Babu (title)

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Photograph showing 'Babu'
Jagadeesh Babu
Minah carrying two Dutch children, Jantje and Agnes, aged three and one-and-a-half, in the Dutch East Indies, 1915.

The term babu, also spelled baboo, is used in modern-day South Asia as a sign of respect towards men. It is a derivation of bapu which means father or grand father. The honorific "ji" is sometimes added as a suffix to create the double honorific "babuji" which, in northern and eastern parts of India, is a term of respect for one's father. "Babuji" can also be used as a term of respect for any respected elder or man. In some Indian states, "babu" is also used as a generic word of respect to address men, especially unknown ones, e.g., "Babu, can you help me?"

In Bengali, "babu" is used as suffix to a person's name to show respect while calling him by name, e.g., "Sudarshan Babu, could you please come here!" The term "babu" may be suffixed to a person's name, but the term "babuji" is always used by itself. In the Saurashtra language, "babu" may refer to a younger brother (sibling), or it can be used more broadly, similar to the terms fellow or brethren, but, only in reference to those younger than oneself.

In British India, babu often referred to a native Indian clerk. The word was originally used as a term of respect attached to a proper name, the equivalent of "mister", and "babuji" was used in many parts to mean "sir".[1] In the early 20th century the term babu was frequently used to refer to bureaucrats and other government officials, especially by the Indian media.[2]

"Babu" also means grandfather in Swahili, like "papu" in Greek.[3] In Nepali, Eastern Hindi/Bihari, Bengali, Telugu, and Oriya languages, it is a means of calling with love and affection to spouses or younger brothers, sons, grandsons etc.

See also[edit]


  1. ^  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Babu". Encyclopædia Britannica 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press 
  2. ^ Anand Parthasarathy (Sep. 01 - 14, 2001). "A barbed look at babudom: Will the typically British humour of Yes Minister work if transplanted to an Indian setting? Viewers of a Hindi satellite channel have a chance to find out.". Frontline, India's National Magazine from the publishers of The Hindu. "Bureaucracy knows no bounds..." 
  3. ^ See babu in Wiktionary.