from Central Aisa, Afghanistan and Turkey brought their colorful languages into India transforming Hindi.  Hindi absorbed Persian words used mostly for administrative purposes. These words were: ‘vasir’ meaning minister मंत्री, ‘musahib’ meaning courtier दरबारी, ‘faujdari’ criminal आपराधिक case, ‘faisla’ judgement प्रलय, and ‘gavahi’ witness साक्षी. These are used to such an extent that they are no longer recognized as loan words ऋण शब्द.

Persian also gave India words for food, ‘korma’ कोरमा and ‘kabab’ कबाब, cosmetics अंगराग,  ‘sabun’ (soap) and ‘hina’ (henna). For the home, ‘kursi’ (chair), ‘mez’ (table), ‘divar’ (wall).

People use Urdu words so much in India that they are commonly mistaken गलत for Hindi words. So many of today’s controversies विवाद and splitting hairs in India can be avoided. If only people would understand समझना the history of Urdu. Its origins are in Sanskrit just like Hindi.

Common Urdu

People use the word Zindagi जिंदगी more often than Jeevan, which is the actual Hindi word for life. In fact if you type ‘life’ into the Google Translator you will see the word zindagi come up first.

Similarly, you can see the search results in Google come up with the word दिल, rather than हृदय. Also, we hear the word Dil दिल in Bollywood songs rather than Hriday. This maybe due to the fact that it is slightly more difficult to pronounce the latter word.

The Rishta संबंध theme is common in Indian culture. Many stories and movies focus on the use of this word more than Sambandh संबंध.

Right from childhood, I hear the word Kitaab किताब more than the word Pustak पुस्तक even though I learned Hindi and not Urdu.

When we hear poetry even in Hindi we hear the word Khwab more than Sapne सपना which is the Sanskrit origin word for dreams.

Tanha means loneliness and is used more than अकेलापन Akelapan, which may have a different connotation.

Ishq sounds more mature than प्यार Pyaar which may sound young. Both are used equally in the culture.

Arzoo is the word for wish इच्छा in Urdu while Iccha is the word for wish in Hindi. We hear Arzoo more often depending on region.

Many Indians are unaware of the Hindi word Lahu or rakth रक्त which means blood. They hear the word Khoon more often.


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About the Author: Nicole Herbert Dean

Language, Region and Culture Consultant to the Department of Defense and United States Military.


  1. Rahul:

    I would like to be as much polite as possible while leaving this comment.

    What a load of rubbish this article is!!!

    Every tom-dick-&-harry with access to internet now think of themselves as expert, in this case a linguistic. Indeed Sanskrit is the Mother of all Indian Language but Urdu was developed for invading rulers to be able to communicate with the Hindi speaking population.

    Urdu is 80%+ Hindi. It has majority persian words because, guess what, majority of these war lords came from Persia/Turkmenistan. The writing style also matched with arabic/persian as that’s what the new rulers wanted to continue writing while using words that the population under their control understand. Urdu was majorly developed under Babar, Jahangir rule in 15/16 century.

    Also, all Indian languages are written from left to right including Sanskrit which is based of Brahmi script, but urdu is opposite.

    Only reason that other Indian languages, especially, Hindi are corrupted by urdu words is due to the impact of Indian Cinema where majority of dialogue and story writers used urdu in their story telling.

    Please learn more before presenting this hodge-podge. Urdu is NOT a sibling of Hindi.

  2. Nicole Herbert Dean:

    Dear Sir,
    Thank you for your comment. You are essentially saying the same thing as the post. I hold the view that Urdu loanwords in the Hindi language are beneficial.
    Please don’t color this site with your politics. Let’s look at the positive aspects of historical invasions we have no control of since they happened many years ago, and learn to live with the benefits of the culture they brought to India.
    Thank you.