MOONSHEE, s. Ar. munshi, but written in Hind. munshi. The verb insha, of which the Ar. word is the participle, means ‘to educate’ a youth, as well as ‘to compose’ a written document. Hence ‘a secretary, a reader, an interpreter, a writer.’ It is commonly applied by Europeans specifically to a native teacher of langua ges, especially of Arabic, Persian, and Urdu, though the application to a native amanuensis in those tongues, and to any respectable, well-educated native gentleman is also common. The word probably became tolerably familiar in Europe through a book of instruction in Persian bearing the name (viz. “The Persian Moonshee, by F. Gladwyn,” 1st edition s.a., but published in Calcutta about 1790–1800).

1777.—“Moonshi. A writer or secretary.”—Halhed, Code, 17.

1782.—“The young gentlemen exercise themselves in translating … they reason and dispute with their munchees (tutors) in Persian and Moors. …”—Price’s Tracts, i. 89.

1785.—“Your letter, requiring our authority for engaging in your service a Mûnshy, for the purpose of making out passports, and writing letters, has been received.”—Tippoo’s Letters, 67.

„ “A lasting friendship was formed between the pupil and his Moonshee. … The Moonshee, who had become wealthy, afforded him yet more substantial evidence of his recollection, by earnestly requesting him, when on the point of leaving India, to accept a sum amounting to £1600, on the plea that the latter (i.e. Shore) had saved little.”—Mem. of Lord Teignmouth, i. 32–33.

1814.—“They presented me with an address they had just composed in the Hindoo language, translated into Persian by the Durbar munsee.”—Forbes, Or. Mem. iii. 365; [2nd edition ii. 344].

1817.—“Its authenticity was fully proved by … and a Persian Moonshee who translated.”—Mill, Hist. v. 127.

1828.—“… the great Moonshi of State himself had applied the whole of his genius to selecting such flowers of language as would not fail to diffuse joy, when exhibited in those dark and dank regions of the north.”—Hajji Baba in England, i. 39.

1867.—“When the Mirza grew up, he fell among English, and ended by carrying his rupees as a Moonshee, or a language- master, to that infidel people.”—Select Writings of Viscount Strangford, i. 265.

MOONSIFF, s. Hind. from Ar. munsif, ‘one who does justice’ (insaf), a judge. In British India it is the title of a native civil judge of the lowest grade. This office was first established in 1793.

1812.—“… munsifs, or native justices.”—Fifth Report, page 32.

[1852.—“ ‘I wonder, Mr. Deputy, if Providence had made you a Moonsiff, instead of a Deputy Collector, whether you would have been more lenient in your strictures upon our system of civil justice?’ ”—Raikes, Notes on the N. W. Provinces, 155.]

MOOR, MOORMAN, s. (and adj. MOORISH). A Mahommedan; and so from the habitual use of the term (Mouro), by the Portuguese in India, particularly a Mahommedan inhabitant of India.

In the Middle Ages, to Europe generally, the Mahommedans were known as the Saracens. This is the word always used by Joinville, and by Marco Polo. Ibn Batuta also mentions the fact in a curious passage (ii. 425–6). At a later day, when the fear of the Ottoman had made itself felt in Europe, the word Turk was that which identified itself with the Moslem, and thus we have in the Collect for Good Friday,—“Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Heretics.” But to the Spaniards and Portuguese, whose contact was with the Musulmans of Mauritania who had passed over and conquered the Peninsula, all Mahommedans were Moors. So the Mahommedans whom the Portuguese met with on their voyages to India, on what coast soever, were alike styled Mouros; and from the Portuguese the use of this term, as synonymous with Mahommedan, passed to Hollanders and Englishmen.

The word then, as used by the Portuguese discoverers, referred to religion, and implied no nationality. It is plain indeed from many passages that the Moors of Calicut and Cochin were in the beginning of the 16th century people of mixt race, just as the Moplahs (q.v.) are now. T he Arab, or Arabo-African occupants of Mozambique and Melinda, the Sumalis of Magadoxo, the Arabs and Persians of Kalhat and Ormuz, the Boras of Guzerat, are all Mouros to the Portuguese writers, though the more intelligent among these are quite conscious of the impropriety of the term. The Moors of the Malabar coast were middlemen, who had adopted a profession of Islam for their own convenience, and in order to minister for their own profit to the constant traffic of merchants from Ormuz and the Arabian ports. Similar influences still affect the boatmen of the same coast, among whom it has become a sort of custom in certain families, that different members should profess respectively Mahommedanism, Hinduism, and Christianity.

The use of the word Moor for Mahommedan died out pretty well among educated Europeans in the Bengal Presidency in the beginning of the last century, or even earlier, but probably held its ground a good deal longer among the British soldiery, whilst the adjective Moorish will be found in our quotations

  By PanEris using Melati.

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