Anything Obscure & Eclectic
Pundit

Pundit

BEING A SECOND INSTALLMENT ON EXPERTISE, THIS ONE WITH A SCANDALOUS TWIST FROM DEEP WITHIN THE SUBCONTINENT

n. — (also pandit) a wise or learned person, esp. one with extensive knowledge of Sanskrit and philosophy
— an expert in a particular field, esp. one called on to give opinions in public

fm. Sanskrit, pandita, meaning learned man

first published. 1661

The term entered English via Britain’s imperial presence in India. In the 1860s, British Army officers trained locals as surveyors to act, essentially, as spies, mapping remote areas where Brits were unwelcome, helping the English to consolidate influence and authority. These locals, who often traveled disguised as holy men, were known in the British Army as pundits.

inspiration. the good people at NPR Politics, in particular the wise and inspiring Ron Elving, who fielded this exact etymological question in the Listener Mail episode from Thursday, April 13.

This entry was published on 19 April 2017 at 9:00 am. It’s filed under P and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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