Sanskrit and its gift to other languages

Sanskrit and its gift to other languages

One of the most important languages in the world, Sanskrit has a very rich and continuous known history of nearly five thousand years.

The “discovery of Sanskrit” by the West is usually associated with the memorable utterance of Sir William Jones in his third annual address before the Asiatic Society, Calcutta, on February 2, 1786:

“The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could not possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source which, perhaps, no longer exists; there is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that both the Gothick and the Celtick, though blended with a very different idiom, had the same origin with the Sanskrit; and the old Persian might be added to the same family”

Sir William Jones suggested for the first time in his book “The Sanscrit Language” that Greek, Latin and perhaps even Gothic, Celtic and Persian languages were related to Sanskrit.  This discovery led to the comparative grammatical studies of various languages. 

Since Proto-Indo-European language is only a theory and there is no solid evidence of a race or people who spoke this mysterious language, it is safe to say that Sanskrit is the Mother of all Languages.  Even scholars like Voltaire, Kant etc., believed that Sanskrit was the root of all Indo-European languages.

Sanskrit served as a link language not only within India but even outside in the South-east Asian countries.  Its influence on foreign languages and even on modem Indian languages has been vast and immense.  Sanskrit was a polished language of the elite Brahmins, the Shista-s of Aryavarta and was confined to the orthodox literary circles, but it was propagated throughout the mainland of Asia up to Japan and China by the Buddhists, and to South-east Asia through Saivism and Vaishnavism by Brahmins, though some Smrti texts prohibit sea-voyage to the Brahmins as against their Varnasramadharma.

During the period of Buddhist propaganda and later of Hinduism the link language was Sanskrit. In spite of its sophisticated nature, Sanskrit was regularly taught in schools not only in India, but even abroad, mostly by Brahmins. In India also Sanskrit was the link language used in the different regions. Post-Vedic religious texts as well as texts on medicine, astronomy, philosophy, art and architecture, and important literary works were written directly in Sanskrit itself in spite of the development of regional language.

The importance of the study of Sanskrit goes far beyond the aesthetic value of its literature. Sanskrit is the key to most of the branches of the study of Indian civilization and the contribution of this civilization to the development of human thought and culture are considerable.  The study of Indian classics is the foundation for the study of one of the major and ancient civilizations of the world.

One special feature of this Indian cultural inheritance is the unbroken continuity between the most modem and the most ancient phases of Indian thought extending for nearly 5000 years. Again, it is not an isolated existence. India had continuous and timely contacts with Babylonians, Iranians, Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese and Arabs, and has absorbed and assimilated the best from their civilizations without losing her own individuality.

‘If her basic culture survived these contacts, there must have been something in the culture itself which gave it the dynamic strength to do so, some inner vitality and understanding of life.’  ~ A.A. Macdonall

There are many words derived from Sanskrit to the English language, below are some examples of these borrowed words:

