Home > Delhi At A Glance > Origin Of The Name Delhi

Origin of the Name Delhi

A number of legends and stories are associated with the origin of the name Delhi. One legend states that Delhi is named after a king of Mauryan dynasty, Dhillu or Dilu who built a city here in 50 BC and named the city after himself. According to another legend, the city’s name has a Hindi/Prakrit base from the word Dehli (loose) because of the weak foundation of the Pillar of Delhi that had to be moved. The Tomaras used this word to refer to the city. Dehliwal were the coins that were in circulation in the region under the Tomaras. According to the Bhavishya Purana, a fort was built in today’s Purana Qila for the convenience of the four castes during the reign of King Prithviraj Chauhan, of Indraprastha. A gateway was constructed to the fort which was later named dehali. According to some historians, delli is the origin of the name. Delhi is the corrupted form of dehleez of dehali, meaning gateway or threshold. This symbolizes the city to be a gateway to the Gangetic plains. There is another theory related to the name which suggests that the actual original name was Dhilika.

Dilliwallahs or Delhites is what the people of Delhi are generally called. The Northern Indo-Aryan languages have several idioms in which the city has been mentioned, like:

  • Abhi Dilli door hai or, Hanouz Dehli dour ast, in Persian. It means that Delhi is still far off. This means that any task is still far from being successfully completed.
  • Dilli dilwalon ka shehar or Dilli Dilwalon Ki meaning Delhi is the city of large hearted people of the brave hearts.
  • Aas-paas barse, Dilli pari tarse, literally meaning it rains in regions around Delhi while Delhi experiences a dry spell owing to its semi arid climate. Idiomatically, it talks of deprivation surrounded by abundance all around.
  • Dilli hai dil Hindustan ka, ye to teerath hai saare jahaan kais a song of the movie Patang (1960) and is sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh.

Secret Behind The Name ‘Delhi’

You might be unaware of how Delhi got its name and still be wondering as to how Delhi was got its name. Several different possibilities give different origins of the name. The most widely known and accepted theory is that of the Mauryan King naming the city Dhilli or Dilu after himself after the established it in 50 B.C.

Tomaras, belonging to the Rajput, Jat and Gurjar dynasty that descended from the warrior of Mahabharata, Arjuna, identified the city as ‘Dhili’ meaning ‘loose’. The result of the weak foundation of the Iron Pillar was that this pillar had to be relocated. Evidences show that the coins used during the rule of Tomaras. Some historians are of the opinion that ‘dilli’ comes from ‘Dehleez’ or ‘dehali’ meaning threshold in Urdu gave Delhi its name as it acts as a gateway to the Gangetic Plain of India.

Humans inhabited regions in and around Delhi during the second millennium BC or at least during the 6th century BC. The present day Delhi is believed to be the city of Indraprastha of ‘Mahabharata’. Remnants of a minimum of seven main cities have been discovered in India’s capital city.

Significance Of The Name

The name Delhi is of great importance. The origin of this word might be the Persian word ‘Dehleez’ meaning threshold or edge. Some people also believe that Delhi was named so after the King of Mauryan Empire in India, King Dhillu who built this city in 50 BC.

Edwin Lutyens, a British architect, designed major parts of Delhi when India was under the British rule. That is why Delhi was known as Lutyen’s Delhi.

Delhi is located at the heart of the Indian subcontinent. So, there is a theory according to which, the name Delhi comes from ‘Dilli’ or ‘Dil’ that means heart.


Do you think Delhi is the most developing Capital in the world?