Hindi-Urdu (हिंदी उर्दू, هندی اردو) is an Indo-Aryan language and the lingua franca of North India and Pakistan. It is also known as Hindustani (हिन्दुस्तानी, ہندوستانی, Hindustānī, IPA: ɦɪ̃n̪d̪ʊsˈt̪aːni, literally: "of Hindustan"), and historically, as Hindavi or Rekhta. It derives primarily from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi, and incorporates a large amount of vocabulary from Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit and Turkic. It is a pluricentric language, with two official forms, Standard Hindi and Standard Urdu, which are standardized registers of it. Colloquial Standard Hindi and Urdu are all but indistinguishable, and even the official standards are nearly identical in grammar, though they differ in literary conventions and in academic and technical vocabulary, with Urdu retaining stronger Persian, Central Asian and Arabic influences, and Hindi relying more heavily on Sanskrit. Before the Partition of British India, the terms Hindustani, Urdu and Hindi were synonymous; all covered what would be called Urdu and Hindi today. The term "Hindustani" is also used for several quite different varieties of Hindi spoken outside of the Subcontinent, including Fijian Hindustani and the Caribbean Hindustani of Suriname and Trinidad.


Hindustani emerged from the Middle Indo-Aryan apabhramsha vernaculars of North India in the 7th–13th centuries CE. Amir Khusro, who lived in the 13th century CE during the Delhi Sultanate period in North India, used the Hindustani lingua franca in his writings and referred to the language as Hindavi. The Delhi Sultanate, which comprised several Turkic and Afghan dynasties that ruled from Delhi, was succeeded by the Mughal Empire in 1526.

Although the Mughals were of Timurid (Gurkānī) Turko-Mongol descent, they were Persianized, and Persian had gradually become the state language of the Mughal empire after Babur. Towards the end of the Mughal period, with the fragmentation of the empire and the elite system, Urdu came to gradually replace Persian as the lingua franca among the educated elite upper class particularly in Northern India, though Persian still retained much of its pre-eminence. For socio-political reasons, though essentially a variant of Khariboli with Persian vocabulary, the emerging prestige dialect became known as Urdu (properly zabān-e Urdu-e mo'alla "language of the court").

The term Hindustani ("of Hindustan") was the name given to a variant of Khariboli, the local dialect at the Mughal capital, Delhi, and nearby cities. As an emerging common dialect, Hindustani absorbed large numbers of Persian, Arabic, and Turkic words, and as Mughal conquests grew it spread as a lingua franca across much of northern India. Written in the Perso-Arabic Script, it remained the primary lingua franca of northern India for the next four centuries (although it varied significantly in vocabulary depending on the local language) and achieved the status of a literary language, alongside Persian, in Muslim courts. Its development was centered on the poets of the Mughal courts of north Indian cities such as Delhi, Lucknow, Lahore, and Agra. In time it came to be called Urdu (zabān-e Urdu زبان اردو‎, ज़बान-ए उर्दू, "language of the camp" in Persian, derived from Turkic Ordū "camp", cognate with English horde), due to its origin as the common speech of the Mughal army. The more highly Persianized version later established as a language of the court was called Rekhta, or "mixed". John Fletcher Hurst in his book published in 1891 mentioned that the Hindustani or Camp language or Language of the Camps of Moughal courts at Delhi was not regarded by philogists as distinct language but only as a dialect of Hindi with admixture of Persian. He continued: "But it has all the magnitude and importance of separate language. It is linguistic result of Mohammedan invasions of eleventh & twelfth centuries and is spoken (except in rural Bengal ) by many Hindus in North India and by Musalman population in all parts of India". Next to English it was the official language of British Government of India, was commonly written in Arabic or Persian characters, and was spoken by approximately 100,000,000 people.

When the British colonized India from the late 18th through to the late 19th century, they used the words 'Hindustani' and 'Urdu' interchangeably. They developed it as the language of administration of British India, further preparing it to be the official language of modern India and Pakistan. However, with independence, use of the word 'Hindustani' declined, being largely replaced by 'Hindi' and 'Urdu', or 'Hindi-Urdu' when either of those was too specific. More recently, the word 'Hindustani' has been used for the colloquial language of Bollywood films, which are popular in both India and Pakistan and which cannot be unambiguously identified as either Hindi or Urdu.

Modern Standard Urdu

Urdu is the national language of Pakistan and an officially recognized regional language of India. It is also an official language in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, National Capital Territory of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar which have significant Muslim populations.

