wallah

noun

wal·​lah ˈwä-lə How to pronounce wallah (audio)
 in combination usually  ˌwä-lə
: a person who is associated with a particular work or who performs a specific duty or service
usually used in combination
the book wallah was an itinerant peddlerGeorge Orwell

Did you know?

Wallah comes from the Hindi suffix -vālā, meaning "one in charge." Like its Hindi counterpart, "wallah" is commonly used in combination with other nouns. The first use of "wallah" appeared as "lootywallah" in a narrative penned by Officer Innes Munro describing his time deployed on the Coromandel Coast of India in the 1780s. "Looty," or "lootie," was a noun sometimes applied to a member of a band of marauders or robbers. In the narrative, Munro used the term to describe looting cavalrymen. In current writing, "wallah" is typically accompanied by words like "office" or "marketing."

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Many young men like him, born into impoverished and landless homes in Western Uttar Pradesh’s Shamli district, become pheri wallahs or travelling cloth salesman. Harsh Mander, Quartz India, 28 Apr. 2020 Such a system would be welcome in Brussels, where EU wallahs are pondering the fate of its flagship European Green Deal. The Economist, 5 Mar. 2020 In 2017 Dan Carden, a former union wallah, went up against Joe Anderson, Liverpool’s mayor, for the nomination. The Economist, 5 Dec. 2019

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

Word History

Etymology

Hindi & Urdu -vālā one in charge, from Sanskrit pāla protector, from pālayati, pārayati he guards; akin to Sanskrit piparti he brings over, saves, Old English faran to go — more at fare

First Known Use

1782, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of wallah was in 1782

Podcast

Dictionary Entries Near wallah

Cite this Entry

“Wallah.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wallah. Accessed 30 Jan. 2023.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


Commonly Confused Words Quiz

  • vector image of a face with thought expression
  • I went to the ______ store to buy a birthday card.
Spell It

Hear a word and type it out. How many can you get right?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Solve today's spelling word game by finding as many words as you can with using just 7 letters. Longer words score more points.

Can you make 12 words with 7 letters?

PLAY