Curry powder is a spice mix of widely varying composition based on South Asian cuisine. Curry powder and the contemporary English use of the word "curry" are Western inventions and do not reflect any specific Indian food, though a similar mixture of spices used in north India is called garam masala. Curry powder is actually closer to the Tamil sambar powder, and the word "curry" is derived from the Tamil word kari meaning "sauce, relish for rice", and from the Kannada word karil.
In the Western world, curry powder mixtures tend to have a fairly standardised taste, though a great variety of spice mixtures are used in Indian cuisine. Indian cooks often have readier access to a variety of fresh spices than their foreign counterparts. Some curry cooks will have their own specific mixtures for different recipes.
Curry powder was largely popularised during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries through the mass export of the condiment to the western table throughout Europe and North and South America, and through its use in British Army nations. Curry powder did not become standardised, as many of the original blends of curry powder were still available throughout the world. The late 1960s and early 1970s saw a growth of Indian-based food consumption in the west and internationally. This led to an increase of Indian restaurants throughout the world. The tradition of keeping special blends of curry powder simply became uneconomical, and curry powder became increasingly standardised outside India.