Babu (title)

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For other uses, see Babu.

The title babu, also spelled baboo, is used in South Asia as a sign of respect towards men. It is a derivation of bapu which means father or grandfather. The honorific "ji" is sometimes added as a suffix to create the double honorific "babuji" which, in northern and eastern parts of India, is a term of respect for one's father. "Babuji" can also be used as a term of respect for any respected elder or man. In some Indian states, "babu" is also used as a generic word of respect to address men, especially unknown ones, e.g., "Babu, can you help me?"

In Bengali, "babu" is used as suffix to a person's name to show respect while calling him by name, e.g., "Mohan Babu, could you please come here!" The term "babu" may be suffixed to a person's name, but the term "babuji" is always used by itself. In the Saurashtra language, "babu" may refer to a younger brother (sibling), or it can be used more broadly, similar to the terms fellow or brethren, but, only in reference to those younger than oneself.

Civil servants[edit]

In British India, babu often referred to a native Indian clerk. The word was originally used as a term of respect attached to a proper name, the equivalent of "mister", and "babuji" was used in many parts to mean "sir".[1] Since early 20th-century, the term babu is frequently used pejoratively to refer to bureaucrats of Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and other government officials,[2] especially by the Indian media,[3] while the Indian bureaucracy is called "babudom", as in the "rule of babus", especially in India media.[4][5][6]

Other uses[edit]

"Babu" also means grandfather in Swahili, like "papu" in Greek.[7] It is cognate with "baba" in Slavic languages, and ultimately with "papa" in Germanic and Romance languages. In Nepali, Eastern Hindi/Bihari, Bengali, Telugu, and Oriya languages, it is a means of calling with love and affection to spouses or younger brothers, sons, grandsons etc.

See also[edit]


  1. ^  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Babu". Encyclopædia Britannica 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  2. ^ "babu, n". OED Online. Oxford Univeristy Press. Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  3. ^ "Yet to start work, Natgrid CEO highest paid babu". The Times of India. Aug 23, 2012. Retrieved 2014-09-17. 
  4. ^ Anand Parthasarathy (Sep 1–14, 2001). "A barbed look at babudom: Will the typically British humour of Yes Minister work if transplanted to an Indian setting? Viewers of a Hindi satellite channel have a chance to find out.". Frontline, India's National Magazine from the publishers of The Hindu. Bureaucracy knows no bounds... 
  5. ^ "PM Modi tightens screws, gives babudom a new rush hour". The Times of India. Sep 2, 2014. Retrieved 2014-09-17. 
  6. ^ "Babu". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 2014-09-17. 
  7. ^ See babu in Wiktionary.