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Pali Dictionary


from: Pali-English Dictionary, ed. by T. W. Rhys Davids and William Stede, The Pali Text Society, Oxford, 1999

Scanned and edited in HTML by U Kyaw Tun, M.S. (I.P.S.T., U.S.A.). Not for sale. Prepared for students of TIL Computing and Language Center, Yangon, MYANMAR.

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List of Abbreviations

UKT notes :
King Sawlu multi-language inscription

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-- T. W. Rhys Davids

UKT 140506: I had scanned from the ink-on-paper book I had purchased, and digitized the following portion. It is a very heavy book and is in my research station in Yangon.

It is somewhat hard to realize, seeing how important and valuable the work has been, that when ROBERT CAESAR CHILDERS published, in 1872, the first volume of his Pali Dictionary, he only had at his command a few pages of the canonical Pali books. Since then, owing mainly to the persistent labours of the Pali Text Society, practically the whole of these books, amounting to between ten and twelve thousand pages, have been made available to scholars. [UKT ¶]

These books had no authors. They are anthologies which gradually grew up in the community. Their composition, as to the Vinaya and the four Nikayas (with the possible exception of the supplements) was complete within about a century of the Buddha's death; and the rest belong to the following century. When scholars have leisure to collect and study the data to be found in this pre-Sanskrit literature, it will necessarily throw as much light on the history of ideas and language as the study of such names and places as are mentioned in it (quite incidentally) has already thrown upon the political divisions, social customs, and economic conditions of ancient India.

Some of these latter facts I have endeavoured to collect in my 'Buddhist India'; and perhaps the most salient discovery is the quite unexpected conclusion that, for about two centuries (both before the Buddha's birth and after his death), the paramount power in India was Kosala -- a kingdom stretching from Nepal on the North to the Ganges on the South, and from the Ganges on the West to the territories of the Vajjian confederacy on the East. In this, the most powerful kingdom in India; there had naturally arisen a standard vernacular differing from the local forms of speech just as standard English differs from the local (usually county) dialects. [UKT ¶]

The Pali of the canonical books is based on that standard Kosala vernacular as spoken in the 6th and 7th centuries B.C. It cannot be called the 'literary' form of that vernacular, for it was not written at all till long afterwards. That vernacular was the mother tongue of the Buddha. He was born in what is now Nepal, but was then a district under the suzerainty of Kosala and in one of the earliest Pali documents he is represented as calling himself a Kosalan.

When, about a thousand years afterwards, some pandits in Ceylon began to write in Pali, they wrote in a style strikingly different from that of the old texts. Part of that difference is no doubt due simply to a greater power of fluent expression unhampered by the necessity of constantly considering that the words composed had to be learnt by heart. When the Sinhalese used Pali, they were so familiar with the method of writing on palm leaves that the question of memorizing simply did not arise. It came up again later. But none of the works belonging to this period were intended to be learnt. They were intended to be read. (roman-06)

On the other hand they were for the most part reproductions of older material that had, till then, been preserved in Sinhalese. Though the Sinhalese pandits were writing in Pali, to them, of course, a dead language, they probably did their thinking in their own mother tongue. Now they had had then, for many generations, so close and intimate an intercourse with their Dravidian neighbours that Dravidian habits of speech had crept into Sinhalese. It was inevitable that some of the peculiarities of their own tongue, and especially these Dravidanisms, should have influenced their style when they wrote in Pali. It will be for future scholars to, ascertain exactly how far this influence can be traced in the idioms and in the order of the arrangement of the matter of these Ceylon Pali books of the fifth and sixth centuries A.D.

UKT 140506: Long before Gautama Buddha was born, there had been overland routes between northern Myanmarpré and northern India across mountain passes. These overland routes were and are still very difficult to use. Nevertheless they had been there and are still being used even to very recent times by individuals and small groups of people. Surely there must have been in Tagaung (Myanmarpré) whatever literature there was in Kosala (India). What is intriguing is that Western scholars have failed to mention them. The languages in Kosala and Tagaung belonging to the same linguistic group would have the same vowel sounds, and it would be easy for a scholar of one area to pick up the language of the other. If the language in Kosala had been Magadhi, then Magadhi would have been in Myanmarpré long before Pali (the artificial language) had been brought from SriLanka to southern and then to northern Myanmarpré.

There is no evidence that the Sinhalese at that time knew Sanskrit. Some centuries afterwards a few of them learnt the elements of classical Sanskrit and very proud they were of it. They introduced the Sanskrit forms of Sinhalese words when writing 'high' Sinhalese. And the authors of such works as the Dāṭhāvaŋsa, the Saddhammo-pāyana, and the Mahābodhivaŋsa, make use of Pali words derived from Sanskrit -- that is, they turned into Pali form certain Sanskrit words they found either in the Amara-koṣa, or in the course of their very limited reading, and used them as Pali. It would be very desirable to have a list of such Pali words thus derived from Sanskrit. It would not be a long one.

