Meet a word whose history really is a mystery — “pundit”

These days you can’t turn on the television without being bombarded by panels of pundits spewing their two cents. If there were a prize for the term whose contemporary meaning is the furthest from its origin, “pundit” would be a contender.

When we talk about a pundit, we are referring to someone who comments or opines on a subject. The word also implies that the person is an authority or expert on a particular subject matter. But pundit originally referred to someone who was erudite, conducted religious ceremonies, and offered counsel to a king or mayor.

Pundit comes from the Hindi pandit. And pandit was derived from the Sanskrit pandita, which means “a learned man or scholar.”

The term first enters English in the late seventeenth century, referring to a court official in Colonial India who advised English judges about Hindu law.

In the 1800s, the British ran into problems trying to access Indian border countries in the north. So, they trained and paid local Indians to survey the land for them. These surveyors were called pundits.

Some believe that the modern use of the word came from a Yale University society called “The Pundits.” Founded in 1884, the group was known for offering humorous and insightful criticism about contemporary society and politics.

Which talking head do you think is the most punditic? And are there other words whose origin piques your curiosity? Let us know.

At Bill Harris Hairdressing, the team are anticipating the upcoming styles for spring and summer fashion.

Belfast Telegraph March 21, 2011 At Bill Harris Hairdressing, the team are anticipating the upcoming styles for spring and summer fashion.

This year, more than ever, people are going for a big change in their cuts and colours to chase away the long cold winter and embrace the sunshine of the festival season.

The growing trend seems to be modern cuts with a huge inspiration from retro styles. We can see this in the street with sharp 60s fringes, sexy sleek fashions and a return of 70s chic volumized hair. web site medium length hair styles 2011

One of the original architects, whose groundbreaking work paved the way for modern hairdressing, was Vidal Sassoon. His work can be seen in many of the short haircuts and medium length styles being worn by celebrities at the moment.

Sassoon’s strong, geometric shapes are easy to spot but are now being worn softer and are easier to maintain.

For short cuts, think of stars such as Emma Watson, ( a take on Mia Farrow’s classic cut), and Frankie Sandford from The Saturdays (Sassoon’s tear drop haircut ) as perfect examples. There is also a rebirth of wedge shapes and bowl haircuts of the 60s and 70s.

Once again, these styles have been updated and softened using more modern texturising techniques to bring the vintage look into 2011.

For medium length hair, we should look at classic bob styles and more feathered haircuts, playing more with fringes — whether blunt and strong like Jessie J, or long and softly pushed to the side, much like Daisy Lowe. Bobs should be clean lined and no longer than the base of the neck, the closer to the hair line, the better.

Long hair this summer will be be very big, casual and healthy during the day and more groomed for all those parties on summer nights. A good tip for long hair is to put it up, but nothing over the top.

The more casual look is great — think Bridgette Bardot in the 60s. in our site medium length hair styles 2011

For the colour side of spring/summer 2011, it is the year where anything goes. Natural is the key word this year so always be sure to choose a colour that suits your skin tone, eye colour and personality.

Red is a must this summer. Be as natural or as daring as you want, providing the tone compliments your complexion. Red is perfect for pale or freckled ladies — think Florence and the Machine with her copper tones, or Rihanna for vibrant red.

Blonde is always a hit for the summer and this year try any shade, from honey to beige to platinum.

Be as adventurous as you like, from a few highlights to an all over blonde — think Ashlee Simpson for that perfect bleached blonde look.

Brunette suits most skin tones and is always a popular choice. This year go for any tone from smooth caramels to dark chocolates, depending on your skins natural complexion.

If your are slightly paler, why not try black? Black suits those of a pale complexion with blue eyes, but those thinking of making the change should take care as black is a tricky colour to eliminate from the hair.

As always, after every colour service, be sure to take the proper home care products with you to keep your colour looking salon perfect until your next visit.

The best thing about spring/summer is having fun with your cut and colour. Its a great time to make a change and freshen ourselves up! For your next cut, do something a bit different, but remember you don’t have to go for a big change straight away.