Modern Standard Hindi

Standard Hindi, the official language of India, is based on the Khariboli dialect of the Delhi region and differs from Urdu in that it is usually written in the indigenous Devanagari script of India and exhibits less Persian influence than Urdu. Many scholars today employ a Sanskritized form of Hindi developed primarily in Varanasi, the Hindu holy city, which is based on the Eastern Hindi dialect of that region and thus a separate language from official Standard Hindi. It has a literature of 500 years, with prose, poetry, religion & philosophy, under the Bahmani Kings and later on Khutab Shahi Adil Shahi etc. It is a living language, still prevalent all over the Deccan Plateau. Note that the term "Hindustani" has generally fallen out of common usage in modern India, except to refer to a style of Indian classical music prevalent in northern India. The term used to refer to the language is "Hindi", regardless of the mix of Persian or Sanskrit words used by the speaker. One could conceive of a wide spectrum of dialects, with the highly Persianized Urdu at one end of the spectrum and a heavily Sanskrit-based dialect, spoken in the region around Varanasi, at the other end of the spectrum. In common usage in India, the term "Hindi" includes all these dialects except those at the Urdu end of the spectrum. Thus, the different meanings of the word "Hindi" include, among others:

  1. standardized Hindi as taught in schools throughout India,
  2. formal or official Hindi advocated by Purushottam Das Tandon and as instituted by the post-independence Indian government, heavily influenced by Sanskrit,
  3. the vernacular dialects of Hindustani/Hindi-Urdu as spoken throughout India,
  4. the neutralized form of the language used in popular television and films, or
  5. the more formal neutralized form of the language used in broadcast and print news reports.

Bazaar Hindustani

In a specific sense, "Hindustani" may be used to refer to the dialects and varieties used in common speech, in contrast with the standardized Hindi and Urdu. This meaning is reflected in the use of the term "bazaar Hindustani", in other words, the "language of the street or the marketplace", as opposed to the perceived refinement of formal Hindi, Urdu, or even Sanskrit. Thus, the Webster's New World Dictionary defines the term Hindustani as the principal dialect of Hindi/Urdu, used as a trade language throughout north India and Pakistan.

Hindi and Urdu

While, at the spoken level, Urdu and Hindi are considered registers of a single language, they differ vastly in literary and formal vocabulary; where literary Urdu draws heavily on Persian and Arabic, literary Hindi draws heavily on Sanskrit and to a lesser extent Prakrit. The grammar and base vocabulary (most pronouns, verbs, adpositions, etc.) of both Urdu and Hindi, however, are the same and derive from a Prakritic base, and both have a heavy Persian influence.

The associated registers of Urdu and Hindi are known as "Hindustani". It is perhaps the lingua franca of the west and north of the Indian subcontinent, though it is understood fairly well in other regions also, especially in the urban areas. A common vernacular sharing characteristics with Urdu, Sanskritized Hindi, and regional Hindi, Hindustani is more commonly used as a vernacular than highly Arabicized/Persianized Urdu or highly Sanskritized Hindi.

This can be seen in the popular culture of Bollywood or, more generally, the vernacular of Pakistanis and Indians which generally employs a lexicon common to both "Urdu" and "Hindi" speakers. Minor subtleties in region will also affect the 'brand' of Hindustani, sometimes pushing the Hindustani closer to Urdu or to Hindi. One might reasonably assume that the language spoken in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh (known for its beautiful usage of Urdu) and Varanasi (a holy city for Hindus and thus using highly Sanskritized Hindi) is somewhat different.

Hindustani, if both Hindi and Urdu are counted, is the third or second most widely spoken language in the world after Mandarin and possibly English.


The identity, and therefore the names, of Hindustani have long been tied up with the identities and aspirations of the people of India and Pakistan. The name "Hindustani" itself is linked in the minds of many people with the British colonial administration, and may not be preferred for that reason.

Amir Khusro ca. 1300 CE referred to this language of his writings as Dahlavi ('of Delhi') or Hindavi (हिन्दवी, ہندوی 'of Hindustan'). During this period, the language was used by Sufis in promulgating their message across the Indian subcontinent. After the advent of the Mughals in India, Hindustani acquired more Persian loanwords. Rekhta ('mixture') and Hindi (of 'Hindustan') became popular names for the same language until the 18th century. The name Urdu appeared around 1780. During the British Raj, the term Hindustani was used by British officials, from the country's former name Hindustan. In 1796, John Borthwick Gilchrist published a "A Grammar of the Hindoostanee Language". Upon partition, India and Pakistan established national standards which they called Hindi and Urdu, respectively, and attempted to make distinct, with the result that "Hindustani" commonly came to be seen as a mixture of Hindi and Urdu. More recently, Hindu nationalists have used the term Hindvi, derived from older Hindavi, as the name for the unified language.


Official status

Urdu, the original standardized register of Hindustani, is the national language of Pakistan, where it shares official language status with English. Although English is used in most elite circles, and Punjabi has a plurality of native speakers, Urdu is the lingua franca and is expected to prevail. Urdu is also one of the official languages of India, and in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, and Uttar Pradesh, Urdu has official language status. While the government school system in most other states emphasises Modern Standard Hindi, at universities in cities such as Lucknow, Aligarh and Hyderabad, Urdu is spoken and learned and is regarded as a language of prestige.

