I want to do today’s word tasting note quickly, so I’m going to do it on the jildi. I mean I’m going to do a jildi. Specifically, I’m going to do jildi.

I’m going to do Jill D.? Who’s that – a fast woman, a jilt? No, no, no… Jildi is Anglo-Indian, originally military slang; it’s from Hindi jaldi “quickness”. Why the switch from jaldi to jildi? To be fair, jeldy, juldie, and some other variants also exist. But jildi has become the most officialized version, as it were. I don’t have any reliable data to say why, but I can point out that higher vowels have a way of being associated with greater speed; that the shift assimilates it towards the other vowel in the word; and that “jill” is a more established syllable in English than “jall” or “jull” (the vowel in the Hindi original is as much like the one we would say in “jull” as like the one we would say in “jall”).

And of course the switch to i adds to the visual effect: you get better motion lines with that sequence of parallels interrupted only by the bump of the d. Better still, you have three dots – and they are increasing in distance; perhaps the word could be extended to jildiddldi to add a fourth dot even farther along…

How do you use this word? Best to stick to idiom – in a phrase such as on the jildi or do a jildi or move a jildi, or as a one-word exclamation, Jildi! (the equivalent in medical spheres would be Stat! – but I rather think that, though jildi takes longer to say than stat, it’s a word that has a better flavour of fast motion; stat has a greater sense of instantaneity than of movement).

So it’s a noun? Well, the OED says it’s a noun; Wiktionary says it’s an adverb (citing more jildi and most jildi to support it); Urban Dictionary (citing the one-word sentence) says it’s a verb meaning “hurry”. It’s a sort of imported flower with no roots in English soil, so it gets planted here and there, always perceptibly a little different from its surrounds – and anyway, words often have a way of moving quite easily between categories in English.

But when you want something jildi, questions of morphological yield are unwieldy. Just stuff it in and move!

3 responses to “jildi

  1. Cute, three or four years old kids often pronounce Hindi word ‘Jaldi’ as ‘Jildi’, but I was not aware of English word. You have not done this article in jaldi, or on jildi.

    To be accurate: Jaldi might be called a Hindustani word, but it is not a pure Hindi word in the sense that it comes from Urdu or Arabic ( I am not sure which one exactly.). It’s not from Sanskrit.

    ‘Jaldbaazi’ is doing things in hurry, which is not a good trait. There is a saying:

    “Jaldbaazi ka kaam shaitaan ka.” Which means : ” The work on jildi is Satan’s work.”

    Hindi synonym ‘Sheeghra’ comes from Sanskrit.

  2. Pingback: This Week’s Language Blog Roundup | Wordnik ~ all the words

  3. On usage, my father, whose father was a sgt.-major in the British army in India, used to use this word. He would say: “You’d better put a juldi on if you’re going to get there on time.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s