Meaning of ayah in English:


Pronunciation /ˈʌɪ(j)ə/

See synonyms for ayah on


  • A nursemaid or nanny employed by Europeans in India or another former British territory.

    ‘By 1753 you could find Indians employed as servants and ayahs, nurses for children, in the households of a significant number of the British elite.’
    • ‘When a deadly snake, a black krait, slithered into my nursery and my ayah [Indian nanny] ran screaming from the room, her ankle bracelets chattering in panic, it was Yah Mohammed who calmly killed the krait.’
    • ‘In the 17th century servants and ayahs were brought over by British families returning from India.’
    • ‘As was the case with black African slaves, by the end of the eighteenth century wealthy households in Britain employed Indian servants and ayahs.’
    • ‘She had been raised in India by an ayah, a native servant, while her father was away from home with his regiment.’
    • ‘There are sensors which sets off an alarm in the Council's nursery to alert the ayahs when a child is placed inside.’
    • ‘Her mother was brought up by ayahs, Indian nurses, and spoke Urdu as her first language.’
    • ‘In addition, she interviewed a range of medical practitioners including doctors, nurses, and ayahs in governmental and non-governmental organisations.’
    • ‘When an ayah tried to comfort the crying child, she inadvertently caused the scorpion hidden in its nightdress to sting repeatedly until the baby died.’
    • ‘Perhaps the biggest culture shock comes when newcomers from India realize that in America their personal army of cooks and cleaners, gardeners and drivers, ayahs and gofers is reduced to - I, me, myself.’
    • ‘I wanted to correct the impression that Indians there were only coolies and ayahs.’
    • ‘Every Wednesday morning, a large crowd of hopeful ayahs, cooks and drivers would sit outside the American embassy, praying that an expat would call them for an interview.’
    • ‘Is it because if we did it here the action would centre on maids and ayahs rather than wives?’
    • ‘What about the children of our chauffeur or our ayah?’
    • ‘The girlish heroine, whose name itself has a poetic touch, came with a retinue of five, her parents, a hair dresser, an ayah and driver.’
    • ‘My forthcoming book has a chapter about my ayah Mango, who played games and told stories in the garden.’
    • ‘I told the ayah to give her away in adoption and told my husband the child was stillborn.’
    • ‘Shantabai, the family servant and ayah since the girls were babies serves Baba and Veena their evening tea and witnesses something out of the ordinary: the two holding hands.’
    • ‘Young Rita, Alka's ayah, has been with them since she was sixteen.’
    • ‘Rima's dusky ayah, Asha, at eighteen almost a child herself, makes up the required third player in their games.’
    nanny, governess, au pair, nursemaid, crèche worker, babysitter, nursery nurse


Anglo-Indian, from Portuguese aia ‘nurse’, feminine of aio ‘tutor’.