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5 Common but Often Misunderstood Hindi Words

Popular Hindi Words with Confusing Meanings

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In the Hindi language, some words are commonly used in a number of different ways, or used in ways that don’t reflect their literal meaning. This often makes word for word translation from English to Hindi, or Hindi to English, difficult.

Here are five popular Hindi words that you’ll often hear, but may be confused as to what they actually mean or the context they’re used in.

1. Accha

Three Rajput camelmen discussing camel for sale at Pushkar Camel Fair.
Lindsay Brown/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images
This multi-purpose word literally means "good". However, it also takes on a number of other meanings, depending on the intonation it’s given and where it’s positioned in a sentence. It could also mean okay, really?, I understand, oh!, or I have a question.

2. Thik Hai

"Thik hai", pronounced "teek hey", literally means "is fine". In this regard, it’s a bit like the word “accha” and is often used along with “accha” or instead of “accha”. “I’m going shopping to buy milk, bread and vegetables. I’ll be back by 3 p.m.” “Accha, accha, thik hai”. (Good, good, fine). “Thik hai, I’m going now” (Alright, I’m going now). Thik hai is also a common reply to the question of how you’re feeling. It can also be said casually in a rising tone of voice to ask someone how they’re feeling. “Thik hai?” If you’re only feeling so-so, the response would be "thik-thik", otherwise, reply “thik hai” in a neutral tone.

3. Chalega

"Chalega" literally means “will move” or “will walk”. However it’s most often used by itself, as a question or a statement as to whether something will work. For example, you’re shopping for toasters with friend and she picks one up and says “Chalega?” If you like it, you’d reply “chalega”. If you really like it, you could even add another “chalega” for emphasis and say “chalega, chalega”. Another situation where chalega is used is to ask if someone will go somewhere. For example, "Airport chalega?"

4. Hogaya

"Hogaya" is a compound word that’s a combination of “be” (ho) and “went” (gaya). Its literal meaning is “became”. You’ll often hear this word said by itself when a task has been completed or something has been finished. For example, if someone has gone away to carry out a task, upon returning they may say “Thik hai, hogaya.” (Fine, it’s done). It can also be said in a rising tone to question if something has been completed. “Hogaya?” (Have you finished?)

5. Wala/Wallah/Vala

This word is notorious for its different meanings and spellings. Most visitors to India know it in the context as it refers to a seller or vendor of something. For example, a taxi-wala is a taxi driver. A vegetable-wala is a vegetable seller. However, wala can be combined with the name of a town or city to indicate someone who comes from there. For example, Mumbai-wala or Delhi-wala. Wala can also be used to specify a certain thing. For example, chota-wala means small one, lal-wala means red one, kal-wala means yesterday’s one. Finally it can be used to indicate something as about to happen in the immediate future. Ane-vala means about to come or about to arrive. Jane-wala means about to go or about to leave.

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