14 August 2008
Etymology Break: “Pundit”
I used the word “pundit” a few minutes ago, and wondered where it came from. It always sounded like a neologism to me; I assumed it was short for something, although I never had any idea what it could be short for. (Punishing editor? But that makes no sense...) So, I looked it up. It comes almost directly from a Sanskrit word “pandita,” meaning learned man. The word “pandit” was known in English by the 1670s as a descriptive term for an Indian scholar, and it appeared in its modern sense and spelling, referring to a commentator or political thinker, by the 1860s. I still feel bad about using it, but now instead of suspecting that it's a clumsy invented word, I know it's a relic of colonialism. Sometimes you just can't win.