[koo-lee] /ˈku li/

noun, Disparaging and Offensive.
an unskilled laborer, especially formerly in China and India.
an unskilled laborer employed cheaply, especially one brought from Asia.
a contemptuous term used to refer to an Asian, especially an Indian living in South Africa.
Informal. characteristic of or suitable for a coolie:
working for coolie wages.
noun (pl) -ies
a cheaply hired unskilled Oriental labourer
(derogatory) an Indian living in South Africa

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.


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