Hindi, the other standardized register of Hindustani, is declared by the Constitution of India as the "official language (rājabhāshā) of the Union" (Art. 343(1)) (In this context, 'Union' means the Federal Government and not the entire country - India has 23 official languages). At the same time, however, the definitive text of Federal laws is officially the English text and proceedings in the higher appellate courts must be conducted in English. At the state level, Hindi is an official language in ten out of the 28 Indian states and three Union Territories (namely Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Arunanchal Pradesh, and Haryana and UTs are Delhi, Chandigarh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands). In the remaining states Hindi is not an official language. In the state of Tamil Nadu studying Hindi is not compulsory in the state curriculum. However an option to take the same as second or third language does exist. In many other states, studying Hindi is usually compulsory in the school curriculum as a third language (the first two languages being the state's official language and English), though the intensiveness of Hindi in the curriculum varies.

Hindustani was the official language of India at the time of the British Raj, ending with the partition of India in 1947; the term was a synonym for Urdu.

Hindustani outside South Asia

Besides being the lingua franca of South Asia of India and Pakistan, Hindustani is spoken among people of the South Asian diaspora and their descendants in North America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

Hindustani was also spoken widely in Burma during British rule as the main language of the administration. Many older Burmese, particularly the Anglo-Indians and Anglo-Burmese of the country, still speak the language although it has had no official status in the country since military rule.

"Hindustani" as a term for other Hindi languages

Outside of the subcontinent, the name Hindustani is frequently used in the sense of "Indian", and may be applied to any of several other Hindi languages.

Fijian Hindustani (also called Fiji Hindi), for example, descends not from Hindustani proper, but from one of the eastern Hindi languages called Awadhi. It has a strong Bhojpuri influence that differentiates it from the Awadhi spoken on the Indian subcontinent, though not to the extent of hindering mutual understanding. It is spoken by nearly the entire Indo-Fijian community, 38.1% of Fiji's population, regardless of ancestry.

Similarly, Caribbean Hindustani is actually Bhojpuri as spoken in Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Belize. Sarnami Hindustani is the second most spoken language in Suriname after Dutch. This is due to the emigration of East Indians (known locally as Hindoestanen in Suriname) from the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in North India. Ethnic Indians form 37% of the population in Suriname, the largest ethnic group there. Ethnic Indians also make up around 45% of Guyana's population, but unlike in Suriname they have mostly switched from Bhojpuri to English. In South Africa, Kenya and other parts of Africa, older descendants of 18th century sugar cane workers also speak a variety of Bhojpuri as their second language.



Writing system

Contemporarily, Hindustani is primarily written in the Devanagari script or the Perso-Arabic script. However, the Kaithi script was the historical popular script for the language. Hindi, one standardized register of Hindustani, utilizes the Devanagari script while Urdu, the other standardized register of Hindustani utilizes the Perso-Arabic script, with Nasta`liq being the preferred calligraphic style for Urdu.

Perso-Arabic script used to write Hindustani (Urdu):

Letter Name of letter Transcription IPA
ا alif - -
ب be b /b/
پ pe p /p/
ت te t /t̪/
ٹ ṭe /ʈ/
ث se s /s/
ج jīm j /d͡ʒ/
چ che ch /t͡ʃ/
ح baṛī he h /h/
خ khe kh /x/
د dāl d /d̪/
ڈ ḍāl /ɖ/
ذ zāl dh /z/
ر re r /r/
ڑ ṛe /ɽ/
ز ze z /z/
ژ zhe zh /ʒ/
س sīn s /s/
ش shīn sh /ʃ/
ص su'ād /s/
ض zu'ād /z/
ط to'e t /t/
ظ zo'e /z/
ع ‘ain ' -
غ ghain gh /ɣ/
ف fe f /f/
ق qāf q /q/
ک kāf k /k/
گ gāf g /ɡ/
ل lām l /l/
م mīm m /m/
ن nūn n /n/
و vā'o v, o, or ū /ʋ/, /oː/, /ɔ/ or /uː/
ہ, ﮩ, ﮨ choṭī he h /h/
ھ do chashmī he h /ʰ/
ء hamza ' /ʔ/
ی ye y, i /j/ or /iː/
ے bari ye ai or e /ɛː/, or /eː/

Devanagari script used to write Hindustani (Hindi):

ə ɪ ʊ ɛː ɔː
क़ ख़ ग़
k q x ɡ ɣ ɡʱ ŋ
ज़ झ़
t͡ʃ t͡ʃʰ d͡ʒ z d͡ʒʱ ʒ ɲ
ड़ ढ़
ʈ ʈʰ ɖ ɽ ɖʱ ɽʱ ɳ
t̪ʰ d̪ʱ n
p f b m
j r l ʋ  
ʃ ʂ s h  

Because of Anglicization and international use of the Latin script, Hindustani is also sometimes written in the Latin script. This adaptation is called Roman Urdu. As the Bollywood film industry is a great supporter of Latin script, Roman Urdu is gaining popularity especially among the youth, who use the Internet or are "cyber-citizens."

