Lesson 14


14.1 Tracing a Word to its Dhātu

Since the dictionary is essentially etymologically arranged, it is quite straightforward to trace a word to its dhātu. This is best illustrated by example: find the word Vy-añjana in the third column of page 1029.

mfn. manifesting, indicating … m. a consonant … n. decoration, ornament; manifestation, indication … specification; a mark, badge, sign, token; … a consonant.

Since this entry is not in devanāgarī, follow the entry words backwards (towards ) until an entry given in devanāgarī (the outermost level of alphabetical order). In the middle of the second column is:

व्यञ्ज् vy-añj
… to anoint thoroughly; to decorate, adorn, beautify; to cause to appear, manifest, display;

This is the kriyā from which the nāman vyañjana derives. The next step in analyzing this word is to look up the two component parts of this verb, namely vy- and dhātu añj. In the second column of page 1028 is found:

व्य् vy
in comp. before vowels for 3.vi

Here is an example of vowel sandhi used in forming a word. In the third column of page 949 is the entry:

ind. … used as a prefix to verbs and nouns … to express “division”, “distinction”, “distribution”, “arrangement” …

Compare this with the sense of the upasarga vi- given in 7.B.1. The dhātu of vyañjana is given in the first column of page 11:

अञ्ज् añj
… to decorate … to celebrate … to cause to appear, make clear …

Compare all this information with the description of vyañjana given at the start of the first lesson. Now that may appear to be a very flowery description of what is simply a consonant, but in this complicated hi-tech age the profundity of simple things is often overlooked: the ability to form a range of consonants is what separates man from animal. A dog may be able to howl a perfect prolonged ū3, but can it embellish that to say “Who could fool you?”. Without adorning the vowel sounds with consonants there would be no language: without language there would be no mathematics or science, no history or philosophy, no culture or civilization — all this rich diversity is founded on the simplicity of vowels and consonants. Indeed, many scriptures speak of the creative power of speech, and that creation itself is spoken into existence.


14.2 Dhātu Entry Information

Turn again to the dhātu बुध्budh at the bottom of the first column of [page 733].

That the dhātu is printed in large devanāgarī means that it is a major dhātu; this is followed by the numeral “1”, which indicates that there is another entry Budh, which may or may not be another dhātu ( in fact it is a viśeṣaṇa listed in the first column on the next page). Next, “cl.1.P.Ā” indicates that the dhātu conjugates according to class-1 rules in both parasmai-pada and ātmane-pada; this is followed by the Dhātu-Pāṭha reference “(Dhātup.xxi, 11)”. The following two words, which are printed in light italic, “bodhati, te”, show the laṭ (present indicative) prathama-puruṣa eka-vacana forms, i.e., bodhati and bodhate for parasmai-pada and ātmane-pada respectively.

Next there is “cl.4.Ā.” which means that it may also be found as a class 4 ātmane-pada verb; “(xxvi,63)” is a Dhātu-Pāṭha reference; next “budhyate” shows the laṭ conjugation as a class-4 verb. The “ep. also P. ti” means that in the epics it may also be found conjugated in (class-4) parasmai-pada, where the form will be buddhyati. (Observe, just as a matter of interest, that the dhātu vowel remains unchanged when conjugated as a class-4 verb, but in the class-1 conjugation the vowel has the guṇa form; some other classes use the vṛddhi 1 form.)

The next eight lines show conjugations of this dhātu for other lakāra (tenses and moods) etc., before starting the English translations “to wake” etc. (Again simply note that some of the forms have the first syllable “re-duplicated” (e.g., bubodha) or prefixed with “a” (e.g., abudhram).)

Within the English translation section, passive forms of the verb are given, as also derivative verb forms. The last four lines show associated verbs in several other Indo-European languages.

Some dhātu entries give much less information, such as बीभ् near the top of the first column, whilst others give more information, such as √ कृ 1.kṛi at the end of page 300, but the overall format is similar.


14.3 Numbered Entries

Words having the same spelling may have quite different etymologies; having different derivations, their meanings will be quite different: in such cases, where entries have the same spelling, Monier-Williams numbers these 1,2,3, and so on. For example, turning to the second column on page 32, find the two consecutive entries for अनुचित

अनुचित 1. anu-cita, mfn. (√ 1. ci), set or placed along or …
अनुचित 2. an-ucita, mfn. improper, wrong, unusual strange …

Note the numerals and the different derivations indicated in the transliterated forms. The first is derived from √ 1. ci, which in turn indicates that there is more than one dhātu ci (in fact there are three); the second is derived from √ uc, which is found by looking up ucita on page 172c.

Further down the column are two entries for anucchindat which have different derivations from the same dhātu. Note that the numerals appear before the transliterated form, both here and in अनुचित above. Also note that these words do not have consecutive entries: indeed they may be separated by several pages, as we shall see shortly.

In the next column, observe that there are two entries for अनुज्ञा, which both have the same etymological derivation, but the first is a verb and the second a noun.

Turning to page 662, find the entry for pratipāṇa in the middle of the second column, where it is given as “–1. -pāṇa m. (for 2. see s.v.)” — now find the meaning of “s.v.” in the list of abbreviations on page xxxv (two pages before page 1). The entry for pratipāṇa that we are now examining is at the third level of alphabetical order, and we now need to find it at the outermost (devanāgarī) alphabetical order: this is at the bottom of the second column on page 667. Here Monier-Williams gives a clear reference to where we have just come from: where the numbered entries are widely spaced (five pages in this case), he usually, but not always, gives pointers to where the other entry may be found.

