Pukka sahib

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Pukka sahib (/ˈpʌkə ˈsɑː(ɪ)b/ PUK-ə SAH(-i)b)[1] is a slang term taken from Hindi words for "Absolute" ("first class," "absolutely genuine" for English users) and "master," but meaning "true gentleman" or "excellent fellow." The expression was used in the British Empire to describe Europeans or to describe an attitude which British administrators were said to affect, that of an "aloof, impartial, incorruptible arbiter of the political fate of a large part of the earth's surface."[2]

The word "pukka" is still used formally in twenty-first century English to describe something as "first class" or "absolutely genuine." As a slang term, it is often used by British service-people.

Occurrence in Literature[edit]

The term is frequently referenced in E. M. Forster's A Passage to India, and in Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot series as well as in Why Didn't They Ask Evans? In his anti-Empire novel Burmese Days, George Orwell refers to it as a "pose," and one of his characters talks of the difficulty that goes into maintaining it. Alexandra Fuller also uses the term in her book Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness. In the 1938 film, The Young in Heart, Roland Young's character Col. Anthony Carleton, assumes the title to enable his career as a card sharp and con man. Flowering Wilderness by John Galsworthy also refers to pukka sahibs.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ OED.
  2. ^ "Race against Time" M. Freedman, Phylon, 1953.