Sample text

Following is a sample text, Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the two official registers of Hindustani, Hindi and Urdu. As this is a formal legal text, differences in formal vocabulary are maximized.

Formal Hindi

अनुच्छेद 1—सभी मनुष्यों को गौरव और अधिकारों के मामले में जन्मजात स्वतन्त्रता प्राप्त है। उन्हें बुद्धि और अन्तरात्मा की देन प्राप्त है और परस्पर उन्हें भाईचारे के भाव से बर्ताव करना चाहिये।

Nastaliq transcription:

انُچھید ١ : سبھی منُشیوں کو گورو اور ادھِکاروں کے معاملے میں جنمجات سؤتنترتا پراپت ہے. انھے بدّھی اور انتراتما کی دین پراپت ہے اور پرسپر انھے بھایچارے کے بھاؤ سے برتاؤ کرنا چاہیے.

Transcription (IPA):

ənʊtʃʰːed̪ ek—səbʱi mənʊʃjõ ko ɡɔɾəʋ ɔr əd̪ʱɪkaɾõ ke mamle mẽ dʒənmdʒat̪ sʋət̪ənt̪ɾət̪a pɾapt̪ hɛ. ʊnʱẽ bʊd̪ʱːɪ ɔɾ ənt̪əɾat̪ma kiː d̪en pɾapt̪ hɛ ɔɾ pəɾəspəɾ ʊnʱẽ bʱaitʃaɾe keː bʱaʋ se bəɾt̪aʋ kəɾna tʃahɪe.

Gloss (word-to-word):

Article 1—All human-beings to dignity and rights' matter in from-birth freedom acquired is. Them to reason and conscience's endowment acquired is and always them to brotherhood's spirit with behaviour to do should.

Translation (grammatical):

Article 1—All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Formal Urdu:

دفعہ 1: تمام انسان آزاد اور حقوق و عزت کے اعتبار سے برابر پیدا ہوۓ ہیں۔ انہیں ضمیر اور عقل ودیعت ہوئی ہیں۔ اسلۓ انہیں ایک دوسرے کے ساتھ بھائی چارے کا سلوک کرنا چاہیۓ۔

Devanagari transcription:

दफ़ा 1: तमाम इनसान आज़ाद और हुक़ूक़ ओ इज़्ज़त के ऐतबार से बराबर पैदा हुए हैं। इन्हें ज़मीर और अक़्ल वदीयत हुई हैं। इसलिए इन्हें एक दूसरे के साथ भाई चारे का सुलूक करना चाहीए।


d̪əfa ek ‖ t̪əmam ɪnsan azad̪ ɔɾ hʊquq o izːət̪ ke ɛt̪əbaɾ se bəɾabəɾ pɛd̪a hʊe hɛ̃. ʊnʱẽ zəmiɾ ɔɾ əql ʋədiət̪ hʊi hɛ̃. ɪslɪe ʊnʱẽ ek d̪usɾe ke sat̪ʰ bʱai tʃaɾe ka sʊluk kəɾna tʃahɪe.


Article 1: All humans free and rights and dignity's consideration from equal born are. To them conscience and intellect endowed is. Therefore, they one another's with brotherhood's treatment do must.


Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience. Therefore, they should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Hindustani and Bollywood

The Indian film industry, Bollywood, located in Mumbai (Bombay), Maharashtra, uses dialects of Hindi-Urdu, Awadhi, Rajasthani, Bhojpuri, Punjabi, and quite often Bambaiya Hindi (along with many English words) for the dialogues and songs in the movies produced. These movies are full of songs and dances—songs, some of them in the Urdu Shayari style.

Generally the name of the movie is shown in three scripts: Latin, Devanagari (used for Hindi), and Perso-Arabic (used for Urdu). Many lyrics are in Urdu. Movies based on the Delhi Sultanate period or the Mughal Empire are full of Urdu words. Movies like Mughal-e-Azam have used purely Urdu dialogues. Hindu mythological movies generally contain Sanskrit vocabulary which does not exist in Urdu.

Urdu films and Lollywood

The Pakistani film industry, centred historically in Lahore, has seen a rise in Punjabi movies lately. Urdu languages have seen a surge throughout Pakistan specifically Karachi, with new age films, and to a lesser extent in Islamabad and Lahore.

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