puk·​ka ˈpə-kə How to pronounce pukka (audio)
variants or less commonly pucka

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Pukka tends to evoke the height of 18th- and 19th-century British imperialism in India, and, indeed, it was first used in print in English in 1776, in transcripts of the trial of Maha Rajah Nundocomar, who was accused of forgery and tried, in 1775, by a British court in Bengal. The word is borrowed from Hindi and Urdu "pakkā," which means "solid." The English speakers who borrowed it applied the "sound and reliable" sense of "solid" and thus the word came to mean "genuine." As the British Raj waned, "pukka" was occasionally appended to "sahib" (an Anglo-Indian word for a European of some social or official status). That expression is sometimes used as a compliment for an elegant and refined gentleman, but it can also imply that someone is overbearing and pretentious. These days, "pukka" is also used as a British slang word meaning "excellent" or "cool."

Example Sentences

wondering whether the old-looking ivory box was pukka—or just something recently manufactured in China
Recent Examples on the Web And if my name were Nikki or Bobby, the state of the state would be pukka — sorry, strong. Anand Giridharadas, New York Times, 13 Jan. 2016

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pukka.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Hindi & Urdu pakkā cooked, ripe, solid, from Sanskrit pakva; akin to Greek pessein to cook — more at cook

First Known Use

1776, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of pukka was in 1776


Dictionary Entries Near pukka

Cite this Entry

“Pukka.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pukka. Accessed 2 Dec. 2022.

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