Thug
DeadHeadFred
I've been told that "thug" has a strange or bizarre origin. What is it?
Lewis Joplin II
THUG - "An Indian sect of religious fanatics called the P'hanisigars, 'noose operators,' whom the British euphemistically called Thugs, from a Sanskrit word (sthaga) meaning 'rogue or cheater,' dated back to at least the 13th century. The thugs supposedly honored Kali the Hindu goddess of destruction with their murders and thievery. They would worm their way into the confidence of travelers, or would follow a wealthy victim for weeks sometimes before finding him in a lonely place and slipping a rope or cloth noose around his neck. The group was as well organized as the Syndicate today, even speaking a secret language, Ramasi, and bribing government officials for protection. The British eliminated the Thugs in India in the 1830s when they hanged 412 of them and sentenced another 2,844 to life imprisonment, but the name of the band lives on after them. 'Thug,' an ugly word, is still used for ugly criminal types from tough guys to assassins, and 'thuggee' is sometimes heard for the crime of strangulation that the Thugs perfected." From the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997)

Return to the archive