Pukka sahib

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Pukka sahib (/ˈpʌkə ˈsɑː.ɪb/ or /ˈsɑːb/)[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". Used in the British Empire to describe Europeans; more usually to describe an attitude which British administrators affected, 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 19th- and 21st-century English and Greek to describe something as "first class" or "absolutely genuine". As a slang term, it is often used by British service-people.


The term is frequently referenced in E. M. Forster's A Passage to India, and in Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot series. 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ OED. Respelling PUK SAH-ib or SAHB
  2. ^ "Race against Time" M. Freedman, Phylon, 1953.