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

  • n. Offensive An unskilled Asian laborer.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An unskilled Asian worker, usually of Chinese or Indian descent; a labourer; a porter. Coolies were frequently transported to other countries in the 19th and early 20th centuries as indentured labourers.
  • n. A person of Indian descent.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Same as cooly.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A name given by Europeans in India, China, etc., to a native laborer employed as a burden-carrier, porter, stevedore, etc., or in other menial work: as, a chair-coolie, a housecoolie; hence, in Africa, the West Indies, South America, and other places, an East Indian or Chinese laborer who is employed, under contract, on a plantation or in other work.
  • Of or pertaining to coolies or a coolie, especially when under contract for service out of his own country: as, coolie labor; the coolie trade.

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

  • n. (ethnic slur) an offensive name for an unskilled Asian laborer


Hindi qulī, laborer, perhaps ultimately from Kulī, a tribe in Gujarat.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Hindustani क़ुली / قلی (qulī), which means "hired laborer" or "slave", from Turkish köle. Other forms occur in Bengali kuli and Tamil kuli, "daily hire." The Mandarin word 苦力 (kǔlì), was originally a transcription of the Hindi, and literally means "bitterly hard (use of) strength". (Wiktionary)



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