This article provides a textured history of the multivalent term “hindu” over 2,500 years, with the goal of productively unsettling what we think we know. “Hindu” is a ubiquitous word in modern times, used by scholars and practitioners in dozens of languages to denote members of a religious tradition. But the religious meaning of “hindu” and its common use are quite new. Here I trace the layered history of “hindu,” part of an array of shifting identities in early and medieval India. In so doing, I draw upon an archive of primary sources—in Old Persian, New Persian, Sanskrit, Prakrit, Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, and more—that offers the kind of multilingual story needed to understand a term that has long cut across languages in South Asia. Also, I do not treat premodernity as a prelude but rather recognize it as the heart of this tale. So much of South Asian history—including over two thousand years of using the term “hindu”—has been misconstrued by those who focus only on British colonialism and later. We need a deeper consideration of South Asian pasts if we are to think more fruitfully about the terms and concepts that order our knowledge. Here, I offer one such contribution that marshals historical material on the multiform and fluid word “hindu” that can help us think more critically and precisely about this discursive category.