Below is a list of terms we have defined to make the oral histories more accessible to those who may not be familiar with the terms we use. We also list pronunciations, but recognize that these are approximations and pronunciations vary based on region. Additionally, language is always imperfect and evolving and our collective vows to do our best to keep our glossary as updated and inclusive as possible.



Cis(gender): a term used to describe people who identify with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Gender Expansive: an overarching term for persons with gender identities that do not fall within conventional or binary definitions of gender (such as “man” or “woman”). Similar identity terms that are often used interchangeably include non-binary (enby), gender non-conforming (GNC), genderfluid, and genderqueer, however this term can also include people who identify as transgender or agender.

Gender pronouns: the terms that people use to identify their gender, including but not limited to “she/her/hers,” “they/theirs”, “he/him/his” There are an infinite number of pronoun identifiers.

Intersectional: a framework that understands different facets of identity (such as gender, race, and sexuality) and forms of oppression (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia) as interlocking.



Coolie: a term originally used by the British to describe indentured laborers from South, South East and East Asia. It is considered a sensitive or pejorative word by some, while used colloquially or reclaimed by others.

Indo-Caribbean: a term to describe people who can trace their heritage to both the Caribbean and South Asia through the system of indentureship. The term has gained popularity in the last couple of decades, primarily among people in the diaspora.

Indenture(ship):  a system of contractual labor; in the Caribbean, indentured laborers were brought from India to work on plantations in the aftermath of the abolition of slavery.

Kurti / Kurta: an Indian article of clothing similar to a tunic, which can vary in length. [pronunciation: coor-tee / coor-tah]



Pickney: a term commonly used to mean “child” in West Indian English; [pronunciation: pick-knee]

Aja / Aaja: Your father’s father (roots can be traced to Bhojpuri). [pronunciation: AAH-jah]

Aaji / Aajee: Your father’s mother (roots can be traced to Bhojpuri). Other spellings include: aji, agee, agie. [pronunciation: AAH-jee]

Nani / Nanny: Your mother’s mother. [pronunciation: NAH-knee]

Nana: Your mother’s father

Note: For more information on familial terms, see here.



Aarti: ritual of worship in which a light or flame is offered to deities; [pronunciation: are-tee]

Bhajan: any song, typically of Indian origin, with religious themes or spiritual ideas; Hindu worship song; [pronunciation: b-AH-jahn / b-UH-jin]

Caste:  a structure of oppression that affects over 1 billion people across the world. It is a system of religiously codified exclusion that was established in Hindu scripture. (definition from Equality Labs)

Kali: goddess of motherly love, death and time; the most powerful form of the goddess Shakti; [pronunciation: KAH-lee]

Mandir: Hindu temple; Hindu place of worship; [pronunciation: mun-deer]

Murti: an image, statue or idol of a deity or person; often found in the form of statues deities in Hindu temples; [pronunciation: MOOR-tee]

Namaste: a respectful greeting in Hindu tradition; [pronunciation: nuh-MUST-ay]

Pandit(a) / Pundit(a): Hindu religious leader

Puja / Pooja: prayer; prayer ritual; religious worship.

Raktabij: a figure in Hindu mythology (loosely translated as demon) [pronunciation: ruck-ta-beej]

Sindoor: red-orange powder worn by married women, typically on their hair part or as a dot on the forehead; [pronunciation: sin-doo-r]

Yajna: a ritual sacrifice or offering done in front of a sacred fire

Yoni: an aniconic representation of goddess Shakti in Hinduism which resembles a vagina; [pronunciation: YO-knee]



Jahajee Sisters: a movement-building organization in New York led by Indo-Caribbean women and focused on gender justice and equity. (Website)

South Asian Youth Action (SAYA): a youth development organization which aims to foster a strong sense of belonging in youth and provide them with tools to thrive academically, professionally and personally.(Website)