Call in for a free consultation on a cut and colour to suit you.

For advice on your colour, contact Jenna Johnston — one of fourteen Master Colour degree holders — in Northern Ireland at Bill Harris Hairdressing, 52 Hill Street Belfast. Telephone 028 9023 5555. Also check in on our Facebook page for any further enquiries.


  1. R.D. Bharadwaj -  August 9, 2010 - 12:35 am

    There are many scholars from low castes of India as well, who in were described as untouchables in India’s social / caste based heirarchy. Guru Ravidass ji (a Saint Poet of the 14th Century), whose verses are also find place in the holy book of the Sikhs, Guru Granth Sahib, was an ancient scholar. There were many others as well, like Jyoti Phule and Sant Kabir ji etc. The latest who made his great mark felt in the field of education and judicial prudence as well, was Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (who was born on the 14th April, 1891 and died on 6th Dec., 1956). He was first Law Minister of India and he is the great scholar who wrote India Constitution which was adpted by the Parliament on the 26th January, 1950. But, the tragedy with our social heirarchy is that the upper caste people are shy of recognising the great deeds done by them, even though they might themselves derive benefit out of those things.

    R.D. Bhardwaj

  2. hksche2000 -  August 7, 2010 - 9:11 am

    We knew “pundit” likely originated from sanscrit/hindi because of India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Nehru. What we are waiting for is the first “untouchable” pundit, because there are an increasing number of erudite “untouchables”.

  3. R.D. Bharadwaj -  August 6, 2010 - 11:49 pm

    Dear friends : I do not agree with the view or perception that the word Pandit has been adopted in India from the Yale University society called “The Pundits” founded in 1884. Let me clarify that this word Pandit is prevailing in Indian culture, particularly, in north Indian culture for the last more than 5000 years, i.e. from the times of Mahabharat, which happened around 5,200 years ago. Lord Krishna was said to be great Pandit and the word is derived from Sanskrit language, means a great scholar. It might have been adopted by the Britishers during their 150 years rule over India starting with 1800 AD. Not only this word, many other words were also adopted in English language simply by chaging their spellings here and there, such as Hubble-bubble, which was originally taken from the Indian word “Hukkah”, a smoking instrument which our forefathers used to satisfy their smoking instinct/habits. The English people changed its name and thus spellings as well, as this instrument makes such noise when you smoke thru it. It is still being used in thousands of Indian villages. English people have adopted many such words as they had to stay here and make daily conversation with Indian people according to their culture and traditions, and you simply can not survive in any foreign country without following their customes, tradions and vocabulary of daily use, as well.

    R.D. Bharadwaj, New Delhi

  4. Munish -  August 6, 2010 - 7:41 pm

    Hindi is simply gr8 language

  5. Kimster -  August 6, 2010 - 12:33 pm

    Doing a bit of a “piggy-back” on what Nathan said, I think it also deserves to be noted that some folks might also say,”….words which pique your curiosity…”. This also would be incorrect. Nathan’s useage is on target. “Which” refers to the general membership of a class, in this case, “words”. “That” restricts the membership of the class. In the case,”… that pique your curiosity…”

  6. T -  August 6, 2010 - 12:22 pm

    @Efi: It’s not just you. Kind of sad to see a post about the English language that doesn’t understand the subjunctive tense, eh? Shame on you, “Hot Word”…

    If there was a prize for the term whose contemporary meaning is the furthest from its origin, “pundit” would be a contender.

    If there were a prize for the term whose contemporary meaning is the furthest from its origin, “pundit” would be a contender.

    • Laura -  November 5, 2015 - 6:26 am

      What am I missing? Did you not type the same sentence twice?

      • Laura -  November 5, 2015 - 6:27 am

        ah now I see it one word different-ok.

  7. Nathan -  August 6, 2010 - 9:37 am

    “…words whose…”?

    I love words as much as anyone else, but words do not have identity. They get a that or a which.

