Are eng. virile and pali viriya from the same root?

from PTS

Viriya (nt.) [fr. vīra; cp. Vedic vīrya & vīria] lit. “state of a strong man,” i. e. vigour, energy, effort, exertion


virile (adj.) Look up virile at

late 15c., "characteristic of a man; marked by manly force," 

from Middle French viril (14c.) and directly from
Latin virilis “of a man, manly, worthy of a man,” from vir “a man, a hero,” from PIE *wi-ro- “man, freeman” (source also of Sanskrit virah, Avestan vira-, Lithuanian vyras, Old Irish fer, Welsh gwr, Gothic wair, Old English wer “man”). Virile member for “penis” is recorded from 1540s.

how about vigor?

vigor (n.) Look up vigor at
c. 1300, “physical strength, energy in an activity,” from Anglo-French vigour, Old French vigor “force, strength” (Modern French vigueur), from Latin vigorem (nominative vigor) “liveliness, activity, force,” from vigere “be lively, flourish, thrive,” from PIE root *weg- (2) “be lively or active” (see wake (v.)).
vigorous (adj.) Look up vigorous at
c. 1300 (early 13c. as a surname), from Anglo-French vigrus, Old French vigoros “strong, robust, powerful” (12c., Modern French vigoreux), from Medieval Latin vigorosus, from Latin vigere “be lively, flourish, thrive” (see vigor). Related: Vigorously.
vigour (n.) Look up vigour at
chiefly British English spelling of vigor (q.v.); for spelling, see -or.


Viriya and virile are. Viriya comes from vīra ‘mighty one, hero’, virile comes from vir ‘man’, both words having very similar phonetic appearance and meaning roughly the same things; in fact, vir is even mentioned as one of the cognates for vīra. Cf. also the archaic English weregild ‘man’s price’ and English werewolf ‘man wolf’. The hypothetical Proto-Indo-European word form is wiHrós, derived from *weyh₁- ‘to hunt’. so the earliest reconstructed meaning of the word is ‘hunter’: a pretty far cry from *weg- in the Proto-Indo-European language. Since the words look kind of similar and one may argue that their semantics can ultimately be shown as related, before looking into the rules of phonological changes in Indo-European roots it is not ruled out they could have been related in a still earlier language stratum. However, the current state of the historical linguistics does not really allow to reconstruct this stage with any certainty, e.g. the hypothetical reconstruction of Proto-Nostratic roots has been subject to substantial criticism in the past decades. So, it is safer to say vigour is not related to viriya and virile.

tl;dr: viriya and virile are related, viriya-virile and vigour are most likely not.

P.S.: a dicitionary giving the infinitive as the base form for Latin verbs is so-o-o-o-o not posh :older_man:


That virile and viriya share the same root, it’s surprising no one seems to use that word for english translation. Bodhi uses “energy”, Ven. T “persistence” as I recall.

for “virile” Wordweb gives:

  1. Characterized by energy and vigor • a virile and ever stronger free society • a new and virile leadership

  1. Characteristic of a man • a deep virile voice
    male, manful, manlike, manly

  1. (of a male) capable of copulation
    Noun: virility, virileness
    Verb: virilize
    Adverb: virilely

I suppose #3 is why “virile” as an eng. translation is not used. I’ve always felt “energy” and “persistence” were too generic, not really answering the question of “how energetic, to what extent persistent”?

“Virility”, in it’s full scope, answers those questions (of how much, to what extent). I think we all remember what it was like to be a teenager with raging hormones, compared to an ill or old feeble person devoid of energy, persistence, virility.

There was a study once where they starved male cockroaches, and then presented the males with two options. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or sex with female cockroaches. I thought they would go for the PBJ first, but no, they unanimously opted for the female cockroaches. I think this says something about viriya that ‘energy’ and ‘persistence’ don’t convey.

I may be wrong since I am not a native speaker, but for me virile has a rather strong - albeit implicit - sexual flavour, so I personally wouldn’t use the word in my translations.

But isn’t reproductive potency part of viriya as well? At least in the Hindu sanskrit definition:


Vīrya (Sanskrit वीर्य) literally means “state of a strong man”[1] or “manliness.”[2] In Hindu Vedic literature, the term is often associated with heroism and virility. In Brahmacharya in Hinduism, Virya also refers to semen in a male and it is considered to be the ‘vital fluid’. Loss of Virya from the body is avoided in Brahmacharya.

I wonder if the use of “virya” was semen predates Buddhism?
I’m not aware of that usage in the suttas, otherwise we’d see it in PTS.
In the vinaya sangha disesa #1, the rule about intentional emission of semen, the words are:

sukka - vissaṭṭhi

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