I was interested to know about term Guru, when it was popularized really in Western countries ? At first I was trying to do a google books search of a word which showed that popularity of phrase sharply increased in 1955. So first question would be what affected such increase in popularity of "Guru" in google books at that time ? My first guess is that because of movie "MR. & MRS. ’55 (1955)" where director and one of cast crew is Guru Dutt. If it is so then event is not related to "Guru" term as a teacher at all. And second question would be - When really Guru synonym of teacher was really popularized in Western culture / countries ? Was "Guru" term popularized because of guru movement and interaction with hippies at 1960s-1970s at Western Europe and USA ? Or some other event induced peak in term's popularity ?

  • 2
    Blame the British in India. Most Hindu loanwords come from that era.
    – David M
    Sep 28, 2019 at 23:42
  • Gurus in pajamas. Sep 29, 2019 at 18:52

1 Answer 1


guru a noun Etymonline 1940:

Generalized sense of "mentor" is from 1940 (in H.G. Wells); sense of "expert in something" first recorded c. 1966 in Canadian English in reference to Marshall McLuhan.

From this citation, guru pre-dates the hippies. Your reference to the movie seems unlikely as just an actor named Guru (1st name) was in it.

The OED says the following and dates early usage to ~ 1600:

  • A Hindu spiritual teacher or head of a religious sect. Also in gen. or trivial use: an influential teacher; a mentor; a pundit.

1613 S. Purchas Pilgrimage 500 They have others which they call
Gurupi, learned Priests.

Other synonyms and their dates:

  • catechizer (c1449)

  • mystagogue (c1540)

  • oracle (1548)

  • catechist (1564)

  • guru (1613)

  • director (1671)

  • swami (1901)

  • So seems that H.G. Wells has started everything in 1940 and hippies finished in 1970. Thanks for a very clear answer. Sep 29, 2019 at 8:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.