Here we come once more to the question of memory. From the 11th century onwards it became a sort of fashion to write manuals in verse, or in prose and verse, on such subjects as it was deemed expedient for novices to know. Just as the first book written in Pali in Ceylon was a chain of memoriter verses strung together by very indifferent Pali verses, so at the end we have these scarcely intelligible memoriter verses meant to be learned by heart by the pupils.

UKT 041018: It is noteworthy that around the 11th century, a universal revival in languages and literatures seems to be taking place all over the world. That was the time of writing the King Sawlu's [discovered only in 2013] and Myazedi inscriptions in Pagan in Myanmar, and the development of an artificial abugida in China now known as Phagspa :
   "During the Chinese Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), Kublai Khan (1215-1294) asked Phagspa (a Tibetan Lama called Matidhvaja Sribhadra (1239-1280)) to design a new character to be used by the whole empire. Phagspa in turn modified the traditional Tibetian alphabet and gave birth to a new character called Phagspa characters. These characters were not well accepted, but served only as a way for Mongolians to learn Chinese characters and came to an end with the fall of the Yuan Dynasty. Adapted from:  http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Mongolian-alphabet

According to the traditions handed down among the Sinhalese, Pali, that is, the language used in the texts, could also be called Māgadhī. What exactly did they mean by that? They could not be referring to the Māgadhī of the Prakrit grammarians, for the latter wrote some centuries afterwards. Could they have meant the dialect spoken in Magadha at the date when they used the phrase, say, the sixth century A. D.? That could only be if they had any exact knowledge of the different vernaculars of North India at the time. For that there is no evidence, and it is in itself very improbable. What they did mean is probably simply the language used by Asoka, the king of Magadha. For their traditions also stated that the texts had been brought to them officially by Asoka's son Mahinda; and not in writing, but in the memory of Mahinda and his companions. Now we know something of the language of Asoka. We have his edicts engraved in different parts of India, differing slightly in compliance with local varieties of speech. Disregarding these local differences, what is left may be considered the language of head-quarters where these edicts were certainly drafted. This 'Magadhi' contains none of the peculiar characteristics we associate with the Magadhi dialect. It is in fact a younger form of that standard Kosalan lingua franca mentioned above.

Now it is very suggestive that we hear nothing of how the king of Magadha became also king of Kosala. Had this happened quietly, by succession, the event would have scarcely altered the relation of the languages of the two kingdoms. That of the older and larger would still have retained its supremacy. So when the Scottish dynasty succeeded to the English throne, the two languages remained distinct, but English became more and more the standard. (roman-07)

However this may be, it has become of essential importance to have a Dictionary of a language the history of whose literature is bound up with so many delicate and interesting problems. The Pali Text Society, after long continued exertion and many cruel rebuffs and disappointments is now at last in a position to offer to scholars the first installment of such a dictionary.

The merits and demerits of the work will be sufficiently plain even from the first fasciculus. But one or two remarks are necessary to make the position of my colleague and myself clear.

We have given throughout the Sanskrit roots corresponding to the Pali roots, and have omitted the latter. It may be objected that this is a strange method to use in a Pali dictionary, especially as the vernacular on which Pali is based had never passed through the stage of Sanskrit. That may be so; and it may not be possible, historically, that any Pali word in the canon could have been actually derived from the corresponding Sanskrit word. Nevertheless the Sanskrit form, though arisen quite independently, may throw light upon the Pali form; and as Pali roots have not yet been adequately studied in Europe, the plan adopted will probably, at least for the present, be more useful.

This work is essentially preliminary. There is a large number of words of which we do not know the derivation. There is a still larger number of which the derivation does not give the meaning, but rather the reverse. It is so in every living language. Who could guess, from the derivation, the complicated meaning of such words as 'conscience', 'emotion', 'disposition' ? The derivation would be as likely to mislead as to guide. We have made much progress. No one needs now to use the one English word 'desire' as a translation of sixteen distinct Pali words, no one of which means precisely desire. Yet this was done in Vol. X of the Sacred Books of the East by MAX MÜLLER and FAUSBÖLL (footnote 1). [UKT ¶]

The same argument applies to as many concrete words as abstract ones. Here again we claim to have made much advance. But in either case, to wait for perfection would postpone the much needed dictionary to the Greek kalends. It has therefore been decided to proceed as rapidly as possible with the completion of this first edition, and to reserve the proceeds of the sale for the eventual issue of a second edition which shall come nearer to our ideals of what a Pali Dictionary should be.

We have to thank Mrs. STEDE for valuable help in copying out material noted in my interleaved copy of Childers, and in collating indexes published by the Society; Mrs. RHYS DAVIDS for revising certain articles on the technical terms of psychology and philosophy; and the following scholars for kindly placing at our disposal the material they had collected for the now abandoned scheme of an international Pali Dictionary:

• Prof. STEN KONOW. Words beginning with S or H. (Published in J P T S. 1909 and 1907, revised by Prof. Dr. D. ANUERSEN).

