What is the etymology of samyaksaṃbuddha/sammāsambuddha?

Samyaksaṃbuddha, sammāsambuddha, definitions of this term easily abound, but a linguistic etymological breakdown of the components of the term is harder to find.

What is samyak-? What is meant by -saṃ- here, doubtless the same -saṃ- as in saṃbodhi?

“Complete” and “perfect” seem artificial etymologies.

I am aware of an unsubstantiated, that is to say a “folk” etymology, that relates the saṃ- in saṃbuddha and saṃbodhi as well as samādhi (or possibly this applies to samādhi alone, I will confess that this is secondhand knowledge) to “sameness” via an alleged parallel Indo-European root, but I cannot substantiate this claim, is anyone familiar with this? Is it correct(ish?)? Where do the false assumptions lie?

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Possibly this:

(reflex. pron.) own MN.i.366; DN.ii.209; Snp.905; Ja.ii.7 Ja.iii.164, Ja.iii.323 (loc. samhi lohite), Ja.iii.402 (acc. saṃ his own viz. kinsman; C = sakaṃ janaṃ); Ja.iv.249 (saṃ bhātaraṃ) Pv.ii.12#1 = Dhp-a.iii.277 (acc. san tanuṃ); instr. sena on one’s own, by oneself Ja.v.24 (C. not quite to the point mama santakena). Often in composition, like sadesa one’s own country Dāvs i.10. Cp. saka.


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There’s a thread on this term:

Yes, it means the same, - that is, nothing specific in English. This prefix just can’t be rendered by some word in English, it just adds a slight shade of “reflexive completeness” to the meaning of the word it applies to.

So sambuddha and buddha essentially have the same meaning, “One who has comprehended”, - as do the nouns bodhi and sambodhi, and verbs bujjhati and sambujjhati.

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I thought ‘sammā’ meant ‘perfect’ and ‘sam’ meant ‘self’ thus ‘sammāsambuddha’ means ‘perfectly self-enlightened’ (i.e., without a teacher).

Does this mean everyone else has a teacher? What doesn’t mean for being an island unto oneself?

[quote=“Deeele, post:4, topic:5970, full:true”]

I thought ‘sammā’ meant ‘perfect’ and ‘sam’ meant ‘self’ thus ‘sammāsambuddha’ means ‘perfectly self-enlightened’ (i.e., without a teacher).
[/quote]I’ve encountered this definition as well, but I can’t find substantiation for it online that seems… is “folk etymology” wrong speech (lol)? It could well mean this, but I haven’t been able to find easy dictionary-type substantiation. A lot of the sites that have that definition I find suspicious. Hence my inquiry here.

Could this sense be conveyed, for instance in the term saṃbuddha, as “awakened by awakening”.

Well, to echo many of the comments here, we have the prefix sam-. Here this serves merely as a mild intensifier and need not be translated. You could, however, say something like “fully” awakened, etc.

It is sometimes interpreted as the different prefix sa- meaning “self, one’s own”. However this is unlikely, probably impossible, and is best treated as an “edifying pun” rather than a genuine etymology.

Sammā is apparently ultimately descended from sam + the root an meaning “going”. However this sense is entirely lost in the Buddhist usage, and it just means “right, perfect, proper”, etc.

Combining the two is clearly a euphonious reduplication. The idea of the sound sa or sam is very positive in Pali/Sanskrit, relating to the notions of truth (sacca), goodness (compare su- for example), fairness and equality (sama), completeness, harmony, and unity (sam), correctness (sammā), virtue (sappurisa), peace (santi), and reality (sat).

The best translation, therefore, would be one that captured the feel of a full, complete perfection, rather than trying to emulate it too literally.


After unsuccessfully trying my best :dizzy_face: last night to derive “self” from the 2nd sam in the compound, this sounds reasonable & a relief. :slightly_smiling_face:


Another example of compound where prefix sam- serves rather euphonic purposes, is:


paṭiccūppāda would just sound rather awkwardly, and sammābuddha as well.

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It is possible that, the origin of the word Sammasambuddha, the Pali word, is Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. It appears there as Anuttaram Sammasambodhim, describing the Abhisambodhi of the Bhagava Buddho. The word Sammasambuddhassa is in the famous ‘Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammasambuddhassa’–the Vandana-text. virtually every Nikaya text begins with the Vandana text. Even today each and every Theravada rite and ritual starts by uttering the Vandana-text three times.