This is my first post here on an unwelcome situation in India, described by a word, "Ragging".

Wikipedia article states that:

"Ragging is a practice similar to hazing in educational institutions. The word is mainly used in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka."

With several meanings of the word "Rag",

OED states that it also means:

  1. A programme of stunts, parades, and other entertainments organized by students to raise money for charity
    1.1 A boisterous prank or practical joke.

Longman's Online Dictionary: ragging: (British English old-fashioned) to laugh at someone or play tricks on them [= tease]

My questions are:

  1. Is there any other equivalent word for "Ragging" in English?
  2. (correct me if I am wrong) "Ragging" is formed from the word "Rag".
  3. If anyone had ever used the word "Ragging" in UK or US (in the context related to the meaning used in India)? (its history of usage)
  4. If the word "Ragging" is British English old-fashioned, then why this word is still being used in India?

P.S. Please edit my post for punctuation and grammatical errors, if any.

  • Wikipedia extract covers the subject : Ragging in India: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragging_in_India
    – user66974
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 11:12
  • 1
    In that usage, I would expect it to be understood in the UK, but almost never used. It would be seen as hopelessly archaic, and probably indicate a very privileged person who is very out of touch with the modern world. So you could imagine someone like the prime-minister using it, but very few other people, but it would be understood.
    – Dan
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 19:35
  • 1
    For all those saying that it's unknown in the UK, most university's use rag still, though the meaning may be slightly lost. That's approximately 2.3m people in the UK who hear "rag" in almost this context on a regular basis, and millions more who will remember.
    – Ben
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 23:44
  • Bullying = Ragging , similar to ragging i think so. Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 4:58
  • Our university certainly used to have a "Rag Week" where students used to play lots of pranks on lecturers. I believe you could pay some money to get beer delivered to class too and you would be permitted to drink it during this week.
    – Ilythya
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 11:32

8 Answers 8


Ragging is the present participle of verb (rag- to scold). Ragging is similar to but not the same as hazing.

Ragging in India is synonymous with bullying, the act of intimidating someone.

Why it is being used in India => While ragging may indeed have started out as a term for teasing (British- to play rough/boisterous practical joke on sb).

Constantly and gradually the Standard Englsih usage keeps on changing, and as such certain expressions become outdated or archaic.
But since there's lack of direct contact with native speakers, Average InE users are generally not even aware that expressions can die too.

Ragging is now an archaic term for the native speakers (the answers/dictionaries testifies it). It went out of style decades ago, about the time the British left India, but ragging as a synonym for bullying has prevailed. Such usage is considered Indianism.

History of recorded usage- -(Collins dictionary)

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An example of Indianism- Eve-teasing ~ molestation/sexual harassment.

  • Just a few days ago only, I learned that the word "eve-teasing" is an example of Indianism and euphemism used in India.
    – a.s.
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 6:10

I recall back in the 70's (in the US), my friends and I using the term ragging when we meant someone was picking on / harassing us.


The British influence is no long all encompassing on InE. Since the teachers in India are themselves not native speakers of the language, they fail to bring in the native flavor, and the usage at times is archaic or direct translations from the native tongue.

However, if we examine the print media, the usage of terms such as eve-teasing and ragging is rampant.

These examples are an Indian adoption of standard English.

  • +1 for at least attempting to explain why the term ragging prevails in India.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 17:03
  • In India, we should be using AmE or BrE? Or, it's a subjective matter of choice? as far as I know, Indian Newspaper spell words as per BrE and government proceedings, documents too are printed in BrE.
    – a.s.
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 7:09
  • Yes, predominantly BrE. However, the AmE is making inroads through Hollywood and the new generation is particularly more attuned to the AmE.
    – Manish
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 13:49

I am a little confused by your question. You appear to have answered most of it yourself.

  1. This is is also called hazing. (see your Wikipedia excerpt)
  2. It is probably derived from rag. (see your OED excerpt)
  3. The dictionary says it has been used. (see your Longman's excerpt)
  4. Many English speakers in India learned from the British colonists; it's why the English accent of many Indians tends to be most similar to the British English accent.
  • I didn't notice it.I will make it sure next time before asking something.
    – a.s.
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 14:47

Ragging was a schoolboy (mostly public school) word for teasing, playing practical jokes on, and so forth (you could certainly rag a master, but care was needed). It was still in use when I was at school, but has probably died out by now in England, save for those who deliberately use archaic slang.

  1. I would expect a native English speaker to be able to work out the meaning from the context (if the writing is informal) and otherwise use the intended synonym (bullying, practical joking etc.)

  2. Yes. "Ragging" is formed from the word "Rag".

  3. The OED definition you gave reminded me of "Rag Week" at just about any UK university. Basically the Student Union would organise an event lasting one week with concerts, pub crawls etc. and produce the rag magazine including the schedule, and some jokes as a way or raising money for the Student Union. An example of a rag week stunt is a competition how far can you go from Plymouth, UK for free (Cyprus) or stopping all traffic lights and collecting money in exchange for a green light (the police came in the end). This tradition was still going strong in 1990.

  4. Same reason the English use French, Indian and Latin words: living languages are dynamic and frequently adopt words from other cultures.


I experienced the same when I was in grade/high school (80s/90s) in Canada, and have heard my father using 'ragging' in the same context, so we know it's been in use in the meaning of teasing, tormenting, or otherwise psychologically damaging your fellow classmates ;) for years.


In the US, to "rag" on someone is to criticize or nag them. This is an old term, used by my parents (who were born ca 1910).

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