    “…words that pique your curiosity…”
    “…words that have a mysterious history…”

  8. Michael -  August 6, 2010 - 8:56 am

    What would the term be for “A pundit that speaks out of the side of his mouth” ?
    I did wonder about that word, Thanks.

    • Lanita Lewis -  November 22, 2016 - 9:17 pm

      They’re called “politicians”

      • Lanita Lewis -  November 22, 2016 - 9:19 pm

        BTW, My reply was for Michael

  9. rhm -  August 6, 2010 - 8:42 am

    Why is it that almost very television personality/newsreporter pronounces the word “pun-dint”?

  10. Swapna -  August 6, 2010 - 8:25 am

    I knew this. Cos I am an Indian and speak Hindi.Like Rupert pointed, there are several other words adopted in English from Hindi or other Indian languages like Sanskrit. Sanskrit was spoken in the very early days and is quite an interesting language. Only one or a few villages in India are known to still use this language as a medium of communication. Sanskrit is very pristine and has no foriegn borrowings.

  11. Is.Not.Rael -  August 6, 2010 - 7:49 am

    Something new =)
    thanks you.

    “pandita” sounds funny

  12. PUNDIT | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  August 6, 2010 - 7:44 am

    [...] doesn’t matter where it came from — it’s what it means today. — The “PUNDIT” FILLS THE AIR competing with the smart phone in a very subtle way. — The difference in the [...]

  13. comeagain? -  August 6, 2010 - 7:19 am

    Some historians say that the Pearl Harbor was designed by Washington. If the old craft is what it was, then where a pundit would say a history goes to?

  14. Michele -  August 6, 2010 - 7:16 am

    The contemporary meaning of pundit is very close to it’s original meaning. Why would you say the opposite?

  15. JP -  August 6, 2010 - 7:14 am

    Yes, Pundit comes from Hindi. Pandit is a person who performs religious ceremonies. As noted in the article, Pandit really means a person who is learned, educated and expert. In primary and middle schools in Northern India, the teachers are also called pandits.
    Mostly pandits are Brahmins. Loosely used, therefore any brahmin in India could be called pandit.

  16. eja nla -  August 6, 2010 - 7:12 am

    Hmnn. So the British colonialists not only stole tea from India, they also stole their language. Poor Mr. Patel, I now know why south east London, Birmingham and Liverpool are homes to you and your kindred for life. Oh,blimey!

  17. J -  August 6, 2010 - 7:10 am

    What about the term ‘buck naked’ where does that come from?

  18. Bianca -  August 6, 2010 - 7:09 am

    These tidbits of information are always so interesting and distracting. Thank you so much to whoever takes the time to write them. They are much enjoyed.

  19. whatprodsalighthairpundit -  August 6, 2010 - 7:08 am

    If the esoteric pundits are exclusive and not sharing their wisdom, then where all the delusions come from? Some say that the pundits are tantalizing high and mighty slicks. If the pundits have derived from the issues of the politics, then is there any possibility that the economy of power in structure would be channeled into some other different ways that had been before? For example, the U.S.ambassdor Roos to Japan attended a Hiroshima ceremony today, which is so unprecedented. Regardless of what it seems, what would be the earthy objective that serves Uncle Sam in such a instance. I wonder if profound pundits have any say on that.

  20. Manish -  August 6, 2010 - 6:55 am

    There are, infact, many more words of Indian origin in the English language. India has 22 offically recognized languages; and all of these have contributed words to English. Some time ago, I came across a dictionary of English words of Indian origin!
    As to Rupert’s query, no, one would not have a grasp over Indian languages if they knew these words; as they are from different languages and the meanings have morphed in English.
    Common words : Chutney, pug (mark), bunglow, juggernaut, catamaran, banyan, thug, dacoit, Raja & babu.

  21. Mike -  August 6, 2010 - 6:26 am

    Wow, 4000 words from the Indian language? That’s a lot, even though I’ve heard just about 20.

