from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A housemaid or children's nurse in South Asia.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In the East Indies, a native waiting-woman or lady's-maid; a nurse.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun India A native nurse for children; also, a lady's maid.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A native female servant or maid, especially working for Europeans in South Asia.

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

  • noun (in India) a native nursemaid who looks after children


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

[Hindi āyā, from Portuguese aia, nursemaid, from Latin avia, grandmother; see awo- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From various Indian languages, after Portuguese aia ("nurse, governess"), feminine of aio ("tutor").


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  • "If ladies did not want to eat in the mess a cook would bring them meals in their tent and they were usually attended by an ayah (maid) and other domestic servants who would sweep and clean their tents, shooing away unwanted visitors such as rats and cockroaches..." (p. 56)

    "'I am not praising myself, dear Mama, but only wish you to know that it is quite possible for a lady to exert herself in this Country. I keep no ayah ladies' maid, which diminishes the expenses of our establishment not a little. Hannay often insists on my having one, but I will not indulge in such laziness unless obliged by ill health.'"

    —Annabel Venning, Following the Drum: The Lives of Army Wives and Daughters Past and Present (London: Headline, 2005), 71

    May 5, 2010