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Echo Words in Hindi Posted by on May 8, 2019 in Hindi Language

While learning Hindi, you may have noticed a phenomenon known as “echo words.” This grammatical structure is fairly common and informal and most often consists of an established word, such as “चाय/chaay” (tea) and a made-up word that rhymes with it (the most common example in this case is “वाय/vaay”) that adds a more general sense to the first word. Not all of the “echo” words begin with “व/va” and, indeed, the second word in the pair usually owes its provenance to the speaker’s own imagination as well as established, informal conventions. These echo words convey various senses based on their context – they can be simple expressions of a speaker’s creativity, they can convey a dismissive tone and they can also be an expression of vagueness or non-specificity. Let’s look at a few examples below:

Chai/चाय is never complete without the वाय/vaay, or a small snack that goes alongside it, such as these samose/समोसे. Image by Abhi Misthi on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

  1. हमारे मेहमानों के लिए कुछ चाय-वाय जल्दी लाओ (Humaare mehmaano ke liye kuch chaay-vaay jaldi laao). Bring our guests some tea or something (or, some tea and the fixings) quick. *In this case, the sense is of vagueness or non-specificity. However, चाय-वाय is also an accepted turn of phrase, which refers to “tea” and the “fixings” (biscuits, sandwiches, cake, etc.).
  2. आप कैसे हैं आज? (मैं) ठीक-ठाक (हूँ) । (Aap kaise hain aaj? (Main) thik thaak (huun). How are you today? I’m alright. *In this sentence, ठीक-ठाक (where ठाक rhymes with ठीक and is not a word in its own right) has become a part of the established lexicon and means something like “alright,” “ok,” “fine” or “so so.”
  3. मैं शनिवार को बाज़ार जाना बिल्कुल पसंद नहीं करती – वीकेंड के दौरान वहाँ पे भीड़ भाड़ तो बहुत ज़्यादा है । (Main shanivaar ko baazaar jaanaa bilkul pasand nahin karti – weekend ke dauraan vahaan pe bheer bhaar to bahut zyaada hai). I don’t like to go to the market on Saturday at all – during the weekend, it is way too crowded. *Again, भीड़ भाड़ started out life as a mere echo phrase but has evolved to the level of an accepted, standard expression to connote a huge crowd or “hustle and bustle” in Hindi.
  4. वे (वह) लोग हमेशा अपने साथ काम करने वालों के बारे में गपशप कर रहे हैं – उनको कुछ मत बताओ । (Voh log hameshaa apne saath kaam karne vaalon ke baare me gapshap kar rahe hain – unko kuch mat bataao). Those people are always gossiping about their coworkers – don’t tell them anything. *Again, गप-शप has become part of the established lexicon and means simply “gossip.” गप, by itself, means casual talk or gossip while शप is not a word in its own right.
  5. इस फॉर्म को भरने के लिए मुझे पेंसिल वेंसिल की ज़रूरत पड़ेगी । (Is form ko bharne ke liye mujhe pencil-vensil ki zaroorat paregi). I’ll need a pencil or something to fill out this form. *In this instance, there is a lack of specificity surrounding which writing instrument will be necessary, indicating that a pen or pencil will do the trick.
  6. सारे दिन एक के बाद एक बेकार मीटिंग में गया हूँ – एक और मीटिंग-शीटिंग में थोड़े ही जाउँगा । (Saare din ek ke baad ek bekaar meeting me gayaa huun – ek aur meeting-sheeting me thore hi jaaungaa). All day, I’ve gone to one useless meeting after the other – I’m not about to go to another meeting or anything else of the kind. *Here, the echo word is used to express disdain of the “useless meetings” that have already taken place and the speaker’s vehement refusal to waste his time with another one.
  7. वकीलों को लगता है कि उसने जान-बूझकर अपने भाई का कत्ल किया । (Vakeelon ko lagtaa hai ki usne jaan-bujhkar apne bhaai kaa katal kiyaa). The lawyers think that he purposefully killed his brother. *This is a slightly different situation where two words that have a similar meeting are used together in a phrase that has become an established part of the Hindi lexicon: जान=is from जानना, to know, बूझकर=is from बूझना, to understand.

A bazaar/बाज़ार (marketplace) in Hyderabad; image by Julia Gross on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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About the Author: Rachael

नमस्ते, मेरा नाम रेचल है/السلام علیکم، میرا نام ریچل ہے۔ Hello, my name is Rachael, but I also on occasion go by Richa––an interesting story for another time :) My two great loves are Hindi and Urdu. I first traveled to India (Jaipur, Rajasthan) in college on a Hindi study abroad program. A little over a year later, I returned to the same city to study Hindi in a yearlong program. I've also spent a summer in Kolkata, West Bengal learning Bengali, and I studied Urdu at the University of California, Berkeley, where I was a graduate student in South Asian Studies. I hope to share with you the fascinating world of Hindi and Urdu literature, society, culture and film through my blogs!


Comments:

  1. Nikhil:

    Very helpful blog. I believe sentence 6 has an error in it. It should be saaraa din. Saare din would refer to go multiple days. All day is saaraa din. Am not a native speaker, so do double check.

    • Rachael:

      @Nikhil Hi Nikhil,
      आपकी टिप्पणी के लिए बहुत शुक्रिया! In this case, सारे दिन is used as an adverbial phrase and, as such, appears in the oblique case (with an invisible postposition – को – or “ghostposition” understood to be at the end of the phrase): thus, सारे दिन (meaning “all day”) rather than सारा दिन (which is a more colloquial expression of the same sentiment). मुझे ख़ुशी हुई कि आपको ब्लॉग पसंद आया 🙂

  2. Hem sunar:

    Thanks .. But I need more information .mainly about Urdu words meaning in Hindi …. Kindly please help me out here..

    • Rachael:

      @Hem sunar ज़रूर, आपकी मदद कर सकती हूँ – ज़रा बताइए कौनसे उर्दू शब्द जानना चाहते हैं?