Babu Bhoop Singh of Kohra (estate), Leader in the Indian Rebellion of 1857

Babu is a historical title of royalty and nobility used by rulers and chieftains in the Indian subcontinent.[1][2][3] It is similar to the European titles like Duke (prince or chief) of a region. Compound titles include Babusaheb and Babuji.

Civil servants

See also: Concerns regarding Civil Services of India, Civil service reform in developing countries, and The Indian Clerk

In British India, baboo often referred to a native Indian clerk. The word was originally used as a term of respect attached to a proper name, the equivalent of "mister", and "babuji" was used in many parts to mean "sir" as an address of a gentleman; their life-style was also called "baboo culture" often also humorously appealed as "babuism". The British officials treated baboos as workers who had both Indian and British connections.[4] Since the mid-20th century, the term babu is frequently used pejoratively to refer to bureaucrats of Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and other government officials,[5] especially by the Indian media,[6] while the Indian bureaucracy is called "babudom", as in the "rule of babus", especially in India's media.[7][8][9]

Other uses

"Babu" in Swahili is like "papu" in Greek.[10] It is cognate with "baba" in Slavic languages, and ultimately with "papa" in Germanic and Romance languages. In Nepali, Hindi/Bihari, Bhojpuri, Maithili, Bengali, Telugu, and Odia languages, it is a means of calling with love and affection to spouses or younger brothers, sons, grandsons etc. It can be found in the urban trend to call "babu" to girlfriends or boyfriends, or common-friends to symbolize deep love or dearness. In many Bengali families fathers and sons are usually named babu, as a matter of intimacy, with daughters or mothers.

On the island of Mauritius the word Babu-ji refers to the warrior community within the Indo-Mauritian community. This community consists mainly of Bihari Mauritians, whose ancestors landed on the island as Coolies or indentured sugar cane field labourers during the 1810–1968 British colonial rule.[11][12]

See also


  1. ^ Not Available (1929). Manual Of Titles United Provinces Of Agra Amp Oudh.
  2. ^ Manual of Titles for Oudh: Showing All Holders of Hereditary and Personal Titles in the Province. Printed at the Government Press, North-Western Provinces and Oudh. 1889.
  3. ^ Lorimer, John Gordon (1970). Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, ʻOmān, and Central Arabia: Historical. 4 v. Gregg.
  4. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Babu" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  5. ^ "babu, n". OED Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  6. ^ "Yet to start work, Natgrid CEO highest paid babu". The Times of India. 23 August 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2014.
  7. ^ Parthasarathy, Anand (1–14 September 2001). "A barbed look at babudom: Will the typically British humour of Yes Minister work if transplanted to an Indian setting? Viewers of a Hindi satellite channel have a chance to find out". Frontline. Archived from the original on 9 November 2012. Retrieved 20 May 2011. Bureaucracy knows no bounds...
  8. ^ "PM Modi tightens screws, gives babudom a new rush hour". The Times of India. 2 September 2014. Retrieved 17 September 2014.
  9. ^ "Babu". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 17 September 2014.
  10. ^ See babu in Wiktionary.
  11. ^ Claveyrolas, Mathieu. "The 'Land of the Vaish'? Caste Structure and Ideology in Mauritius". Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  12. ^ Nave, Ari. Nested Identities: Ethnicity, Community and the Nature of Group Conflict in Mauritius (C. Bates (ed.), Community, Empire and Migration). Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1007/978-1-137-05743-3_3. ISBN 978-1-137-05743-3. Retrieved 25 June 2001.