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Telugu and Hindi: Language Similarities and Differences

Telugu is a South Indian language. It is the official language in the Indian states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

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

Map of Telugu and Hindi-speaking regions

If you would like to learn Hindi, we recommend having a look at this course.

Language families

Telugu and Hindi belong to different language families. Telugu is classified as a Dravidian language, while Hindi is an Indo-Aryan language.

Indo-Aryan languages are part of the broader Indo-European language family. This means that Hindi shares a distant linguistic connection with English, as both languages belong to the Indo-European language family. In contrast, Telugu and English do not share a common linguistic ancestry.

Both Telugu and Hindi hold the distinction of being the most widely spoken languages within their respective language families.

Vocabulary comparison

Despite belonging to different language families, Hindi and Telugu have many similar vocabulary words. The reason is that Telugu has been heavily influenced by Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language that belongs to the same Indo-Aryan language family as Hindi.

An estimated 80% of Telugu vocabulary words come from Sanskrit. Sanskrit is also the origin of a large part of Hindi vocabulary terms.

English Hindi Telugu
love प्रेम (prem) ప్రేమ (prēma)
happiness आनंद (ānand) ఆనందం (ānandam)
path मार्ग (mārg) మార్గం (mārgaṁ)
fruit फल (phal) పండు (paṇḍu)
peace शांति (śānti) శాంతి (śānti)
heart दिल (dil) గుండె (guṇḍe)
fire आग (aag) అగ్ని (agni)
forest वन (van) అడవి (aḍavi)
river नदी (nadī) నది (nadi)
song गाना (gānā) పాట (pāṭa)
sleep नींद (nīnd) నిద్ర (nidra)
king राजा (rājā) రాజు (rāju)

Writing systems

Telugu is commonly written in the Telugu script, whereas Hindi is written in the Devanagari script. Despite their distinct appearances, they have a common origin as they evolved from the ancient Brahmi script.

The Telugu script uses mostly curved lines, whereas the Devanagari script used for Hindi has more straight lines, including a horizontal line (called a shirorekha) which connects the top of adjacent characters.

Bollywood produces Hindi movies; Tollywood makes them in Telugu

Watching movies can enhance the language learning experience, and learners of Hindi and Telugu are in luck as both languages have their own vibrant film industries.

Most Westerners are familiar with Bollywood, the Hindi-language film industry. The term is a fusion of “Bombay” (the former name of Mumbai) and “Hollywood”.

Similarly, the Telugu language also has its film industry named Tollywood, a fusion of “Telugu” and “Hollywood”. Tollywood is based in the city of Hyderabad, the capital of the state of Telangana.

It's worth noting that the term Tollywood can also refer to Bengali-language cinema. In that context, the word is a combination of “Tollygunge” (a neighborhood in Kolkata, West Bengal) and “Hollywood”.

Exclusive and inclusive “we” pronouns

One of the differences between Telugu and Hindi is that Tegulu has two forms of the “we” pronoun.

The exclusive form of the pronoun “we” refers to a group that excludes the person being spoken to. In Telugu, this exclusive pronoun is “మేము” (mēmu).

In contrast, the inclusive “we” pronoun, which is “మనము” (manamu) in Telugu, includes the person being spoken to.

In linguistics, this distinction between exclusive and inclusive pronouns is called clusivity. It is a feature that is widespread among the family of Dravidian languages to which Tegulu belongs.

Telugu is an older language than Hindi

Telugu is a language that has existed for well over 2,000 years. In fact, Telugu is one of the six officially recognized classical languages in India. The other five are Sanskrit, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, and Odia.

In contrast to Telugu, Hindi gradually developed into a distinct language at a later point in history, emerging after the 7th century CE. While Hindi has roots in ancient languages like Sanskrit, it did not emerge as a separate language until more than one thousand years after the development of Telugu.

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