Pali / Sanskrit relationships to Semitic languages

Yes, but the root of samādhi is dhā, not s-m-d. I didn’t do a good enough job of explaining how Semitic and Indo-European roots are different. Give me a bit.

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When we write out “s-m-d” and “dhā” they look like they are both similar roots with three letters. The same can be said of “siv,” a Sanskrit root that came up earlier in the thread. Because “siv” and “dhā” have three letters each, they can look like a Semitic root, but they aren’t. They do look it though if you aren’t used to it.

s-m-d is different from “siv” as a root because s-m-d is three consonants with or without implied vowels. “Siv” and “dhā” are one syllable “words” (really, proto-words). They don’t function like the consonantal roots in Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, etc.

Does that make sense?



Perhaps a kindly mod could split this thread as it has now drifted away completely from the OP…

There’s too much going on here to unpick everything, but I’d add two points:

This is a widely-noted etymology, but there are numerous other plausible derivational pathways for Skt. sūtra- and Pali and Prakrit sutta-.

‘to put, to place’.


I understood this:
1-the Sanskrit, Pali words had really proto-words as roots.
2-the proto-words roots for the Sanskrit, Pali doesn’t make sense with both Arabic Language words and their roots.
3-we have some words in Quranic Arabic, Old Hebrew that has a similar pronunciation and meaning to words in Sanskrit, Pali [But not their roots].

3 theories can be deduced:
1-This is made out of Coincidence
2- Sanskrit, Pali have their words root from an older proto-Languge. and Arabic, take some of it’s words root from Sanskrit, Persian, Pali…etc. This will make some words in arabic had their root from Sanskrit, Pali
3-Quranic Arabic is an artificial language made from taking a lot of words from a lot of Languges, but depending basically on Pre-Islamic arabic. Just like Pali is an artificial langugae made from the Buddha Langugae, but based on Older Sanskrit (Regarding meters…etc).

Is the theory of coincidence a good one? or we have a better “proposals” to interpret these similar some words

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I’ve heard theories like this, but ones that explain Classical Arabic as a meeting point between a wealth of different dialects of Arabic languages. This is one of the reasons people speculate as to the wealth of various different ways to can pluralize the same word in Arabic – the idea being that these different declension patterns are the remnants of differing pre-Quranic Arabic, but that’s pretty much the extent of my knowledge.

Arabic might get several words as loanwords. Languages do borrow terms, it happens. The problem is when we see these same words in Ge’ez, Tigrinya, Aramaic, etc.

I’m adding this now for the purpose of other people who don’t understand the conversation we just had. This is from the Wikipedia article on Semitic languages:

The Semitic languages are notable for their nonconcatenative morphology. That is, word roots are not themselves syllables or words, but instead are isolated sets of consonants (usually three, making a so-called triliteral root ). Words are composed out of roots not so much by adding prefixes or suffixes, but rather by filling in the vowels between the root consonants (although prefixes and suffixes are often added as well). For example, in Arabic, the root meaning “write” has the form k-t-b . From this root, words are formed by filling in the vowels and sometimes adding additional consonants, e.g. كتاب kitāb “book”, كتب kutub “books”, كاتب kātib “writer”, كتّاب kuttāb “writers”, كتب kataba “he wrote”, يكتب yaktubu “he writes”, etc.

Honestly, this is the easier explanation most times. Languages produce many of what we call “false friends.” A good example is the term ṣaḥārā and sāgara, the deserts and an ocean. If they were related, one could think of the Sahara as an ocean of sand, but they just sound similar and are not related (or at least it can’t be proven). Similarly, why does the Chinese for ‘buddhavacana’ (佛說 fó shuō) sound like AAV English for “For sure” (i.e. fo’ sho’)? It is just a coincidence.

I always like to use this example for how languages are weirdly related. Arabic gets ليمون laymūn from Persian لیمو‎ (limu) via Sanskrit निम्बू nimbū. But look how distant apart these all are. Cognates between distant languages often are correspondingly different, especially if, unlike English and Sanskrit, they do not some from the same “family.”

