Babu (title)

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Baboo Tarachand Chukturburtee, Varenda Brahmin, Calcutta 1844
"The Bengali Baboo" from "Twenty-One Days in India, or The Tour Of Sir Ali Baba K.C.B." by George Aberigh-Mackay

The title babu, also spelled baboo, is used in the Indian subcontinent as a sign of respect towards men. In some cultures, the term "babu" is a term of endearment for a loved one as well. 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. "Babu" can also be used as a term of respect for any respected elder or man.[citation needed]

In some Indian Zamindari estates the title Babu or Sri was used by its rulers. In many kingdoms the members of royal family and kin of the kings also used this title.[citation needed]

In Bangla and Maithili, "babu" is used as a suffix to a person's name to show respect while calling him by name, for example, "Mohan babu, could you please come here?". In Bengal, the word Babu or Babushona is used more broadly, meaning baby or a little kid or one's child, especially to younger kids.[clarification needed] In the Saurashtra language, babu may refer to a younger brother, male, (sibling). The term "babu" may be suffixed to a person's name – for example, Rose babu to refer to someone called Rose – but the term "babuji" is always used by itself.[citation needed]

Civil servants[edit]

In British India, baboo 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" as an address of a gentleman; their life-style was also called "baboo culture" often also humorously appealed as "babuism". The British coined the word "baboo" as a derogatory word because some Indians tried to copy them. Baboos (baboons) enjoyed a number of privileges for being in the service of the British Raj. The British officials treated baboos as workers who had both Indian and British connections.[1] Since the mid-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's media.[4][5][6]

Other uses[edit]

"Babu" in Swahili is 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, Bhojpuri, Maithili, Bengali, Telugu, and Oriya languages, it is a means of calling with love and affection to spouses or younger brothers, sons, grandsons etc. It can be found in the urban trend to call "babu" to girlfriends or boyfriends, or common-friends to symbolize deep love or dearness. In many Bengali families fathers and sons are usually named babu, as a matter of intimacy, with daughters or mothers.

On the island of Mauritius the word Babu-ji refers to the warrior community in Indo-Mauritian community. This community consists mainly of Bihari Mauritians, whose ancestors landed on the island as Coolies or indentured sugar cane field labourers during the 1810–1968 British colonial rule.[8][9]

In Sicilian, babbu means a fool.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Babu" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  2. ^ "babu, n". OED Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  3. ^ "Yet to start work, Natgrid CEO highest paid babu". The Times of India. 23 August 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2014.
  4. ^ Parthasarathy, Anand (1–14 September 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. Archived from the original on 9 November 2012. Retrieved 20 May 2011. Bureaucracy knows no bounds...
  5. ^ "PM Modi tightens screws, gives babudom a new rush hour". The Times of India. 2 September 2014. Retrieved 17 September 2014.
  6. ^ "Babu". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 17 September 2014.
  7. ^ See babu in Wiktionary.
  8. ^ Claveyrolas, Mathieu. "The 'Land of the Vaish'? Caste Structure and Ideology in Mauritius". Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  9. ^ Nave, Ari. Nested Identities: Ethnicity, Community and the Nature of Group Conflict in Mauritius (C. Bates (ed.), Community, Empire and Migration). Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1007/978-1-137-05743-3_3. ISBN 978-1-137-05743-3. Retrieved 25 June 2001.
  10. ^ "babbu in English - Sicilian-English Dictionary | Glosbe". Retrieved 27 January 2023.