Gentoo (slang)

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"The Ordeal Trial practis'd by the Gentoos", 1770 copper engraving.

Gentoo, also spelled Gentue or Jentue, was a term used by Europeans for the native inhabitants of India before the word Hindu, with its religious connotation, was used to distinguish a group from Muslims and members of other religious groups in India.[1][2][3][4][5]

Gentio and Gentoo terms were applied historically to indigenous peoples of India; later, to Telugu-speaking persons and their language in then Madras Province (now the Andhra region), as opposed to the Malbars, or Tamil speakers and their language (in what is now Tamil Nadu).[1][2][4][6][7] An example from the Monsignor Sebastiao Rodolfo Dalgado is "moros, gentivos e maos christãos".[2] It was also an Anglo-Indian slang term used in the 17th and 18th centuries; however, in the 20th century, the word became derogatory.[5][8][9]


It is unclear why Indians were called Gentoo. As Portuguese people arrived in India for trade, religious conversions, and colonisation before other Europeans, it is possible that the word was derived from the Portuguese word Gentio: a gentile, a heathen, or native. The Portuguese also appear to have used it to distinguish the aborigines of India from Muslims, the Moros or Moors.[1][3][9]

And before this kingdom of Guzerate fell into the hands of the Moors, a certain race of Gentios whom the moors called Resbutos dwelt therein.[1]

According to 19th century philologist and Orientalist N.B. Halhed, there was a fanciful derivation of Gentoo from the Sanskrit word jantu, meaning "mankind" or "animal".[2]

The word Hindu is not originally Indian. Instead, the word Hindu started to acquire religious connotations only after the arrival of Muslims. The very first attempt by the British to establish social laws over aboriginal people for administrative purposes (in order to assert the distinctiveness of Indian jurisprudence) was named A Code of Gentoo Law. The first digest of Indian legislation was published in 1776, was funded by the East India Company, supported by Warren Hastings, and was translated from Persian into English by Halhed.[1][2][4][5][7]

The Gentues, the portugal idiom for Gentiles, are the Aborgines, who enjoyed their freedom, till the Moors or Scythian Tartars... undermining them, took advantage of the civil Commotions.[1]

After the term Hindu as a religion was established to represent non-Muslims and non-Christians, the word Gentoo became archaic and then obsolete, while its application on Telugu people and Telugu language (present Andhra region, part of Andhra Pradesh) in then Madras Province continued to distinguish them from Tamil people and Tamil language or Malbars (present: Tamil Nadu) in then Madras Province.[1][2][4][5][6]

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  1. ^ a b c d e f g Dalgado, Sebastião Rodolfo; Anthony Xavier Soares (1988). Portuguese vocables in Asiatic languages: from the Portuguese original of Monsignor Sebastião Rodolfo Dalgado, Volume 1. Asian Educational Services. pp. 167–168. ISBN 812060413X. ISBN 9788120604131. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Who Invented Hinduism?" (PDF). pp. 1–15. Retrieved March 17, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Ernst, Carl W. (1992). Eternal garden: mysticism, history, and politics at a South Asian Sufi center. SUNY Press,. p. 287. ISBN 0791408841. ISBN 9780791408841. 
  4. ^ a b c d "The English Invention of Hinduism". Retrieved March 15, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d Yule, Henry; A. C. Burnell; William Crooke (1996). A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases. Routledge. pp. 367–368. ISBN 0700703217. ISBN 9780700703210. 
  6. ^ a b "Situating the Gentoo in History". Retrieved March 16, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Anand. "Origins of `India'". Retrieved March 15, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Nature Wildlife - Gentoo Penguin". bbc. Retrieved March 16, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b "Gliding Gentoos". Retrieved March 16, 2012. As to why they are called Gentoo is not clear. According to the Oxford English Dictionary Gentoo was an Anglo-Indian term 

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