We speak of these things as if they are directly descended from Sanskrit, but that is not quite true. Persian doesn’t actually necessarily “get” limu from nimbu. They are already related languages and we can see them as a progressive spectrum of related dialects. That being said, it is not blind guessing. We know that the English incorporated the word “chandelier” into their language later than “candle” or “cauldron” because it has a soft C rather than a hard C. This means it is not a Norman loanword and is instead a loanword from mainstream French (the English were ruled for a while by Normans who spoke a dialect of French, hence why English has so many French words in it).


The linguistics here are going over my head, but so far as samādhi, I wrote a short essay on that:

As for translation idioms, typically we try to avoid using terms that invoke specific religious connotations. For example, we prefer “talk” to “sermon” or “teach” to “preach”. Like all rules of translation, it is just a rough guidleine, for example I use “sabbath” for uposatha.

The reasons for avoiding “churchy” terms are historical and cultural, and may not apply in a different context. The Buddha himself adopted many “religious” terms, often redefining them, but in other cases he developed a new vocabulary.


What a fascinating thread! I couldn’t follow much of it :smile: but such a joy to read this discussion of language. Thank you all! :pray:


Thank you for linking this interesting post, Bhante. It might be worth making explicit though, that the noun samādhi- must formally derive from the root dhā ‘to put’ (Proto Indo-European *dheH): -dhi coming from the zero-grade root with the original final laryngeal being vocalised here as -i.

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ṣaḥārā is not an [Quranic] Arabic word. it may entered the Arabic at later times.

fó shuō has Hanzi related to it. 佛 doesn’t have (for) in it’s meanings. 說 doesn’t have (sure) in it’s meanings.
For Chinese, if relation was made between the pronounciation, meaning of a word with another word from another language, we must confirm that the Hanzi is corresponding to the meaning also.

this word is already identified as a loanword. it’s not in [Quranic Arabic vocabulary]. It entered as an arabized form of the persian word limu because it doesn’t have a word to describe it in Quranic Arabic.

Thanks, Ven. Sujato. I’ve read the essay, it’s very good and condensed.
Saamid in Arabic usually is an artificial form of the Plural form. the Plural form [Saamiduun] is the more existent, referring to a mind-state that is shared by a group of people which are located in one place, usually with minds detached from the state, time, location they are in. [a good example is: men standing after the friday talk is over, waiting for the preacher to start the prayers so they can pray. at this moment, they forget their state, dwelling in their minds about various other non-related ideas instead.]

this can be true for English. but for Arabic, the language was stable at the timeline of Quran. and then expanded later, taking words from other languages, but still the words of Quran form a base that can’t be ignored, without these words, we can’t establish dialogue or text in arabic language. even christians and jews, when translating into arabic, they use these words. (الله، الرحمن، الرحيم، الدين)
“Allah” word in arabic had been used by Arabic jews and christians to refer to the creator god they worship, not to refer to the creator god which is worshipped by muslims. in that since, “Allah” word was secular to refer to creator god, not considered Islamic word even through the eyes of Jews and Christians back then.

the quranic words and their roots are secular from the starting point, considered belonging to Arabs, not to the Religion which had grown among Arabs. these words are already used by Muhammad and used by his Rivals at his time. by Arabic Christians and Arabic Jews also. Quran is considered a dictionary full of vocabulary for Arabic language. Christians usually read the quran to be more familiar with Arabic language. so that their thesis be more understandable by Classical Arabic readers.

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I’m not sure what you mean here, sorry. Are you saying that you choose to believe that ṣaḥārā is also a laonword from Sanskrit on the basis that it doesn’t appear in the Quran? I will say that I don’t think that is good methodology. Arabic pre-dates the Quran.

Yes. I’m talking about false friends here. Just like sāgara and ṣaḥārā have nothing in common other than phonetics, fó shuō and for sure have nothing in common other than phonetics or “how they sound.”

Yes. I brought this up to show that it’s not innately out to lunch to be looking for relations between Sanskrit and Arabic, but that you need strong philological evidence, but that you should often expect the words to sound quite different between languages and be wary of false friends which sound alike but have nothing in common other than sound.


