Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A curtain or screen, used mainly in India to keep women separate from men or strangers.
  • n. The Hindu or Muslim system of sex segregation, practiced especially by keeping women in seclusion.
  • n. Social seclusion: "Never have artists been more separate: their inordinate fame, wealth, drug use have driven them into luxurious purdah” ( D. Keith Mano).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A curtain, especially as used to conceal and divide women from men and strangers in some Hindu or Muslim traditions.
  • n. A striped cotton cloth which is used to make curtains.
  • n. A long veil, or other all-enveloping clothing, worn by women in some Muslim societies.
  • n. The state or system of social gender seclusion in some Muslim or Hindu communities.
  • n. The time between the announcement and holding of an election, during which any governmental activities that may be construed as potentially benefiting or promoting a specific political party or prospective candidate are halted or suspended.
  • n. The period after plans have been prepared but before the Chancellor of the Exchequer's annual budget is announced, when he refrains from discussing any matters which have relevance to the forthcoming budget.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A curtain or screen; also, a cotton fabric in blue and white stripes, used for curtains.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • In India, to screen with a purdah.
  • n. In India, a curtain.
  • n. A curtain screening women of superior rank from the sight of men and from contact with strangers.
  • n. Hence — The kind of seclusion in which such women live, constituting a mark of rank.
  • n. The material of which the curtain is made; especially, a fine kind of matting, or a cotton cloth woven in white and blue stripes.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a state of social isolation
  • n. a screen used in India to separate women from men or strangers
  • n. the traditional Hindu or Muslim system of keeping women secluded

Etymologies

Urdu pardah, veil, from Persian, from Middle Persian pardak, from Old Persian *paridaka-, from pari-dā-, to place over : pari, around, over; see per1 in Indo-European roots + dā-, to place; see dhē- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Hindi पर्दा, Urdu پردہ (parda), from Persian پرده (parde, "curtain"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The origin of the term purdah is: "Purdah or Pardaa Persian: پرده, Urdu: پردہ, Hindi: पर्दा, literally meaning "curtain" is the practice of preventing men from seeing women.

    Fascinating purdah hits the headlines

  • The reason for his decision to end his almost four-decade-long state of purdah is that he wants to lend his support to a new collection of his work, 40: A Doonesbury Retrospective.

    Garry Trudeau: 'Doonesbury quickly became a cause of trouble'

  • She has been brought up somewhat on Western principles; has kept but casual purdah; is unbetrothed at eighteen; nor would any orthodox prince marry her.

    Love and Life Behind the Purdah

  • The run-up to an election is known as "purdah", during which there is a ban on public money being spent on policies or announcements that could affect the result.

    Evening Standard - Home

  • Traditionally, there's something called purdah, which prohibits women from going to public spaces ...

    South Asian Women Caught Between Tradition and Modernity

  • The room was stuffy: the windows were shut and the green-and-white striped curtains drawn in purdah.

    God’s Country

  • It is wise in the hot weather to pull the purdah, which is the Indian way of saying to shut the door, in the face of a young and unattached girl with a tawny head and opalescent eyes; especially if the dust has long been undisturbed upon the threshold of the secret places of the male heart supposed to be entirely in your keeping.

    Leonie of the Jungle

  • [246] The purdah is the curtain separating the women's apartments from the rest of the house.

    The New World of Islam

  • During a general election campaign, civil servants go into what is called purdah, where policy-making is supposed to stop, to avoid politically sensitive announcements.

    Politics news, UK and world political comment and analysis | guardian.co.uk

  • Scholars have many ideas as to why the streets of Delhi are so unsafe for women — wide-ranging theories about the "purdah" culture (the seclusion of women) of northern India, and the region's history of war and conquest, with all its attendant raping and pillaging.

    Delhi Versus "Eve Teasers:" A Race Against Time

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  • in Urdu a poetic/archaic term for a woman's veil

    May 24, 2009