Green’s Dictionary of Slang

wallah n.

also walla, waller, whallah
[Hind. sfx wala, pertaining to or connected with, and comes in turn from the Arabic wal, proximity. It is the equivalent, therefore, of the Lat. -arius. Although found today as a single term, its 19C uses tended to be in combinations, such as Agra wallah, a native of Agra, banghy-wallah, a porter who carries loads with a banghy, or shoulder-yoke, howdah-wallah, an elephant accustomed to carry a howdah, and the Anglo-Indian competition wallah, those who entered the Civil Service competitive exams, established in 1856 to replace the old system of personal patronage]

1. a man, esp. in sense of a man who is pertaining to or connected with something, usu. a job.

Trial of Rajah Nundocomar 24/2: He was an Agra Walla; I never eat rice with him, nor he with me .
[Ind]W.D. Arnold Oakfield I 66: ‘Were you ever in the Lakes?’ ‘No, I’m a Suffolk walla. Do you know Yoxton’ .
[Aus]Sydney Morn. Herald 14 July 3/4: The competition-wallahs have made an inroad into the hitherto close patronage system, but the system of giving civil appointments even to those who are first in the competition race, does not go far enough.
[Ind]S.L. Blanchard Yesterday and To-day in India I 11: The ‘Competition Wallahs’ are not all new men: they include members of some of the best of the ‘old families,’ who have proved that they can fight their way as well as gain it by favour.
[Ind]E. Braddon Life in India I 279: The competition walla passes a stiffer examination in two or three months, and has for his place of study [...] some quiet Moffussil district where there is little or nothing to distract him from his books.
[UK]Royal Cornwall Gaz. 31 May 7/4: Yelling brats, who [...] refreshed themselves by pelting the poor tom-tom wallah with stones.
[UK]Star 1 Mar. 4/1: [headline] Diplomacy and the Competition Wallah.
[UK]Kipling ‘Pig’ in Plain Tales from the Hills (1889) 221: If the Editor had seen the stacks of paper, in Pinecoffin’s handwriting [...] he would not have been so sarcastic about the ‘nebulous discursiveness and blatant self-sufficiency of the modern Competition-wallah, and his utter inability to grasp the practical issues of a practical question’.
[Ind]‘T. Bland Strange’ Gunner Jingo’s Jubilee I 204: ‘Hi, Jingo! You’re the man! A stupid old sub of the old sort, none of your cursed competition wallahs!’.
[UK]M. Dyan Man’s Keeping (1899) 195: ‘The Inseparables’ [...] came in to superintend his toilet, accompanied by a ready-made clothes wallah and a barber [OED].
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 8 Dec. 34/2: I wasn’t much surprised to see how quickly Salvation had to sit behind lucre when, on the second day of my stay, a sawn-off old waggon of a ‘country-wallah’ made her appearance with a cargo re-consigned to Cardy from Singapore.
[UK]Lichfield Mercury 4 May 5/2: Bun Wallah—A soldier who drinks nothing stronger than tea, and is [...] supposed to eat voraciously of buns.
[UK]W. Muir Observations of Orderly 98: Mr. Fumigator-Wallah is not the least busy of the more retiring members of the war-hospital staff.
[UK]F. Dunham diary 10 Apr. Long Carry (1970) 170: The holder of this job was invariably termed ‘N.C.O. i/c shit wallers’ by his fellows.
[Aus]W.H. Downing Digger Dialects 10: base-wallah — A person employed at the base.
[Ire]Tales of the RIC in Blackwood’s Mag. 210 289: They are thus forced to go to the gombeen wallah, who advances them so much money [...] as a mortgage on the farm at a high rate of interest .
[US]S. Stewart ‘The Contract of Corporal Twing’ in O’Brien & Cournos Best Short Stories 327: You gospel wallahs is all alike. You give me the bleedin’ sick, wiv your trust and bloody faif.
[Aus](con. WWI) A.G. Pretty Gloss. Sl. [...] in the A.I.F. 1921–1924 (rev. t/s) n.p.: base wallah. A person employed at the Base.
[UK](con. WWI) R. Graves Goodbye to All That (1960) 132: You’re the bloody trench-mortar wallah, aren’t you?
[UK]M. Marshall Travels of Tramp-Royal 229: To tell you the truth, Scottie boy, the Toby’s gone to the dogs, it has. Wot with A.A. scouts, R.A.C. patrol men, speed cops, and them there dizzy hikers, curse me if there’s room for a reg’lar jungle-wallah.
[UK]G. Kersh They Die with Their Boots Clean 85: This here Salesman wallah is going to turn out pretty poor.
[UK]D. Davin For the Rest of Our Lives 103: How the hell are you, you big staff-wallahs?
[Aus]F.J. Hardy Four-Legged Lottery 150: He served as a draughtsman in what he described as a base-wallah’s job at Victoria Barracks.
[UK]W. Hall Long and the Short and the Tall Act I: It’s a carve up. A rotten carve up. Overrun with home postings wallahs.
[UK]D. Bee Children of Yesterday 202: A doctor had come and gone. He was an exhausted man, for Asian influenza had broken out [...] and of the hyperchondriasis and lamentations of duka-wallahs he was heartily tired.
[Aus]B. Humphries Barry McKenzie [comic strip] in Complete Barry McKenzie (1988) 74: It’s pretty standard for these artist wallahs to slip me a little something out of their studios.
[UK](con. WWII) B. Aldiss Soldier Erect 39: You’re in a tropical country. No buying any food off of these street-wallahs.
[UK]B.S. Johnson All Bull 218: I immediately complained [...] that the cookhouse wallahs had no doubt been putting the yard sweepings into the food.
[NZ]G. Johnston Fish Factory 57: Being a bit of a desk-wallah and a confirmed bureaucrat, Sidney Merryweather, building inspector [...] would readily agree.
[UK]J. Sullivan ‘The Long Legs of the Law’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] No. She’s not a part-time wallah. She’s got a career.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 20 Oct. 5: Tania, a media wallah.
[UK]Guardian G2 1 June 2: An 18-year-old self-confessed ‘work conchy’ [...] and ‘dole wallah.’.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 367: Curtis, chief jug wallah at the Conciliated Bank of Barbados.

2. an Indian soldier.

[UK]J. Hargrave At Suvla Bay Ch. xx: The Indian whallahs go up to the hills; ‘Jhill-o! Johnnie, Jhill-o!’.

3. a thing.

[UK]D. Nobbs Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976) 65: ‘I once had twenty-five warts.’ ‘Awkward wallahs, warts,’ said Jimmy.