Definition of ayah in English:


See synonyms for ayah on


  • A native maid or nursemaid employed by Europeans in India.

    ‘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



/ˈīə/ /ˈaɪə/


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