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Origin of the term 'Hindu'


Premium Member
The commonly accepted idea is that we were given this term by outsiders, and it means 'people east of the Indus' or something like that. This has been presented as fact for some time, and is widely accepted as such.
Not that any of it matters, but here's a paper that opens up other possibilities, and suggests the above is a misconception.

How Old is the Word ‘Hindu’?

Being a questioner, I don't accept anything wiki or Britannica says, and find the theories given in the paper as equally as likely.



Still learning to be wise
Staff member
Premium Member
I always thought it was just slang and used because it was just easier for English speakers to say. Lol!


ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
Staff member
Premium Member
The article is incorrect in saying “Persian habit of replacing...”. It’s not a habit or corruption. It’s how the languages evolved. It’s further incorrect in saying ‘Persia’ should be ‘Perhia’. I’ve encountered that before on a largely defunct Hindu Dharma discussion forum. Someone actually gave me a “Oh yeah? Then why isn’t it Perhia?”

Old Persian does use /h/ where Sanskrit uses /s/. It’s a regular sound shift found in many languages that are members of a particular family. Sapta/hapta, Sindhu/Hindu, Saraswati/Hairovati, asura/ahura and others. Side note, not only is there a sound shift between asura and ahura, there’s a role reversal too. Asuras became the bad guys, ahuras are benevolent beings. We have super/hyper, sub/hypo, sex/hex, sept/hept in Latin and Greek, respectively. Now, the Persia/Perhia example... that’s simple, Persia is a Greek word. It has no connection to either Sanskrit or Old Persian. It’s not even on the Indo-Iranian branch of Indo-European. Indus also comes from Greek and Latin variants of Hindu and Sindhu. So, Hindu has an ancient and unsullied origin. It’s just how a particular group of people spoke, like any other.




Active Member
The commonly accepted idea is that we were given this term by outsiders, and it means 'people east of the Indus' or something like that.
Is it important?

I get the impression that for nationalists the idea that outsiders gave this name is unacceptable. That it somehow diminishes Hinduism. It has become a matter of national pride, to distance oneself from things foreign.

I think these feelings should be taken seriously. Then again, it is often the case that our names come from others. I did not invent my names, they were given to me. Yes there are people who invent their own names, mostly artists, and that is a sign of vanity, not greatness.

If you look at the original native names for ancient peoples and cities, in their own language they often mean "the people" and "the city" or "the big city". This word is either mispronounced by foreigners or they use a description of the people or city in their own language.

Like The English name "Egypt" is derived from the Ancient Greek "Aígyptos". The Greek forms were borrowed from Late Egyptian (Amarna) Hikuptah or "Memphis", a corruption of the earlier Egyptian name, meaning "home of the ka (soul) of Ptah", the name of a temple to the god Ptah at Memphis.

The ancient Egyptian name of the country was km.t, which means black land, likely referring to the fertile black soils of the Nile flood plains. This name is commonly vocalised as Kemet, but was probably pronounced [kuːmat] in ancient Egyptian.

Understandably, after decolonization it became something of national pride for many peoples to restore names in their own language again. For instance Chinese no longer accepted Peking, but want it to be called Beijing. Wikipedia says this

The name Beijing, which means "Northern Capital", was applied to the city in 1403 during the Ming dynasty to distinguish the city from Nanjing (the "Southern Capital")

Now for Hindu Nationalists I guess the best explanation would be that Hindu is a name given after the ancient King Indu, the ruler of a great Kingdom, who lived 10.000 years ago, and founder of the first civilization. Alas, we are not always so lucky.

It is a sign of a nation rising. In the old days people rising felt the same national pride. For instance the Romans succeeded the Greek and adopted much of their culture from them. But besides admiration this left them with an inferiority complex and fierce jealousy. So when they had become a big empire the emperor appointed their best poet Virgil to write the history of the Romans. So he created the exodus story of Romans being the descendants of a Prince of Troy, the Trojans being the famous arch-enemies of Greek. So the Romans could say: The Greek may have beaten the Trojans, but in the end we Trojans were victorious over the Greek.

I often wonder if the exodus story of the Jews is not a similar writing to give the Jews a noble past. I find it remarkable that the oldest known writings are in Greek and created in Greece, where learned Jews picked up sophisticated writing. Jews were telling the Greek they were the builders of the great pyramid. Of course they could not know that this would be debunked later on. A little exaggeration was not strange to our ancestors. There is a natural tendency to paint a great past when people rise to greatness. In the same way that people from humble descent that get rich, change their names to suggest more noble descent.

In the same way the later European colonial elite felt the need for a great past to fit their empire. So the created this myth of being the Aryans who had brought civilization to ancient India, regarding themselves as their descendants who were still bringing civilization all over the world. This idea was popular all over Europe.

Indians can be very angry about this western appropriation, but they can also interpret it as a recognition that it is the Indians that have the older civilization. If there is any people on this planet that do not need to touch up history, it is the heirs to the eldest uninterrupted civilization. So to me this all feels a bit unnecessary.
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