Munshi is a Persian word, originally used for a contractor, writer, or secretary, and later used in the Mughal Empire and India for native language teachers, teachers of various subjects, especially administrative principles, religious texts, science, and philosophy and were also secretaries and translators employed by Europeans.[1]

Portrait of Abdul Karim (the Munshi) by Rudolf Swoboda.


Munshi (Persian: منشی) is a Persian word derived form Arabic, that is used as a respected title for persons who achieved mastery over languages, especially in the Indian subcontinent. It became a surname to those people whose ancestors had received this title and some of whom also served as ministers and administrators in the kingdoms of various Royals and are regarded as nobility. In modern Persian, this word is also used to address administrators, head of departments.

Use by British

Administrators, head of departments, accountants, and secretaries hired by the government in India were known as Munshies. The family name Munshi was adopted by families whose ancestors were honoured with this title and were responsible for administering various offices etc.[2] and these families (selective) were and are regarded as nobility. Abdul Karim, known as "The Munshi", was a highly valued and respected Indian attendant of Queen Victoria.[3]

See also


  1. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Munshi" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 19 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  2. "How well do you know about the origins of some Indian Occupational Surnames?". TheBizdom. 22 February 2020. Retrieved 23 February 2022.
  3. Visram, Rozina (2004). "Karim, Abdul (1862/3–1909)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/42022. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.) (subscription required) for full access
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