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An early 20th century sepoy
A sepoy ( ) (from Persian سپاهی Sipâhi meaning "soldier") was a native of India, a soldier allied to a European power, usually the United Kingdommarker. Specifically, it was the term used in the British Indian Army, and earlier in the East India Company, for an infantry private (a cavalry trooper was a Sowar), and is still so used in the modern Indian Army, Pakistan Army and Bangladesh Army. Close to 300,000 sepoys were crucial in securing the subcontinent for the British East India Company, and played a prominent role in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 after it was alleged that the new rifles being issued to them used animal fat to grease the casing.

The same Persian word has reached English via another route in the form of Spahi.

The sepoys also served Portugalmarker in Indiamarker. Sepoys from the Portuguese Indiamarker, later, were sent to other territories of the Portuguese Empire, specially those from Africa. Later, the term "sipaio" (sepoy) was also applied by the Portuguese to African soldiers and African rural police officers.

Its Basque version zipaio is used by leftist Basque nationalists as an insult for members of the Basque Police, implying that they are not a national police but servers of a foreign occupant.

See also

  • Sepoy Mutiny (also Indian Mutiny or First Indian War of Independence)
  • Jawan, the word used today to describe a soldier of the Armies of India and Pakistan.


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