Root Sanskrit WordMedian WordDerived English Word
a (prefix  “not” ex: gochara – agochara)a (Latin)(Greek) (prefix  “not”)a (prefix  “not” ex: theiest-atheist
Agni (Fire)Ignis (Latin)Ignite
Aksha (Axis)Axon (Greek)Axis
an (prefix  “not” ex: avashya – anavashya)un (Latin)(Greek) (prefix  “not”)un (prefix  “not” ex: do-undo
Anamika (Anonymous)Anonymos (Greek)Anonymous
Arjuna (Charm of Silver)Argentinum (Latin)Argentinum – Scientific Name of Silver
Ashta (Eight)Octo (Latin)Eight
Bandh (bind around)band, bandage
Barbar (stammering)Barbaros (Greek)Barbarian
Barbara (Foreign)Barbaria (Latin)Barbarian
Bhrathr (Brother)Phrater (Greek)Brother
Chandana (Sandalwood)Santalon (Greek)Sandalwood
Chandra (Moon)Candela (Latin) (light / torch)Candle
Chatur (Four)Quartus (Latin)Quarter
Chitras (uniquely marked)Cheetah
Danta (Teeth)Dentis (Latin)Dental
Dasha (Ten)Deca (Greek)Deca
Dhama (House)Domus (Latin)Domicile
Dwar (Door)DoruDoor
Gau (Cow)Bous (Greek)Cow
Ghas (eat)Grasa (German)Grass
Ghritam (Ghee)??Ghee
Hrt (Heart)Herto (Proto Germanic)Heart
Jaanu (knee)Genu (Latin)Knee
Jagannath (lord of the world)Juggernaut
Jan (Generation)Genea (Greek)Gene
Jutas (twisted hair)Jute
Kaal (Time)Kalendae (Latin)Calendar
Kafa (Mucus)CoughenCough
Kri (To Do)Creatus (Latin)Create
Krmi-ja (red dye produced by a worm)Cremensinus (Latin) Qirmiz (Arabic)Crimson
Loka (Place)Locus (Latin)Locale
Lubh (Desire)Lubo (Latin and Proto Germanic)Love
Ma (Me/My)Me (Latin)Me
Madhyam (Medium)Medium (Latin)Medium
Maha (Great)Magnus (Latin)Mega
Makshikaa (Bee)Musca (Latin) (Fly)Mosquito
Mala (Dirt/Bad)Malus (Latin)Mal as in Malicious, Malnutrition, Malformed etc
Man (Ma as in Malaysia) (Mind)Mens (Latin)Mind
Manu (First Human)Man/Men/Human
Maragadum (Emerald)Smaragdus (Latin)Emerald
Matr (Mother)Mater (Latin)Mother
Mishra (Mix)Mixtus (Latin)Mix
Mithya (Lie)Mythos (Greek)Myth
Mrta (Dead)Mortis (Latin)Murder
Mush (Mouse)Mus (Latin)Mouse
Na (No)NeNo
Naama (Name)Nomen (Latin)Name
Naas (Nose)Nasus (Latin)Nose
Nakta (Night)Nocturnalis (Latin)Nocturnal
Nara (Nerve)Nervus (Latin)Nerve, Nervous
Narangi (Orange)NaranjOrange
Nava (New)Novus (Latin)Nova – New
Navagatha (Navigation)Navigationem (Latin)Navigation
Nila (Dark Blue)Nilak (Persian)Lilac
Paad (Foot)Pedis (Latin)Ped as in Pedestrial, Pedal etc
Pancha (Five)Pente (Greek)Penta, Five
Parah (Remote)Pera (Greek)Far
Patha (Path)Pathes (Greek)Path
Pippali (Pepper)Piperi (Greek)Pepper
Pithr (Father)Pater (Latin)Father
Pratiper (Latin)per
Prati Shat (for every hundred, i.e percent)per centum (Latin)percent
Raja / Raya (King)Regalis (Latin)Royal
Sama (Same)Samaz (Proto Germanic)Same
Sama (Similar)Similis (Latin)Similar
Samiti (Committee)committere (Latin)Committee
Sapta (Seven)Septum (Latin)Seven
Sarpa (Snake)Serpentem (Latin)Serpent
Sharkara (Sugar)SuccarumSugar / Sucrose
Shunya (Zero)Cipher (Arabic)Zero
Smi (Smile)Smilen (Latin)Smile
SrgalahShagal (Persian)Jackal
Srgalah (Jackal)Shagal (Persian)Jackal
SthaH (Situated)Stare (Latin) (To Stand)Stay
Sunu (Son or Offspring)Sunu (German)Son
Svaad (Tasty)Suavis (Latin)Sweet
Tha (That)Talis (Latin)That
They (th pronounced as in thunder,  they)Dei (Germanic)They
Thri (Three)Treis (Greek)Three
Tva (Thee)DihThee
Upalah (Precious Stone)Opalus (Latin)Opal
Upalah (Precious Stone)Opalus (Latin)Opal
Vachas (Speech)Vocem (Latin)Voice
Vahaami (Carry)Vehere (to Carry) (Latin)Vehicle
Vama / Vamati (Vomit)Vomere (Latin)Vomit
Vastr (Cloth)Vestire (Latin)Vest
Vrihis (Rice)Oriza (Latin)Rice
Yaana (journey, wagon)Wagen (German)Van, Wagon
Yauvana (Youth)Juvenilis (Latin)Juvenile


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3 Responses to "Sanskrit and its gift to other languages"

  1. Dyah  March 23, 2015 at 1:20 am

    We still use some Sanskrit words today both in local language (Javanese) and Indonesian, such as raja, surya, sama, manush, asrama, bahagia (baghya), batara/batari, etc. And in my family, we gave Sanskrit names to our children (Pandya, Samahita, Samasta,etc). But only few Indonesians who still keep this tradition since they prefer Arabian names recently.

  2. N.Gopala Krishna Udupa  July 16, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    Very useful and interesting article.

  3. Gaurav Dimri  October 11, 2015 at 6:36 am

    True…Sanskrit is the mother language. And that is because the Hindu empire ie. the Vedic empire was spread throughout the world in ancient times. It was only after the Mahabharata war in 3800 BC when the Vedic system broke down across the world, that the remaining populations who were clinging to pieces of their glorious past developed these other languages. That’s why these languages have their roots in Sanskrit.


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