ayah, noun

Forms:
aia, aiyaShow more Also aia, aiya, aja, aya, and with initial capital.
Origin:
Indian English, PortugueseShow more Indian English, from Portuguese aia nurse (feminine of aio tutor).
obsolescent
Note:
Also Indian English. Offensive to some.
1. A child’s nurse, usually a coloured or black woman; a term of respect for an elderly ‘coloured’ woman.
1806 J. Barrow Trav. II. 102The poor children scramble as well as they can among the slaves..each, in the better sort of families, having its proper slave, called its aya, a Malay term, borrowed, perhaps, from the Portuguese or Italian, signifying nurse or protectress.
1861 P.B. Borcherds Auto-Biog. Mem. 37I returned to Stellenbosch, telling..of what I had seen and experienced..to the amazement of my ‘ayah,’ or nurse, the kind, good-hearted Leonora, a native of Bengal.
1882 T. Hahn On Science of Language 36One word about the Dutch patois of this Colony...We learn this patois first from our nurses and ayahs.
1891 J.P. Legg in Cape Illust. Mag. I. 96‘Tiffin’ and ‘ayah’ are to be met with in England, but in the Cape they are more generally used.
1905 J. Du Plessis 1000 Miles in Heart of Afr. 88I required a wash-up as much as when (so runs the legend) my ayah once regaled me, a boy of two, on a dish of pumpkin, which I devoured, not with mouth and fingers only, but with eyes and nose and cheeks and clothes as well.
1913 C. Pettman Africanderisms 37Ayah or Aja,..was introduced by the Portuguese into India and was thence imported at an early date into the Cape.
1935 P. Smith Platkops Children 152Presently Katisje met another ayah an’ stood showin’ her the perambilator [sic]. An’ the other ayah said how wonderful it was.
1944 I.D. Du Plessis Cape Malays 47The Malays played an important part in life at the Cape during the 19th century. The women did the cooking and washing and acted as ayahs to the children.
1964 L.G. Green Old Men Say 133Some of the Cape families who have clung to their homes through the centuries have cooks whose great-grandfathers were slaves on the same estates. These old aias (from the Portuguese word aya) are treated with great respect. They carry the old Cape cuisine in their heads, from frikkadel and sosaties to geelrys and doekpudding.
1975 Argus 17 Sept. 28Mrs le Roux also recalls how her aia (nursemaid) brewed a wonderful gharra beer from the clusters of tiny berries of the gharrabos.
2. A title or term of address, sometimes used in conjunction with the woman’s first name.
1888 A. Brigg Sunny Fountains & Golden Sands 105We generally called her ‘old Ayah,’ a title she herself preferred, not only as one of some honour amongst the people, but as describing the character in which she liked to be known, that of a professional nurse.
1908 I.W. Wauchope Natives & their Missionaries 4A female Native was called ‘Meid,’ i.e. girl, or as a term of endearment ‘Ou-ma,’ i.e. grandmother or ‘Ayah.’
1953 U. Krige Dream & Desert 47When she started imitating Outa Adoons or Aia Rosie, they would laugh (including Outa Adoons and Aia Rosie) till the tears came.
1955 A. Delius Young Trav. in S. Afr. 100Frank told him that Outa and Aia were general names for more elderly coloured men and women respectively.
1981 F. Malherbe in V.A. February Mind your Colour 35The Coloured labourer, the farm-hand, has hitherto enjoyed the greatest attention in our literature...The relationship, ‘baas-boy’, with its ‘Ja, Baas’, and ‘Nee Baas’..should not necessarily be interpreted as denigrating — this also applies to the terms ‘outa’ and ‘aia’, the earlier forms of respect.
A child’s nurse, usually a coloured or black woman; a term of respect for an elderly ‘coloured’ woman.
A title or term of address, sometimes used in conjunction with the woman’s first name.

Visualise Quotations

Quotation summary

Senses

18061981