coolie

coolie

[koo-lee]
noun Disparaging and Offensive.
1.
an unskilled laborer, especially formerly in China and India.
2.
an unskilled laborer employed cheaply, especially one brought from Asia.
3.
a contemptuous term used to refer to an Asian, especially an Indian living in South Africa.
adjective
4.
Informal. characteristic of or suitable for a coolie: working for coolie wages.
Also, cooly.


Origin:
1545–55; < Urdu kūlī < Tamil kūli hire, hireling


Both meanings of “unskilled Asian laborer” are found almost exclusively in historical contexts, suggesting imperialistic exploitation of these workers. But coolie is still current as an insulting term used to refer to a person of Asian descent, especially in South Africa.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Collins
World English Dictionary
coolie or cooly (ˈkuːlɪ)
 
n , pl -ies
1.  a cheaply hired unskilled Oriental labourer
2.  derogatory an Indian living in South Africa
 
[C17: from Hindi kulī, probably of Dravidian origin; related to Tamil kūli hire, hireling]
 
cooly or cooly
 
n
 
[C17: from Hindi kulī, probably of Dravidian origin; related to Tamil kūli hire, hireling]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

coolie
c.1600, "name given by Europeans to hired laborers in India and China," from Hindi quli "hired servant," probably from kuli, name of an aboriginal tribe or caste in Gujarat. The name was picked up by the Portuguese, who used it in southern India (where by coincidence kuli in Tamil meant "hire") and in
China.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

coolie

(from Hindi Kuli, an aboriginal tribal name, or from Tamil kuli, "wages"), in usually pejorative European usage, an unskilled labourer or porter usually in or from the Far East hired for low or subsistence wages

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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