Indian

noun

In·​di·​an ˈin-dē-ən How to pronounce Indian (audio)
 dialectal  -jən,
 or  -din
1
a
: a native or inhabitant of India or of the East Indies
b
: a person of Indian descent
2
b
: one of the native languages of American Indians
Indian adjective
Indianness noun

Word History

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of Indian was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near Indian

Cite this Entry

“Indian.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Indian. Accessed 21 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

Indian

noun
In·​di·​an ˈin-dē-ən How to pronounce Indian (audio)
1
a
: a person born or living in the country of India or the East Indies
b
: a person of Indian ancestry
2
b
: an American Indian language
Indian adjective
Word Origin
Once the name India was applied not only to the region we now call India, but also to an ill-defined area south and west of China. Trade with the distant East brought valuable gold, gems, spices, and silk back to Europe. However, the overland journey to eastern Asia by way of the caravan routes was long and difficult. Christopher Columbus, in the late 15th century, believed that he knew an easier way of reaching the wealth of the East. According to his calculations, the westward distance by sea was less than one-third of the eastward overland route. Columbus was able to test his theory in 1492. He was delighted to find land just about where he had said it would be. He decided that he must have reached the outer islands of "India," although in fact he had landed in the Bahamas. Because of Columbus's mistake, the newly discovered lands were called India or the Indies. They were still called this even after people realized that they were not the same as the India or Indies of Asia. Later the islands in the New World came to be called the West Indies in order to tell them apart from the East Indies. But Indian, the incorrect name given to the people living in the new "India," remained.

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