What does the term "Buddha" mean?

The most popular translation seems to be “Awakened One.”

I think that I read somewhere that the root word budh- means something along the lines of “intelligence” or “understanding.”

In some contemporary Indian languages, “buddhi” seems to mean something like “intelligence.”

Could the term “Buddha” primarily mean “One who Understands” as opposed to “One who has Awakened”?


Edit: What is the literal meaning/translation of the term, “Buddha”?

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A lot is possible here because the term was not used that much in pre-Buddhist literature. But at least Brhadaranyaka-Upanisad 4.3.16-18 and 4.3.34 directly contrast buddh with dreaming, so I guess the meaning of ‘awake’ is legitimate.


In the Dharmic traditions “buddhi” has the meaning of intellect, intelligence, wisdom or higher mind.

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Dreaming whether it is day dreaming or otherwise means a situation of not being realistic with regard to the true state of affairs.
Intellect, intelligence and wisdom imply an absence of ignorance. The Buddha transcended ignorance and realized the true nature of existence which is suffering.

Therefore, IMO the word “awakening” perfectly reflects the meaning of “buddh”. And, when the same term is used to denote a person we have the adjective of awakening - awakened - used with “One” which is reflective of the suffix “a” after “buddh”.
With Metta

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Hi Everyone. Just letting you know that I’m moving this ‘question’ to the Discussion area … I don’t think we are going to find a single, correct answer for this one. :slight_smile: :wink:


Idāni yaṃ vuttaṃ “Buddhaṃ saraṇagamanaṃ, gamakañca vibhāvaye” ti, tattha sabbadhammesu appaṭihatañāṇanimittānuttaravimokkhādhigamaparibhāvitaṃ khandhasantānamupādāya, paññattito sabbaññutaññāṇapadaṭṭhānaṃ vā saccābhisambodhimupādāya paññattito sattaviseso buddho. Yathāha –

“Buddhoti yo so bhagavā sayambhū anācariyako pubbe ananussutesu dhammesu sāmaṃ saccāni abhisambujjhi, tattha ca sabbaññutaṃ patto, balesu ca vasībhāva”nti (mahāni· 192; cūḷani· pārāyanatthutigāthāniddesa 97; paṭi· ma· 1.161).

Ayaṃ tāva atthato buddhavibhāvanā.

byañjanato pana “Bujjhitāti buddho, bodhetāti buddho”ti evamādinā nayena veditabbo. Vuttañcetaṃ –

“Buddhoti kenaṭṭhena buddho? Bujjhitā saccānīti buddho, bodhetā pajāyāti buddho, sabbaññutāya buddho, sabbadassāvitāya buddho, anaññaneyyatāya buddho, vikasitāya buddho, khīṇāsavasaṅkhātena buddho, nirupakkilesasaṅkhātena buddho, ekantavītarāgoti buddho, ekantavītadosoti buddho, ekantavītamohoti buddho, ekantanikkilesoti buddho, ekāyanamaggaṃ gatoti buddho, eko anuttaraṃ sammāsambodhiṃ abhisambuddhoti buddho, abuddhivihatattā buddhipaṭilābhā buddho. Buddhoti netaṃ nāmaṃ mātarā kataṃ, na pitarā kataṃ, na bhātarā kataṃ, na bhaginiyā kataṃ, na mittāmaccehi kataṃ, na ñātisālohitehi kataṃ, na samaṇabrāhmaṇehi kataṃ, na devatāhi kataṃ, vimokkhantikametaṃ buddhānaṃ bhagavantānaṃ bodhiyā mūle saha sabbaññutaññāṇassa paṭilābhā sacchikā paññatti yadidaṃ buddho”ti (mahāni· 192; cūḷani· pārāyanatthutigāthāniddesa 97; paṭi· ma· 1.162).

