New and Old Terminologies used in History

Social ScienceAncient Indian History


History without context is an incomplete story, and as we’ve seen prior, history is written by its winners. There are several different considerations surrounding a historical event or scenario that provide additional insight into reality. Historical events too, don’t exist by themselves, but are a product of their time-period, culture, and society.

We can understand that as the context changes over time, so does language and semantics–which is the meaning and our interpretation of words and language. In this tutorial, you will learn about new and old terminologies used in History, the scribes, its Historians, and their sources.

New and Old Terminologies

English, the language in academic settings and governmental communications has experienced vast evolution. English aws divided into three periods - Old, Middle, and Modern English. You might be shocked at the differences, as they are unrecognizable. Knowledge of one might not help you understand others.

  • Old English
  • Middle English
  • Early Modern English
  • Late Modern English

Similarly, Persian has undergone three ages. Like our prior example, the evolution happens not regarding grammar and vocabulary, but word meanings shift, and there have been instances where a word has evolved to mean the opposite!

Images Coming soon

How Hindustan Became India?

Let’s take our own country’s name, India. The name has historical, cultural, and political associations that are related. India wasn’t the historical name, but rather, it was the more Indian-sounding Hindustan.

Persian Chronicler Minjah-i-Siraj, a Punjabi Chronicler used ‘Hindustan’ to describe a smaller geographical region than today’s India, consisting of Haryana, Punjab, and the lands that connected the Ganga and Yamuna Rivers. The reasoning was these lands were connected to the Delhi Sultanate, Qutb-ud-din Aibak being the founder of the Mamluk dynasty.

The geographical region they mentioned was revised with conquests of the Sultanate, but the term never spread in South India, which had its own rulers, and an obviously different culture. By comparison, the Mughal patriarch Babur, at the start of the 1500s used ‘Hindustan’ for the geography, culture, people, the flora/fauna, and the Indian citizens.

Thus, we can see the change in context in action here. Hindustan was a descriptive term, but did not include any political associations, like the modern India. As we’ve moved away from being a monarchy to being a constitutional republic, the name ‘India’ has gained popularity, which carries clear political connotations due to division of the subcontinent.

Pakistan and Bangladesh are not a part of India, which is included in Babur’s ‘Hindustan’ definition. India comes from Greek, inspired by the word ‘Indus’. Thus, as we see, new/old terminologies also include inclusion of loan words from other languages. Loan-words are words that are absorbed into another language, often the borrowing language does not have a linguistic equivalent to an establishment, or concept in its host language.

Ancient Day Hindustan (Including modern-day Pakistan and Bangladesh)

Images Coming soon

Modern Day India (Excluding modern-day Pakistan and Bangladesh)

‘Foreigner’ is another word with history we can learn about. When we say “our new classmate is a foreigner,” we mean they are from a country that is not our host country. This was not always the case. Before the meaning of foreigner became standardized, it used to mean visitors or entrants into villages, towns, or other settlements they were not a native of. This was the norm during the medieval ages.

Images Coming soon


Scribes refer to divergent sources to understand history dependent on the age being researched, and the objective of academic enquiry. A researcher looking for the state of Coffee Houses in Victorian London will be referring to different sources from historians who is looking for info about the Royal Family at the time.

We have seen 750AD to 1750AD as the source of significant events, which included the proliferation of paper, the establishment of the printing press, and the use of paper for record-keeping and administration by Governments. Essentially, paper went from luxury, to mass manufactured item of utility.

Images Coming soon

Historians of this time are still dependent on physical clues that their ancestors left behind, like coins, sculptures, inscriptions, architecture, inscriptions, and engravings, and texts. Archaeologists and historians like puzzles, they link together pieces of evidence to develop a narrative that supports the facts, the material items left by the civilization, and the textual records of the time.

It must be noted that without the people of the time to describe their stories, accuracy and continuity is based on

1) Quality and quantity of evidence that is unearthed, and

2) The skills of historian or archaeologists to make inferences among pieces of evidence, and link these ideas to arrive at a logical story.

Knowledge was limited to aristocracy, and the outcome? The common man was uninformed about the natural world, as the printing press was not mainstream. Temples and monasteries stockpiled manuscripts, presumably for public reference, or for the reference of priests.

Scribes and the creation of History

The printing press was discovered in 1436, by Gutenberg. Prior, handwriting was the norm, manuscripts created by copying the originals. Maintaining manuscript integrity, was impacted, due to several reasons; some simple as handwriting, others, communication gaps. Versions have alterations, and in-depth manuscript analysis from various eras should be performed to understand the original author’s intentions.

The original might be lost to time. In this scenario, scholars, through comparison of iterations, arrive at educated guesses about author intentions. Chroniclers revised manuscripts after the original was written. The chronicler from the 1300s, Ziauddin Barani authored his chronicle (1356), and another revision in 1358.

Luck plays a part in finding revised versions, as his second manuscript was lost before being found in massive library reserves. Revisions made to documents are major, so for historians, it becomes critical (best-case scenario) to have access to all versions of manuscripts to decipher changes, contexts, and cultural implications.

Remember, language and narratives reflect the state of society, so awareness of changes in iterations helps historians to −

  • Determine mood and thought process of the author.
  • Determine context from cultural perspectives, fill blanks and uncover social and cultural scenarios at the time.


  • Languages experience evolution, one phase incompatible with another. English has four periods, Old English, Middle English, Early Modern, and Late Modern.
  • Likewise, Persian has three periods with different words and word patterns.
  • Hindustan is a geographical region referring to the subcontinent, its people, its culture, and its flora/fauna. It does not have political implications.
  • India, post-independence, is a political entity, with Pakistan and Bangladesh not a part of the subcontinent.


Q1. What is the primary difference between India and Hindustan?

Ans. India is the current-day landmass without Pakistan and Bangladesh, post-independence. It is a political entity, unlike Hindustan – a geographical term encompassing all things Hindustani – this encompassed the subcontinent, including Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Q2. Why is a lack of evidence and records dangerous to the determination of truths?

Ans. Without evidence, research becomes complex, and due to proportions, historians assume evidence to be articles which support their narrative (instead of presuming, analysing, and weaving narratives supportive of the evidence), the former might not be true.

Q3. What is the origin of the word ‘India’?

Ans. ‘India’ is of Greek origin, traced back to the Indus River.

Q4. Hindustan changed when it became India. Politics, a major part of it. Similarly, languages evolve due to circumstances. Can you name some?

Ans. Languages evolve due to influence of other languages (loanwords), cultural shifts, and public attitudes. Mass migrations are another reason.

Updated on 13-Oct-2022 11:19:47