There’s something to be said arguing in favour of the “King Jamesy” buddhavacana translations from the late 1800s and early 1900s for fulfilling a need. A “Qurany” translation could serve the same purpose for Arabs. Arab Christians did not have a mainstream authoritative Bible translation into Arabic until the 1800s based on the rhetoric that previous translations could not match the poetry of the Quran, its beauty being framed as supernatural. Before the 1800s, believe it or not, most Arab Christians worshipped in Greek. It was only with the publishing of an “elegant” classical Arabic translation in the 1800s that Arab Christians had their “KJV.” So there is something to be said for “elegant” translations so long as they are also clear and accurate.

BTW, “vacana,” yet another Indo-European word that looks like a Semitic root, but isn’t one. Alas! On a different note, however, we see موت “maut” in Arabic, related to “mita(k)” in Ancient Egyptian and mūtu in Akkadian and mavet in Hebrew. Because we see Ancient Egyptian listed among the cognates, we know that this word is extremely old. This word is quite possibly related to Sanskrit/Indo-European mṛtyu because of it’s antiquity. It could well be an ancient, very ancient, borrowing. But there is little direct evidence.

We can see “mitak” attested in the Pyramid texts.

ankh ankh en mitak
yewk er heh en heh
aha en heh
ya inen makhent en ra,
rud akit em mehit
em khentik er she nerserser
em netcher khert
Live life, thou shalt not die
Thou shall exist for millions
of millions of years
For millions of millions of years
Hail, bringer of the boat of Ra
Strong are thy sails in the wind
As thou sailest over the Lake of Fire
In the Underworld

I have a pet theory that at one point, “suttas” were śrutas, things that you had “heard,” but that doesn’t explain the gemination of the T in Pali, which is more easily describable as a reduction of the “tr” that retains its timing unit.


Well, in Prakrits sutta- was equivalent to Skt. śrotra- ‘ear’, and śruta- (amongst other forms). I’m not sure one could convincingly make the same case for Pali sutta-. However, other options still exist.

evaṃ me suttaṃ
evaṃ mayā śrūtaṃ

The “tt” can be compensation for ū to u.

Hardly conclusive evidence though.

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Is this reading with -tt- well supported for forms that are (historically) perfect passive participles of the verb ‘to hear’?
The edited form here on SC is sutaṃ.

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Considering that you mentioned this word, it was one of the example words i wanted to discuss with you later.

in Sanskrit Shanti mantra:

asato ma sad gamaya
damaso ma jyotir gamaya
mrtyor ma amrtam gamaya

Saad means happiness in arabic سعد
damaso have an arabic equivalent of Daamis دامس (the character of Dark)
mrtyor: arabic equivalent is Mawt موت
Amrtam in arabic we have Umr Taam عُمر تام which means Full Age.

Sahara is not an Quranic arabic or Pre-quranic-arabic word. I hadn’t seen [yet] an attestation of this word in Quran or earlier arabic paleography. It’s obviously loaned, from where it’s loaned [I don’t know]. we see desert areas is expressed using البدو word Al-Badw[u] in Quran. coming from the verb Ba-da-a بَدَى which means seen [visually or non-visually], because the desert land is seen entirely without any buildings that masks the vision. then, arabic speakers used Al-Baadiya[h] البادية instead of Quranic Al-Badw[u] البدو.

I appreciate our difference of opinion, but the way you have me quoted has it looking like I think Sahara means “ocean.” This is your stance it seems, but not mine. As for this:

I think this is folk etymology based on false friends that sound alike but have no significant linguistic relationship. That being said, making an instructional pun between the two based on their similar sounds wouldn’t be “wrong” per se, but it’s not something backed up by significant evidence. Umr is its own word. It is not formed from negating “mr.”

I wasn’t aware! I thought the past participle had a geminated T because I had usually seen it spelled like that.

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I quoted you saying sahara is deserts.

but Desert in Arabic is Badwu, then evolved to Baadiyah. Sahara now is used to refer to deserts, but it is not of Arabic origin.

Umr in Arabic comes from ع-م-ر 'A-M-R :Aged
Taam in arabic comes from T-M-M which means: making full, complete.

You’re Welcome, Dear Sir.

Thanks to all of contributors into this Thread.


I would also like to echo Muhammad’s query regarding your recommendations for sources of information.