Da·​lit ˈdä-lit How to pronounce Dalit (audio)
plural Dalits
: a member of the lowest class in the traditional Hindu social hierarchy having in traditional Hindu belief the quality of defiling by contact a member of a higher caste

Note: The Dalits were also formerly referred to as untouchables, a term that is now understood as offensive.

Examples of Dalit in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In a lawsuit filed in 2021, some of those workers, who reportedly turned out to be mostly low-caste Dalits, complained that overseers had confiscated their passports, lodged them in trailers on the site, forced them to work long hours, and paid them wages that were far below American standards. Justin Davidson, Curbed, 9 Nov. 2023 Those at the lowest strata of the caste system, known as Dalits, have been pushing for legal protections in California and beyond. CBS News, 7 Oct. 2023 Caste oppressed people, sometimes called Dalits, say those barriers have followed them even after immigration to the U.S. Three core strikers have been fasting for the past 18 days, with dozens of others joining them for different stretches of time. Sakshi Venkatraman, NBC News, 22 Sep. 2023 In particular, neo-Buddhism turned into a means for Dalits – who face rampant discrimination at the bottom of Hinduism’s caste ladder – to leave the system that was oppressing them. Marc Loustau, The Christian Science Monitor, 6 Sep. 2023 Tanvi Yadav of the Central University of Rajasthan writes that in 19th-century British India, when colonial authorities seized the land of upper-caste people, the sufferers blamed the loss on witchcraft by Dalit, or oppressed, women and started a campaign of witch-hunting against them. Silvia Federici, Scientific American, 17 Apr. 2023 He was once caned by the school’s principal for drinking from a water pot in the classroom that Dalits were barred from using. Deepa Bharath, Anchorage Daily News, 20 Feb. 2023 Over the last few years, Soundararajan has been one of the leaders of a nationwide push to offer more protections for Dalits, those born into oppressed classes under the Indian caste system. Sakshi Venkatraman, NBC News, 11 May 2023 Caste is a division of people related to birth or descent and those at the lowest strata of the caste system known as Dalits, have been pushing for legal protections in California and beyond. BostonGlobe.com, 11 May 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'Dalit.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Marathi or Hindi, borrowed from New Sanskrit dalita- "not belonging to one of the four traditional caste groupings in India, person not a member of these castes," going back to Sanskrit, "burst open, cleft, dispersed, destroyed," verbal adjective of dálati "(it) bursts, cracks, flies open," perhaps based on a variant dālay- of dāray-, causative derivative of dṛṇā́ti "(s/he) bursts, tears" — more at tear entry 1

First Known Use

1948, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of Dalit was in 1948

Dictionary Entries Near Dalit

Cite this Entry

“Dalit.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Dalit. Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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