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Drawing of a female beggar holding a large bowl, 1879
Mounted policemen in Egypt allow photos of themselves for baksheesh, 2008

Baksheesh (from Persian: بخشش bakhshesh[1]) is tipping, charitable giving, and certain forms of political corruption and bribery in the Middle East and South Asia.

Etymology and usage[edit]

Baksheesh comes from the Persian word بخشش (bakhshesh), which originated from the Middle Persian language.[2]

The word had also moved to other cultures and countries. In the Albanian, Arabic, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Indian, Macedonian, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, and Turkish languages, bakshish or бакшиш means "tip" in the conventional western sense. In Greek, μπαξίσι (baksisi) can mean a gift in general. In German and French, Bakschisch is a small bribe (in Romanian as well, depending on the context; usually employed as a euphemism to șpagă, which means outright bribe). In Maltese, the word buqxiex refers to a very small payment.


  • Charity to beggars: In Pakistan, beggars solicit alms by crying "baksheesh, baba!".[3]
  • Tipping: This does not correlate with the European system of tipping, as it also includes demonstrations of gratitude, respect, or veneration. An offering to the gods may be considered baksheesh. A faqir may also ask for baksheesh, but no thought is in his mind that he is begging. In fact, in Pakistan and the Muslim world, the giver of alms often salutes the beggar for having been given the opportunity to gain merit. In Egypt, baksheesh is often requested on top of fares to taxi drivers, and as service charges to waiters, doormen, shopkeepers, garage attendants, and many others employed in service-sector jobs.
  • Outright bribery: In countries with endemic corruption, for instance, a member of the police force, a migration or customs officer, or any other type of government official may be swayed from legitimately or illegitimately arresting, issuing a fine, or imposing a tax on someone by a suitable payment of baksheesh which would constitute a bribe, whether it was offered to the official or requested by the official.

In literature[edit]

When American mythologist Joseph Campbell travelled on his maiden visit to India in 1954, he encountered pervasive begging which he called the "Baksheesh Complex".[4]

Mark Twain, after riding through the Biblical town of Magdala in 1867, makes note of his encounter with beggars and the term bucksheesh in his published work The Innocents Abroad: "They hung to the horses' tails, clung to their manes and the stirrups, closed in on every side in scorn of dangerous hoofs—and out of their infidel throats, with one accord, burst an agonizing and most infernal chorus: 'Howajji, bucksheesh! howajji, bucksheesh! howajji, bucksheesh! bucksheesh! bucksheesh!' I never was in a storm like that before."[5]

Leo Deuel, a writer on archaeology, sardonically described baksheesh as "lavish remuneration and bribes, rudely demanded but ever so graciously accepted by the natives in return for little or no services rendered".[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2013-01-27.
  2. ^ Dehkhoda dictionary.
  3. ^ Mark McCrum. Going Dutch in Beijing: How to Behave Properly When Far Away from Home. Macmillan, 2008. ISBN 0-8050-8676-5, ISBN 9780805086768/ Pg 104
  4. ^ Campbell, Joseph (2002). Robin Larsen; Stephen Larsen; Antony Van Couvering (eds.). Baksheesh and Brahman: Asian Journals - India. New World Library. pp. xvii. ISBN 978-1-57731-237-6.
  5. ^ p. 505
  6. ^ Deuel, Leo (1966). Testaments of Time; the Search for Lost Manuscripts and Records. New York. p. 367.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)

External links[edit]