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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Coolie \Coo"lie\, n. Same as Cooly.


Cooly \Coo"ly\, Coolie \Coo"lie\, n.; pl. Coolies. [Hind. k?l[=i] a laborer, porter: cf. Turk. k?l, ky?leh, slave.] An East Indian porter or carrier; a laborer transported from the East Indies, China, or Japan, for service in some other country.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

name given by Europeans to hired laborers in India and China, c.1600, from Hindi quli "hired servant," probably from kuli, name of an aboriginal tribe or caste in Gujarat. The name was picked up by the Portuguese, who used it in southern India (where by coincidence kuli in Tamil meant "hire") and in China.


n. 1 (context offensive slang English) An unskilled Asian worker, usually of Chinese or Indian descent; a labourer; a porter. Coolies were frequently transported to other countries in the 19th and early 20th centuries as indentured labourers. 2 (context offensive slang Trinidad West Indies Guyana and parts of Africa English) A person of Indian descent.


n. an offensive name for an unskilled Asian laborer [syn: cooly]


A coolie (alternatively spelled cooli, cooly, quli, koelie, and other such variations), during the 19th and early 20th century, was a term for an unskilled labourer hired by a company, mainly from the Indian subcontinent or South China.

Today, it is used varyingly as a legal inoffensive word (for example, in India for helpers carrying luggage in railway stations) and also used as a racial slur in Africa for certain people from Asia, particularly in South Africa.

Coolie (1983 Hindi film)

Coolie (, 'Porter') is a 1983 Indian Bollywood action comedy film, directed by Manmohan Desai and written by Kader Khan. The film stars Amitabh Bachchan as Iqbal, a railway coolie, with supporting roles played by Rishi Kapoor, Rati Agnihotri, Kader Khan, Waheeda Rehman, Suresh Oberoi and Puneet Issar.

The film made over Rs. 10 million per territory, a rare achievement for the time.

The film is notorious for a fight scene with co-star Puneet Issar, during which Amitabh Bachchan was near-fatally injured due to a mistimed jump.

Coolie (disambiguation)

Coolie is a historical term for indentured labourers and a contemporary racial slur.

Coolie may also refer to:

Coolie (novel)

Coolie is a novel by Mulk Raj Anand first published in 1936. The novel reinforced Anand's position as one of India's leading English authors. The book is highly critical of British rule in India and India's caste system. The plot revolves around a 14-year-old boy, Munoo, and his plight due to poverty and exploitation aided by the social and political structures in place.

In 2004, a commemorative edition including this book was launched by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Coolie (2004 film)

Coolie is a 2004 action Bengali-language film starring Mithun Chakraborty and Meghna Naidu.

Coolie (1995 film)

Coolie is a 1995 Tamil language film directed and written by P. Vasu. The film features Sarathkumar and Meena in lead roles while Radharavi, Raja and Kavitha Vijayakumar play supporting roles. The film opened in April 1995 but fared below critics' expectations.

Coolie (1983 Malayalam film)

Coolie is a Malayalam language film which was released in 1983. It stars Ratheesh, Mammootty and Shankar in lead roles, directed by Ashok Kumar, produced by Sooryodaya Creation. It also has Lalu Alex, Sreenivasan and Nalini in supporting roles.

Usage examples of "coolie".

Loiterers assembled, but no one came to draw the vehicle, and by degrees the dismal truth leaked out that the three coolies who had been impressed for the occasion had all absconded, and that four policemen were in search of them.

Mahoney, who had seated himself on a chock close by, as a large party of Oriental coolies arrived and began unloading and spreading what appeared to be the brickwork of a house that had got in the way of a big shell.

Tea-houses are of all grades, from the three-storied erections, gay with flags and lanterns, in the great cities and at places of popular resort, down to the road-side tea-house, as represented in the engraving, with three or four lounges of dark-coloured wood under its eaves, usually occupied by naked coolies in all attitudes of easiness and repose.

On the descent, when things began to look very bad, and the mountain-sides had become cascades bringing trees, logs, and rocks down with them, we were fortunate enough to meet with two packhorses whose leaders were ignorant of the impassability of the road to Odate, and they and my coolies exchanged loads.

He showed him pictures of houses, streets, villages, and temples, of fantastic Batu caves near Kuala Lumpur, and of the jagged, wildly beautiful limestone and marble mountains near Ipoh, and when Veraguth asked if there were no pictures of natives, he dug out photographs of Malays, Chinese, Tamils, Arabs, and Javanese, naked athletic harbor coolies, wizened old fishermen, hunters, peasants, weavers, merchants, beautiful women with gold ornaments, dark naked groups of children, fishermen with nets, earringed Sakai playing the nose flute, and Javanese dancing girls bristling with silver baubles.

Chamberlain and I went in a kuruma hurried along by three liveried coolies, through the three miles of crowded streets which lie between the Legation and Asakusa, once a village, but now incorporated with this monster city, to the broad street leading to the Adzuma Bridge over the Sumida river, one of the few stone bridges in Tokiyo, which connects east Tokiyo, an uninteresting region, containing many canals, storehouses, timber-yards, and inferior yashikis, with the rest of the city.

Jiro and Shoji watched from the deck as groups of Chinese coolies, along with other groups of American laborers, unloaded the ship.

Hiraga nodded, drained the last cup then got up, stripped off the starched yukata that all Houses and Inns habitually supplied their clients, and dressed again in the most ordinary kimono of a villager, rough turban and coolie straw hat, then shouldered the empty delivery basket.

But the mafu and the coolies were too frightened to continue the journey, so they were left behind, and Withers and the shroff went off by themselves.

Outside, along the gutter, were the trishaws, the evolution of the rickshaw, a bicycle and a sidecar with the coolie pedalling.

But their trishaws were now moving slowly out from the gutter, into the street, and his coolie bent his head and went out too.

A contingent of coolies kowtowed along the path to the waiting sedan chair, then scrambled to lead the way across the square as his escort of lictors formed a procession around him.

Their actual number was not more than a dozen, of whom the leader was a Chinaman with the loose-looking shoulders and physical strength of a Shanghai longshore coolie.

But the mafu and the coolies were too frightened to continue the journey, so they were left behind, and Withers and the shroff went off by themselves.

You have missionaries, native schoolmasters, employers of coolies, traders, simple downright men, who scarcely suspect the existence of any sources of error in their verdicts, who are incapable of understanding the difference between what is innate and what is acquired, much less of distinguishing them in their interplay.