• Dr. MABEL H. BODE. B, Bh and M.


• Dr. W. H. D. ROUSE. C - N.

In this connection I should wish to refer to the work of Dr. EDMOND HARDY. When he died he left a great deal of material; some of which has reached us in time to be made available. He was giving his whole time, and all his enthusiasm to the work and had he lived the dictionary would probably have been finished before the war. His loss was really the beginning of the end of the international undertaking. (roman-08)

Anybody familiar with this sort of work will know what care and patience, what scholarly knowledge and judgment are involved in the collection of such material. in the sorting. the sifting and final arrangement of it. in the adding of cross references. in the consideration of etymological puzzles, in the comparison and correction of various or faulty readings and in the verification of references given by others, or found in the indexes. For all this work the users of the Dictionary will have to thank my colleague. Dr. WILLIAM STEDE. It may be interesting to notice here that the total number of references to appear in this first edition of the new dictionary is estimated to be between one hundred and fifty and one hundred and sixty thousand. The Bavarian Academy has awarded to Dr. STEDE a personal grant of 3100 marks for his work on this Dictionary.

Surrey. July, 1921.


footnote 1. I) See Mrs. RHYS DAVIDS in J R A S., 1898, p. 58. - fn01b

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List of Abbreviations

UKT: The following are mostly PTS abbreviations.

General, Grammatical, Typographical

A. -- Abbidhamma texts
abs. -- absolute, absolutely
AHTD -- American Heritage Dictionary

BB. -- Burmese
BSk. -- Buddhist Sanskrit

combd. -- Combined
combn. -- Combination
comp. -- comparative, comparison, composition
cons. -- consonant
cp. -- compare
cpd. -- compound

der. -- derived, derivation

e.g. -- for instance

f. -- femmine
fr. -- from

ibid. -- at the same passage
id. -- the same
i.e. -- that is
IPA -- International Phonetic Association

lit. -- literally, literary

m. -- masculine

N. -- name
n. -- noun, note
nom. -- nominative
Np. -- name of person
Npl. -- name of place
nt. -- neuter
num. -- numeral

onom. -- onomatopoetic (words formed to imitate the sound associated with the objects or actions they refer to.)

pl. -- plural
poss. -- possessive
pp. -- past participle
ppr. -- present
pron. -- pronoun
PTS -- Pali Text Society

S. -- Sutta texts
Sk. -- Sanskritv
syn. -- synonym, synonymous

V. -- Viniya texts
v. -- verse
var. -- variant

° -- represents the head-word either as first (°-)
     or second (-°) part of a compound;
     sometimes also an easily supplemented part of a word.



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King Sawlu multi-language inscription

- UKT 140506

King Sawlu, son of King Anawrahta, had trusted his childhood friend, Raman, the son of his Mon wet nurse who had turned rebel, and had captured him. Even when Kyansittha came to rescue him he refused to be rescued. For this trust in a childhood friendship, Sawlu paid with his life when Raman executed him. 

From a newspaper report dated 13 December 2013

The stone inscription of King Sawlu of the Bagan dynasty was found in Myittha, Mandalay and is believed to be the earliest stone inscription to date in Myanmar, experts say.

This inscription is the first inscription in Myanmar made in multiple languages and included Myanmar, Sanskrit, Pyu, Pyu Sanskrit, Mon and Yun.

King Sawlu’s stone inscription predates the Myazedi inscription by 60 years, according to experts.

"Although stones had been inscribed during King Anarawhta’s era, there are only recasts of his stone inscriptions so you can say that King Sawlu’s inscription is the earliest inscription. Five languages were first found on the inscription and then another language was found later. So, there are six languages now. Experts are now studying the inscription," said Win Maung, a traditional architect.

The first three pillars were found in Petaw monastery in Myittha, Mandalay on November 17 and the remaining pillar was found on November 27.

One slab contains a total of 29 lines - 6 lines in Myanmar, 14 lines in Pyu Sanskrit, and 7 lines in Pyu. Another contains a total of 27 lines – 8 lines in Sanskrit, 15 lines in Mon, 4 lines in Yun.

According to the translation made by Mon inscription expert Naing Ba Shin, the inscription was inscribed in 1053 AD (Myanmar year 415) and it describes King Sawlu’s donation of a Buddha image, two smaller Budddha images, slaves, cows, farmlands, and rice.

The inscription includes curses and wishes and the pillar inscribed in Pyu Sanskrit stated that three Buddha images had been donated.

According to Win Maung, the last pillar found is believed to be inscribed with either Myanmar or Dewanargiri, an ancient Sanskrit language.

The inscription will be re-erected in the Petaw monastery, where it was found.

Go back Sawlu-inscript-note-b

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