Be aware that the numbered entries inform you that there are at least two entries with the same spelling: for example, there are five entries for Cit on pages 394-5, and a sixth on page 398. It would be a useful exercise to find them.

Be warned that this numbering system is not perfect: for example, प्रज्ञा is indicated as a verb in the first column of page 659, and as a noun in the second column, but these are not numbered. Again, in the third column of page 401 are two entries for चेत्, but neither refer to Cet in 397c, which in turn does not refer to the other two. Although there are these inconsistencies, there are fortunately very few of them.


14.4 Misleading Words

Because of the etymological foundation of the dictinoary and its four levels of alphabetical order, some words may not be straightforward to find. We shall examine three such words here.


Turn to page 116: according to the heading words we should find aṣṭāṅga here. If we look down the second column there are three entries for aṣṭa, and in the next column aṣṭā, but there is no aṣṭāṅga, not even at the third level of samāsa . However, for reasons best known to himself, Monier-Williams has here decided to have a separate entry word for samāsa where the adjoining word starts with “a”: aṣṭāṅga is on the third line of the first column of page 117.


Turn to page 950: again, according to the heading words we should find vicāra in the middle of the second column. All the samāsa listed on this page are derived from वि on the previous page. The trick here is to escape out of the current level of alphabetical order to the next higher level: searching backward for the entry word under with these samāsa are listed, we come to वि on the previous page. This is the outermost (devanāgarī ) level — now remain at the level and search for vicāra. The next devanāgarī entry is विंश on 953b, and the page ends with विकल : continue forward at the devanāgarī level, looking for विचार . This will be found near the bottom of 958c where it simply refers to vi-car, and thus the entry word is found near the bottom of 958b.


This will be found listed as सत्त्व in 1138b, where it gives a cross-reference to page 1135 column 2: and indeed there it is listed at Sat-tva. However, if the word had not been found on page 1138, you would not have found it on this page, not according to the heading words which indicate that it is on the previous page. It is in fact listed at the third level in 1134c where it simply gives “see below” — this means scan forward over entry words (at level-1 or -2) for the entry.



These examples illustrate that the page heading words are a useful guide to get within ten pages or so of the target word, but that they can also mislead. This confusion arises because the page heading words may refer to any of the first three levels of alphabetical order: if the word sought is not quickly found on the expected page, then examine the heading words a few pages before and after. If the word is still not found, then examine entries at the next level of alphabetical order, until finally at the outermost devanāgarī level.


14.5 Difficult Words

Some words, because of their etymological development, are just plain difficult to find. When you have exhausted all the tricks that you know with the dictionary (see sections 12.5, 13.7, and 14.4), then consider the following:

  1. If it is a short word (one or two syllables) then it may not be listed in the dictionary at all: the declension of pronouns, for example is irregular and the only recourse is to lists of paradigms.
  2. If it has three or more syllables, treat it as a samāsa and use the sandhi rules to split it into parts at every syllable — this process may seem rather laborious, but it does get there if the word is listed in the dictionary. This detective work is illustrated with two words:


The word is not found as a samāsa under or यत्, and there is no entry word Yatā. So let’s split the word at ā: we could have yatā-atman, yatā-ātman, yata-atman, or yata-ātman. The first two don’t help because we have already found that there is no entry word Yatā — but there is an entry word यत. Don’t get excited: it is a guess and could be wrong. Nevertheless, following this clue to page 845 we find Yatātman in the third column — who would have guessed that it came from dhātu yam?


Having worked our way to the devanāgarī level of alphabetical order, we find the closest entry is स्वाधीन, but reading the text for that entry we find “svādhyāya, see p 1277, col.2.” And indeed there we find two entries: the first as a noun and the second as a verb.

Alternatively we could have tried splitting the word ourselves, working from the left again, to produce su-ādhyāya, sū-ādhyāya, svā-dhyāya, svā-adhyāya, svā-ādhyāya, sva-adhyāya, or sva-ādhyāya. Having found nothing useful under सु (five entries) or सू (four entries) or स्वा, we would have arrived at स्व and thus find the entries in 1277b.

However, this is not the end of the story: we want to find the dhātu from which this word derives, but cannot find adhyāya on page 23 where we would expect it. So we do the same trick again, starting from the left, giving a-dhyāya: but nothing suitable is found under (six entries), nor is the entry word dhyāya found. So we proceed to the next syllable: adhi-āya, adhī-āya, adhya-aya, adhya-āya, adhyā-aya, and adhyā-āya. Again we find nothing helpful under अधि (two entries), but under अधी we find the entry word Adhy-āya! Having found the word, we return to the devanāgarī level (अधी), and there the dhātu is given as √ i.


14.6 Dictionary Practice

Look up the following words in the dictionary and trace their etymology as shown in 14.1 (as an aid, the English equivalent is also given):

  1. अभय (fearlessness)
  2. पूर्ण (abundance)
  3. प्रत्याहार (withdrawal)
  4. अचापल्य (steadiness)
  5. चित्रकर्मविद् (skilled in painting)
  6. नातिमानिता (not too much pride)
  1. The grammatical terms guṇa (“secondary form”) and vṛddhi (“increase”) can be considered as degrees of strengthening of the three primary vowels. (See Lesson 10.A.2)