Ettha ca yathā loke avagantā avagatoti vuccati, evaṃ bujjhitā saccānī ti buddho. Yathā paṇṇasosā vātā paṇṇasusāti vuccanti, evaṃ bodhetā pajāyā ti buddho. sabbaññutāya buddho ti sabbadhammabujjhanasamatthāya buddhiyā buddhoti vuttaṃ hoti. sabbadassāvitāya buddho ti sabbadhammabodhanasamatthāya buddhiyā buddhoti vuttaṃ hoti. anaññaneyyatāya buddho ti aññena abodhito sayameva buddhattā buddhoti vuttaṃ hoti. vikasitāya buddho ti nānāguṇavikasanato padumamiva vikasanaṭṭhena buddhoti vuttaṃ hoti. khīṇāsavasaṅkhātena buddho ti evamādīhi cittasaṅkocakaradhammapahānato niddākkhayavibuddho puriso viya sabbakilesaniddākkhayavibuddhattā buddhoti vuttaṃ hoti. ekāyanamaggaṃ gatoti buddho ti buddhiyatthānaṃ gamanatthapariyāyato yathā maggaṃ gatopi puriso gatoti vuccati, evaṃ ekāyanamaggaṃ gatattāpi buddhoti vuccatīti dassetuṃ vuttaṃ. eko anuttaraṃ sammāsambodhiṃ abhisambuddhoti buddho ti na parehi buddhattā buddho, kintu sayameva anuttaraṃ sammāsambodhiṃ abhisambuddhattā buddhoti vuttaṃ hoti. abuddhivihatattā buddhipaṭilābhā buddho ti buddhi buddhaṃ bodhoti pariyāyavacanametaṃ. Tattha yathā nīlarattaguṇayogato “Nīlo paṭo, ratto paṭo”ti vuccati, evaṃ buddhiguṇayogato buddhoti ñāpetuṃ vuttaṃ hoti. Tato paraṃ buddhoti netaṃ nāma nti evamādi atthamanugatā ayaṃ paññattīti bodhanatthaṃ vuttanti evarūpena nayena sabbesaṃ padānaṃ buddhasaddassa sādhanasamattho attho veditabbo

Dear Venerable. Would it please be possible to also provide an english version of your post, as this site operates in english as the main language, and most members do not speak pali :pray: :slightly_smiling_face:


I am sorry, then I have to translate entire thing and I do not have that much of Pali knowlage.
I shared this because there is no available English translations for Khuddhakanikaya commentary.

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Thanks for you reply :slightly_smiling_face: It makes sense now :slightly_smiling_face:



Is there any sutta support for “Awakened one” as an epithet for Buddha? I thought it might be in the Dona Sutta, but it appears not.
“One who has developed wisdom” seems closer to the meaning of “buddhi”, though admittedly it’s not so catchy!

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I have no clue. But I have heard from unreliable sources of course, that the word “Buddha” has existed prior to the birth of Siddharta Gautama. Apparently people believed that the birth of a Buddha was imminent. Again, this could be a later invention.
With Metta


Are you able to convey the general meaning of the parts that you bolded?

I have had a similar thought as this too…
“One who has developed understanding.”
“One who has developed wisdom.”
“One who understands.”
“One who is wise.”
“Understanding One.”
“Wise One.”

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It seems the Buddha spoke directly to this question:
BBodhi translation SuttaCentral

BSujato translation SuttaCentral

It seems to me there’s an important nuance between One Who Understands and One Who Has Awakened. Arahants fully understand, but they follow, rather than open the path. They are not the birthmother.

So according to SN 22.58, the Tathagata or Arahant is one who originates the path, the one who first realises wisdom?

Thank you for this reference.
It does help define “what a Buddha is” in terms of a being.

But, your comment prompted me to clarify my question:

What is the literal translation or meaning of the word “Buddha,” independent of the Buddhist context.
What is the literal translation of “Buddha”?


…beyond birth and death.

AN4.36 where the Buddha was asked what he is?

"Just like a red, blue, or white lotus — born in the water, grown in the water, rising up above the water — stands unsmeared by the water, in the same way I — born in the world, grown in the world, having overcome the world — live unsmeared by the world. Remember me, brahman, as ‘ awakened .’


Beautiful citation, thank you :slight_smile: :pray:


In Classical Yoga there is a concept of Budhisattva (not to be confused with Bodhisattva), which means awakened wisdom, so I suspect wise or wisdom would be an accurate translation of the root.