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Marathi and Hindi: Language Similarities and Differences

Marathi and Hindi are related languages. They both belong to the Indo-Aryan language family, which is a branch of the larger Indo-European language family.

Map of Marathi and Hindi-speaking regions

Marathi is the official language of the Indian state of Maharashtra - known for its capital, Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) which is one of India’s largest cities by population. Marathi is also one of the languages spoken in the neighboring state of Goa.

Maharashtra’s southern neighbors are the states of Karnataka and Telangana, where Dravidian languages (Kannada and Telugu) are spoken. This geographical proximity explains certain shared linguistic features and loanwords between Marathi and Dravidian languages.

Hindi is mainly spoken in what is known as the “Hindi Belt”, a region in northern India that encompasses multiple states, along with the national capital, Delhi.

If you are interested in learning Hindi, we recommend having a look at this course.

Vocabulary comparison

In the table below are 12 basic vocabulary words in Hindi and Marathi. Notice that many of these words are either spelled the same or are quite similar.

English Hindi Marathi
love प्रेम (prem) प्रेम (prem)
happiness आनंद (ānand) आनंद (ānanda)
fruit फल (phal) फळ (phaḷa)
path मार्ग (mārg) मार्ग (mārga)
peace शांति (śānti) शांतता (śāntatā)
fire आग (aag) आग (āga)
river नदी (nadī) नदी (nadī)
heart दिल (dil) हृदय (hruday)
forest वन (van) वन (vana)
song गाना (gānā) गाणे (gāṇe)
sleep नींद (nīnd) झोप (jhopa)
king राजा (rājā) राजा (rājā)

Here are some noticeable differences in this sample of vocabulary words:

Three grammatical genders in Marathi versus two in Hindi

Similar to Latin, Sanskrit has three grammatical genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter). In fact, Sanskrit and Latin are both Indo-European languages that descended from a common ancestor language.

Here there is a difference between Marathi and Hindi. Marathi has the same three grammatical genders as Sanskrit, whereas Hindi has just two (masculine and feminine).

In both Marathi and Hindi, nouns that come from Sanskrit often keep their original grammatical gender, except for those that are neuter in Sanskrit, which usually become masculine in Hindi.

Sanskrit Marathi Hindi English
पानीय (pānīya) [neuter] पाणी (pāṇī) [neuter] पानी (pānī) [masculine] water
मधु (madhu) [neuter] मधु (madhu) [neuter] मधु (madhu) [masculine] honey
ज्ञान (jñāna) [neuter] ज्ञान (dnyān) [neuter] ज्ञान (gyān) [masculine] knowledge

Inclusive and exclusive pronouns

A noteworthy difference between Marathi and Hindi is the distinction between inclusive and exclusive “we” pronouns which exists in Marathi but not in Hindi.

The exclusive form of the pronoun “we” refers to a group that excludes the addressee or person being talked to. This exclusive pronoun is expressed as “आम्ही” (āmhī) in Marathi.

On the other hand, the inclusive form of “we” is expressed using the term “आपण” (āpaṇ), which includes both the speaker and the addressee along with others.

This feature of Marathi is uncommon among its family of Indo-European languages, but common among the Dravidian languages of southern India. The proximity of Marathi-speaking regions to Dravidian-speaking regions may have led to the assimilation of this feature.

The letter ळ is used in Marathi but not in Hindi

Marathi and Hindi share a common writing system known as the Devanagari script. This script is also used for writing Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. One distinct characteristic of this script is the presence of a horizontal line, known as a shirorekha, which connects the tops of adjacent characters.

One notable distinction between Marathi and Hindi lies in the usage of the letter ळ (pronounced as “ḷa”). While this letter is frequently used in Marathi, it is absent in Hindi.

In contrast to the letter ल (pronounced as “la”) which is common to both Marathi and Hindi, the letter ळ (pronounced as “ḷa”) represents a sound that is found in Marathi but not in Hindi.

Marathi Hindi English
निळे (niḷe) नीला (nīlā) blue
पिवळा (pivḷā) पीला (pīlā) yellow
काळा (kāḷā) काला (kālā) black
फळ (phaḷ) फल (phal) fruit
पातळ (pātaḷ) पतला (patlā) thin

Persian loanwords

Marathi and Hindi borrowed some Persian vocabulary words during the period of the Mughal Empire. The Mughals governed the Indian subcontinent from the 16th to the 19th century. They came from Central Asia and brought with them the Persian language.

In addition to this linguist influence, the Mughal Empire left some significant architectural works, such as the Taj Mahal in the city of Agra and the Red Fort in the city of Delhi.

Hindi Marathi Persian English
शहर (shahar) शहर (shahar) شهر (šahr) city
लाल (lāl) लाल (lāl) لال (lâl) red
फ़ौलाद (faulād) पोलाद (polād) فولاد‎ (fōlād) steel
पुल (pul) पूल (pūl) پل‎ (pol) bridge
बीमा (bīmā) विमा (vimā) بیمه‎ (bime) insurance
बर्फ़ (barf) बर्फ (barpha) برف‎ (barf) snow
मालिक (mālik) मालक (mālak) مالک (mâlek) owner
बत्तख़ (battakh) बदक (badak) بت‎ (batt) duck
फ़ायदा (fāydā) फायदा (phāydā) فایده (fâyede) benefit
नाश्ता (nāśtā) नाश्ता (nāśtā) ناشتا (nâštâ) breakfast
लश्कर (laśkar) लष्कर (laṣkar) لشکر (laškar) army
बाज़ार (baazaar) बाजार (baazaar) بازار (bâzâr) market

(Map license)