Etymology of sila

I hope this question finds you all well, and thank you for this wonderful resource!

I was hoping someone might help me with some research I’m (probably quite poorly) attempting.

I am looking for resources that discuss the etymology of the word sīla. From what little I can gather, it entered Pali from Sanskrit but I’m having a hard time finding anything on the etymology of the Sanskrit word शील / śīla.

Can anyone please point me towards any resources covering the etymology of śīla, or any general resources for Sanskrit etymology?

Much thanks in advance!

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Here you can find more information for your request:

Many of the standard handbooks on Sanskrit etymology and philology are in German. Do you read German?
For instance, a good place to start would be Mayrhofer’s Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindoarischen, II, 644:
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On the morphology, see also Wackernagel & Debrunner’s Altindische Grammatik II.2 p.862.


FWIW one thing i always found useful is the pāli word silā means ‘rock’- reminding us that our virtue must be solid like a rock.
I think this was actually a teaching of Ajahn Chah and is mentioned in his biography ‘stilness flowing’ (Jayasāro, 2017)
Anyway, tangent over :joy:

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Mayrhofer’s Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindoarischen is “industry standard”.

But if you want Turner as well: A Comparative Dictionary of Indo-Aryan Languages

Front matter of the Turner dictionary: A Comparative Dictionary of Indo-Aryan Languages, signs and abbreviations


The “PTS P-E dictionary” suggests:

cp. Sk. śīla. It is interesting to note that the Dhtp puts down a root sīl in meaning of samadhi (No. 268) and upadharana (615).

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Thanks for your input everyone, I’m going to have a look at the resources shared and bounce some ideas off you all :smiley:

I still have to clarify with some people since I am not entirely sure, but as far as I could make out for now based upon some short research, Western scholarship has suggested a connection of Pāḷi sīla with PIA roots k̑ei‑ and Old Indo-Aryan śay (“to lie; bed, couch”; see Pokorny, vol. I, p. 539-40 and Mayrhofer, vol. II, p. 613-4, 644, cp. Turner, p. 724).

This, however, seems to conflict with the Pāḷi grammatical tradition, which distinguishes between a root for words such as seti (i.e. “lies”) etc. ( saye appaccayalopo, vuddhi ca, seti, senti. sesi, setha. semi, sema. sete, sente iccādi [Padarūpasiddhi]) and one for sīla that is sīl (sīla upadhāraṇe’ti dvigaṇikassa sīla dhātussa atthe sandhāya vuttaṃ [Saddanīti]).

I believe Ven. Dhammānando (@dhammanando) can shed some light on the Pāḷi tradition and perhaps also the (for me at least) apparent discrepancy? I would be glad!

With mettā!