or ba·boo

[bah-boo](in India, especially under British rule)
  1. a Hindu title of address equivalent to Sir, Mr., or Esquire.
  2. a Hindu gentleman.
  3. a native Indian clerk who can write English.
  4. Usually Disparaging. any native Indian having only a limited knowledge of English.

Origin of babu

First recorded in 1875–80, babu is from the Hindi word bābū

Usage note

The term babu English refers to florid, overly polite, and unidiomatic English regarded as characteristic of native Indians who have limited proficiency in English. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for babus

Historical Examples of babus

  • Once upon a time the Babus of Nayanjore were famous landholders.

  • Once upon a time the Babus at Nayanjore were famous landholders.

    Stories from Tagore

    Rabindranath Tagore

  • But, cried the Oriental in him, Babus do not travel far to retail compliments.


    Rudyard Kipling

  • Sahibs cannot distinguish one hillman from another, but Babus have eyes for men—and women.'


    Rudyard Kipling

  • The Babus make beautiful accountants, and if we could only see it, a merciful Providence has made the Babu for figures and detail.

    From Sea to Sea

    Rudyard Kipling

British Dictionary definitions for babus


  1. (in India) a title or form of address more or less equivalent to Mr, placed before a person's full name or after his first name

Word Origin for babu

Hindi, literally: father
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012