A historical region of the northwest Indian subcontinent bounded by the Indus and Yamuna rivers. It was a center of the prehistoric Indus Valley civilization and after c. 1500 B.C. the site of early Aryan settlements. Muslims occupied the western part of the region by the 8th century, introducing Islam, and although they later conquered the eastern part, Hinduism remained entrenched there. The Moguls brought the region to cultural eminence until their empire declined in the 18th century. The Punjab was controlled by Sikhs from 1799 to 1849, when it was annexed by Great Britain. It was partitioned between India and Pakistan in 1947.
Word History: Punjab, a region of the northwest Indian subcontinent bounded by the Indus River in the west and the Yamuna in the east, comes through Hindi from Persian panj-āb, “five rivers,” referring to tributaries of the Indus. Persian panj is closely related to Hindi pañc, pronounced (pŭnch), “five,” the source of our punch, a drink that originally contained five ingredients. The Persian and Hindi words are descended from Indo-European *penkwe, which appears in Greek as pente, as in pentagon, and in English as five. The āb in panj-āb comes from the Indo-European root *ap-, “water, river,” and is also found in our word julep, which comes ultimately from Persian gulāb, “rose water.”