"Nautch house"/"notch house"

Grant Barrett gbarrett at WORLDNEWYORK.ORG
Sat Feb 7 12:16:33 UTC 2004

My limited resources at home concur with your analysis of "nautch" as
an mildly Anglicized version of the Hindi word for "a dance." Of
course, one of my sources is the dreaded Hippocrene Standard
English-Hindi Dictionary, which includes this typo in the front matter:
"As Q, in 'Quran,' the sacred boo of Islam." That's what I get for six

Nautch is also well-attested to in Hobson-Jobson as "a kind of
ballet-dance performed by women," among other things. Nautch-girl is
also there.

H-J "nautch" entry:

H-J "nautch-girl" entry:

Natch, this still doesn't rule out American notch-->nautch, or
conflation of the two. I'll make a note to look into this and to pass
it on to Jon Lighter.


Grant Barrett
project editor, Historical Dictionary of American Slang

On Feb 7, 2004, at 02:03, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:

> I see both "nautch" and "notch" in HDAS meaning "whore" (including
> "nautch
> house", "notch girl", etc.). No etymology is given for "nautch" but a
> "cf."
> directs one to "notch" where it is stated that "notch" = "prostitute"
> originates in the old (non-US) "notch" = "vagina".
> This etymology does not seem right to me.
> "Notch" and "nautch" seem to be the same word here. "Notch" is a common
> standard English word; "nautch" is not. Unless there is strong
> evidence to
> the contrary, one would have to take "notch" to be a respelling of
> "nautch"
> rather than the other way around.
> Standard English "nautch" of course is pretty clearly derived from
> Hindi
> (or related language) and it refers to dancing girls, in which sense it
> appears many times in US newspapers on-line far back into the 19th
> century,
> often with remarks about the indecency/immorality of the 'Oriental'
> dance
> styles.
> I am sure the stereotype (how well justified I don't know) of "nautch
> dancer" would have resembled "[near-]prostitute".
> Most likely this (and not "notch" = "vagina") is the origin of the
> "nautch"/"notch" expressions in question IMHO.
> -- Doug Wilson

More information about the Ads-l mailing list