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What It Is:
: a seat or covered pavilion on the back of an elephant or camel
About the Word:
Although it may resemble a small room, a howdah is in fact a kind of saddle.
In 1890, English explorer Sir Samuel White Baker noted that a howdah on an elephant is "simply for shooting, as you can fire in any direction, which is impossible from any other contrivance where the rider sits in a constrained position."
Borrowed into English from the Hindi & Urdu hauda, howdah originated in the Arabic hawdaj.