Minor grammatical nit for Pali terms translated as phrases in English

Dear Most Venerable Amazing Awesome (etc) Bhante @sujato,

In reading SN 46.51 I noticed that e.g. uddhaccakukkuccassa (a singular?) was translated as the unhyphenated (dual) “restlessness and remorse” in English.

Now this is not a problem itself. The Pāli term is a broad compound and it makes sense to translate it as such. No, my issue is much more minor: the rest of the sentence was written as if that term were grammatically singular:

And what fuels the arising of restlessness and remorse, or, when it has arisen, makes it increase and grow?

It became a bit difficult to for me to read at first: “wait… what is ‘it’ referring to? Oh, I guess both restlessness and remorse?”

So here’s my request: please replace “it (has)” with “them / they have” in these cases (_ thinamiddhassa_, etc) where the English pronoun (it) is actually referring to what (in English) are multiple things.

And what fuels the arising of restlessness and remorse, or, when they have arisen, makes them increase and grow?

Thank you for your consideration! :pray:


No, you’re right, I’ll check these throughout.


I know it’s a tedious task, but it’s not a (completely) thankless one: Thank you! :smile:


It seems to only occur in a couple of places, and sometimes was correct already, so I believe it is fixed now. But yeah, keeping these things 100% consistent is not easy.

More of a musing, but I wonder whether we should distinguish between things that are a pair or list of items and things that are mere synonyms. Without wishing to invoke the dread “Ajahn Ampersand”, perhaps:

  • restlessness and remorse
  • dullness & drowsiness

The latter pair aren’t really distinguished, whereas the former definitely are. Of course there are grey areas.


Dear Bhante

I’ve taken a closer look at the Pali grammar in MN 43 which does in fact refer to the singular.

So taking a closer look at uddhaccakukkucca I found uddhacca = Skt. auddhatya which could be translated as out of balance and kukkucca = Skt. kaukṛtya repentence.

If I’m close could uddhaccakukkucca be translated as ‘out of balance repentance’ which is singular and therefore fits the grammar and I think generally accepted meaning?

From MN 43: uddhaccakukkuccaṃ pahīnaṃ hoti

Out-of-balance-[ Skt. auddhatya ]-repentance-[ Skt. kaukṛtya ]-to, direct-abandoned-to occur-it-does;

Kind regards Ani

It is a dvanda compound, i.e. a list of things made into one word. Pali is happy to compound words much more readily than English. The compound is treated as singular, even when it includes multiple elements.

Well, “out of balance repentance” is not a meaningful phrase in English. A translation translates, it does not merely substitute one word for another.

In context, uddhacca does not mean “out of balance”, it means “restlessness” or something similar. Nor does kukkucca mean “reprentance”. To repent is to perform an act of seeking forgiveness. That might be done as a result of feeling kukkucca, but it is not the same thing. Kukkucca refers to a feeling of disquiet or worry over something one has done or left undone in the past. For example, violating precepts, or failing to practice given the opportunity.

This is not a translation, it is a word glossary.

Translation is about conveying meaning. If someone wants to understand the linguistic structure of the Pali, they have to study Pali. For that, making a word glossary can be useful. But translation of a text and linguistic analysis of a text are two different things.


Ah thanks Bhante, so basically it should be one word in English correct? Or multiple words sharing one declension and because it contains only two words then in this example it is treated as a single?

So if we break up the compound by using ‘and’ then it can’t be treated as singular, hence the challenge if I’ve understood?

Indeed. A compound is simply treated as singular.

If you’re thinking of translation, don’t think in terms of one word mapping on to one word. That’s not how language works. You have to understand the idea in the source language, then understand how that idea is expressed in the target language. Sometimes the two languages use similar means to do that, sometimes they don’t. Analyze the source language first, get the details right. That’s the easy part. The hard part is, how would that be best expressed in the target language?


That’s what I’m trying to work towards, but in my own way of learning. I have started working on a glossary and have started adding my own interpretive translation under each line of my literal works.

Respectfully Bhante isn’t kukkucca a future passive particle?


Indeed it is. I have in the past assumed it was an abstract noun, but obviously you’re right, it is a future passive participle AKA gerundive. Thanks for that!

It’s from kicca = “(thing) to-be-done” = “duty”, so with the prefix ku- (“bad”) it has the literal sense, “thing-to-be-done was badly done”, or in English, “remorse”.


Thanks Bhante. So with this in mind how would this read as an interpretive translation for my own work?

uddhaccakukkuccaṃ pahīnaṃ hoti

Future restlessness/remorse is directly abandoned

If this is correct then to my mind it could refer to the trouble and remorse that can/might be created as a consequence of a restless uncontrolled mind?

What are your thoughts Bhante?

Sure, that seems fine.

Note that, while this is just a matter of choice, I changed the long-standing rendering of pahāna from “abandon” to “give up”. The reason is that in normal English idioms, we normally abandon something in a negative sense: “the plan proved unworkable and was abandoned”. When relinquishing something in a positive sense, we say: “I finally managed to give up cigarettes!”