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English and Hindi: Language Similarities and Differences

The Hindi word नमस्ते (namaste) certainly does not resemble its English translation (which is “hello”). Also, New Delhi, the capital of India, is about 4 thousand miles from London and about 7 thousand miles from Washington D.C.

One might expect Hindi and English to be entirely unrelated languages. But that is not the case.

English and Hindi are distantly related languages. They are part of the Indo-European language family and they share a common ancestor language.

That ancestor language disappeared over 4000 years ago, leaving no written traces. Linguists have reconstructed it by analyzing patterns in other languages; they named it the Proto-Indo-European language.

The Proto-Indo-European language originated in a region located north of the Black Sea, which, interestingly, is about halfway between England and Northern India.

Following population migrations, this very ancient language spread westwards across most of Europe; it also spread eastwards into the Indian subcontinent.

Despite this common origin, English and Hindi are certainly not the most similar languages. That makes sense because they belong to separate branches within the Indo-European language family.

As a Germanic language, English is closer to German, Dutch, or Norwegian than to Hindi. And, as an Indo-Iranian language, Hindi is closer to Nepali, Bengali, and Punjabi than to English.

The rest of this article contains a rather in-depth comparison of Hindi and English, which should interest those thinking about learning Hindi.

There are many reasons for learning Hindi, from traveling to India to watching Bollywood movies. For those looking to get started, Rocket Languages has a free Hindi lesson.

Vocabulary comparison

In most cases, Hindi vocabulary words do not resemble their English translations. But in some cases, they do. In this section, we shall see some examples of these.

Two main types of similar vocabulary words are cognates (terms passed down from the common ancestor language) and loanwords (terms borrowed from the other language).


Because Hindi and English descend from the Proto-Indo-European language, there are cases where Hindi words and their English translations originate from the same term in that parent language.

In the table below, we have listed some Hindi-English cognates.

English Hindi
mother माता (mātā)
brother भ्राता (bhrātā)
name नाम (nām)
new नया (nayā)
sun सूरज (sūraj)
serpent सर्प (sarp)
mind मन (man)
three तीन (tīn)
eight आठ (āṭh)
nine नौ (nau)


When languages come into contact, they frequently borrow words from each other, particularly when a new concept lacks a term in one language.

English and Hindi have had a long history of close contact. A significant period of contact occurred during the British colonial rule in India (from 1858 to 1947) when English served as the language of the government.

After India gained its independence, Hindi and English became the languages of the Indian government.

Hindi loanwords in English

English has borrowed words from Hindi, especially in fields like spirituality and cuisine. Examples of words that English borrowed from Hindi are provided in the table below.

English Word Hindi Word
guru गुरु
chai चाय
bungalow बंगला
shampoo चाँपना

English loanwords in Hindi

Hindi has incorporated loanwords from English, especially in areas like technology and administration.

English Hindi
Computer कंप्यूटर (kampyūṭar)
Telephone टेलीफ़ोन (ṭelīfon)
Internet इंटरनेट (iṇṭarneṭ)

Different writing systems

The most immediately apparent difference between English and Hindi is the difference in writing systems. The Devanagari script used for Hindi is recognizable by its horizontal line, which connects the top of adjacent characters in a word.

Hindi is not the only language that uses the Devanagari script. Other languages that use it include Nepali (the official language of Nepal) as well as Marathi, a language spoken in India.

In fact, the Devanagari script is the fourth most widely used writing system in the world, after the Latin script, Chinese characters, and the Arabic script.

There are many more letters in Hindi than in English

The alphabet that we use for English is a form of the Latin script, which is also known as the Roman script because it originated in Ancient Rome. The English alphabet has 26 letters, whereas the Devanagari script has 47 characters.

Unlike English, which distinguishes between uppercase and lowercase letters, the Devanagari script used for Hindi does not have a distinction between lowercase and capital letters.

Transliterating Hindi to the English alphabet

Romanization refers to the transliteration (or conversion) of a text from a language that doesn't use the Latin script (like Hindi, Japanese, or Korean) into the Latin alphabet. That allows English speakers who haven't yet learned the Devanagari script to read Hindi words.

The Devanagari script used for Hindi has many more letters than the Latin alphabet. As a result, the Latin alphabet alone cannot cover the entire phonetic range of Hindi.

To accurately represent these sounds using the Latin alphabet, additional diacritical marks are used to distinguish the different Hindi letters. Here are some examples:

Devanagari Transliteration
Devanagari Transliteration

Vowel diacritics

In English, individual consonants and vowels are represented by separate letters, and they are combined to form syllables. The Hindi language works differently: consonants have an inherent vowel which by default is a short “a” sound.

Diacritics (additional marks) are added to the consonant symbol to change the inherent vowel.

Devanagari Transliteration
कि ki
कु ku
के ke
कै kai
को ko
कौ kau

Hindi also has standalone vowel symbols for when a word starts with a vowel sound. For example, the Hindi word “अहिंसा” (ahinsā), which means “nonviolence,” begins with the character 'अ' (the short 'a' vowel symbol).

French influence on English and Persian influence on Hindi

The Norman Conquest of England in 1066 led to an influx of French words into English. In the same way, the Mughal Empire in India (1526–1857) produced an influx of Persian words into Hindi.

In both cases, the new ruling class brought their native language to the lands they conquered. The common people continued to use their own languages, but these local languages were influenced by an influx of vocabulary from the languages spoken by the rulers.

The Norman Conquest of England

After the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, Old Norman—a dialect of French—became the language of the Anglo-Norman government in England. This lasted for several centuries and led to an influx of French words into the English language.

As a Germanic language, English does not descend from Latin. And yet, it has been estimated that 69% of the words in an English dictionary come from Latin or Greek [1]. The reason is that many of the French words that entered the English language came from Latin—because French is a Romance language that evolved from Latin.

The Mughal Empire

During the Mughal Empire, Hindi saw an influx of Persian loanwords. The Mughals, who came from Central Asia, controlled the Indian subcontinent from the 16th to the 19th century and introduced the Persian language to the region.

Persian served as the language of the Mughal court and administration, and it influenced local languages such as Hindi. In addition to its linguistic influence, the Mughal empire left some impressive architectural marvels such as the Taj Mahal which they built in the city of Agra, as well as the Red Fort in Delhi.