  22. abhi -  August 6, 2010 - 6:20 am

    there is no mystery about the word ‘pundit’ it is from the indian language Hindi. if you still have a doubt then google the name of the first prime minister of India. people in earlier days used the word pundit before their names. the name is PANDIT JAWAHAR LAL NEHRU

  23. Chiedozie -  August 6, 2010 - 6:18 am


  24. abhi -  August 6, 2010 - 6:16 am

    for example the word brother is formed by hindi word ‘bhrata’ and mother is from ‘matra’. Hindi is originated from “sanskrit” which the oldest language of the planet.

  25. chhavi -  August 6, 2010 - 6:14 am

    ohh!..thts interesting Rupert…being an indian i didnt knw tht..

  26. Efi -  August 6, 2010 - 6:04 am

    Second line –
    shouldn’t it be – if there WERE a prize?

    Well maybe it’s just me.

    Food for thought!

  27. lol -  August 6, 2010 - 5:52 am

    i am a pundit!

  28. Kealan -  August 6, 2010 - 3:43 am

    I really don’t see how this word is all that different from its origin. True that many pundits would never be described as “learned men or scholars” but they would certainly be construed as such by many whose opinions they’re representing or by those who then adopt those opinions as a result of hearing the pundits (just as a king or mayor would be counselled). True the word appears to have been diluted somewhat and the term has become more general but its completely understandable how the word would be used in this day and age.
    Its not the same as suggesting for instance that the word “cloud” was originally defined as “concrete”.

  29. Shashi -  August 6, 2010 - 3:42 am

    I didn’t know that though I’m Indian and wrestle with words professionally (I’m a journalist). I guess most of them found their way into the OED during the British Raj. Do you, by any chance have a list of the words? Or do I simply refer to the Hobson Jobson dictionary… which, I have to confess, I’ve never read)?

  30. SoccerPundit -  August 6, 2010 - 3:39 am

    Thanks for the word info, you truly are a great Pundit(:

  31. Samrat Chowdhury -  August 6, 2010 - 3:28 am

    Being an Indian, I know the fact that at this corner of the world, the English Language has evolved and modified a lot. it has merged well with the local lingos that we speak in and have created a sheer mishmash. If you ever come to India, you will discover the magic.

  32. Adolf von Württemberg -  August 6, 2010 - 3:26 am

    As a Sanskrit teacher I can say that you got your etymology correct. Good job!

  33. Uzma Naz -  August 6, 2010 - 2:07 am

    duh. don’t you think pundit >>> pandit is a little obvious?

  34. Michael Dadona -  August 6, 2010 - 2:04 am

    Thanks for the shares and it’s really the yeuk of our discuss for today. As you asked for punditic, I do think anybody who is the inventor to anything is punditic.

    Sometimes we cannot rely on the written history which has been composed hundred or thousand years ago because the authors able to re-shape the origin of the history accordingly to their “talking head” and the respective interest.

    The main thing now is to learn when to use the specific word at the right place.

  35. alabang office space -  August 6, 2010 - 1:52 am

    Jokingly, I thought it first to be a portmanteau of pun and bandits. Pundits! How fun if that were the case.

  36. Dilawar -  August 6, 2010 - 1:37 am

    Learning those 200 words might not give you basic grasp of Hindi. Hindi and English has some fundamental difference. Its really tough to learn the other language if you are fluent in one. Back in India, people who studies in English medium schools grows weaker in Hindi (at least in writing and reading). Besides, Hindi have a hell lot of dialects and vernaculars but everyone (who knows Hindi) can speak and understand the Hindi which is mainly used in our movies (Bollywood).

  37. chris -  August 6, 2010 - 1:20 am

    now,pundit means what anyway?~ a learned person or expert or specialist, right?

  38. nick -  August 6, 2010 - 1:07 am

    what about the word jazz?

  39. Wendy -  August 6, 2010 - 12:07 am

    Thanks…that’s interesting!!!

  40. Rupert Wolfe Murray -  August 5, 2010 - 11:26 pm

    Very interesting. Did you know there are over 4000 words in English from the Indian language. I wonder if you learned them all you would have a basic grasp of Hindi?


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