List of “San” Words and Other Pāli Roots

June 29, 2017; revised November 9, 2018

1. Pāli is a phonetic language. It does not have its own alphabet. Tipitaka was originally written down in Pāli with the Sinhala alphabet.

  • Pāli verses are composed for ease of oral transmission. Tipitaka was orally transmitted faithfully for several hundred years.
  • So, in many cases, root words are hidden in combined words in verses that were composed to rhyme better for easy oral transmission.

2. Rather than trying to find roots in Sanskrit, that is the way to find the roots. As I explained with evidence from the Tipitaka, the Buddha prohibited the use of Sanskrit words, or even to translate the Tipitaka to Sanskrit; see, “Preservation of the Dhamma“.

  • That is because despite some similarities, Sanskrit many words were composed to sound more “impressive”, without paying attention to embedded meanings.
  • For example, Pratītyasamutpāda is the Sanskrit term for Paticca SamuppādaPratītyasamutpāda sounds impressive but the meaning is not clear at all.
  • On the other hand, it is clear in pati + icca leading to sama + uppāda; see, “Paticca Samuppāda – “Pati+ichcha”+”Sama+uppāda“.

3. Pali words are combined in ways to rhyme better. By finding key root-words embedded in such “combined words”, one can easily figure out the meaning.

  • yadaniccam tam dukkham, yam dukkham tadanattā” verse appears in many suttas.
  • In order to understand it, we need to “expand it” or “unfold it”: “yad aniccam tam dukkham, yam dukkham tad anattā“.
  • Now the meaning becomes clear:  “anicca nature leads to dukkha, dukkha nature leads to anatta nature”; see, “Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta – Wrong Interpretations“.

4. The following are some examples of combination of words to make a verse rhyme better for oral transmission.

Naidham = na idham or “not the case”.
Ayamantimā jāti = ayam +antima + jāti or “my last birth”.
Nūppajjati = na + uppajjati: “will not arise”.
Cittappasāda = citta + pasāda; note the two p’s in the combined word that allow it to rhyme better.
Similarly in: Rupakkhandha = rupa khandha: “rupa aggregate”.
Aveccappasāda = ava icca pasāda or “faith that leads to overcoming tanhā (attachment)”.
Buddha = bhava + uddha: one who figured out how to stop existences (bhava) from arising.
Bhavanga = bhava + anga; intrinsic aspect of bhava.
Sakkāya = sath + kāya: good collections usually referring to the five aggregates. Sakkāya ditthi is the view that the five aggregates should be embraced.
Anāpāna = āna + āpāna: “taking in” and “putting out”.

Note the pronunciation of the following words sort of backwards to rhyme better:

  • Anāgāmi = na āgāmi: not coming back (in reference to not to come back to kāma lōka for a person who has attained the Anāgāmi stage of Nibbāna.
  • Anatimāna = na + atimāna: atimāna is “high-mindedness” and anatimāna is opposite or “humble”.

5. Just by knowing what is meant by the root “san“, many Pāli words can be understood easily; see, “What is “San”? Meaning of Sansara (or Samsara)“.

  • Note that some words are written and pronounced with emphasis on “m” rather than “n”, because it rhymes better that way; a good example is samsāra (sansāra) which can be written and pronounced either way.
  • On the other hand, sammā comes from “san” + ““, but always pronounced as “sammā“, because it rhymes easier that way; eg., sammā ditthi, sammā sankappa, etc.
  • It must be kept in mind that “san” has various levels. First one needs to remove ‘san‘ that lead to immoral activities that can lead to births in the apāyās; after one becomes a Sōtapanna, one should strive to eliminate “san” involving sense pleasures; after becoming an Anāgāmi, the goal is to remove “san” associated with rupa and arupa jhāna. I only stated “sense pleasures” in the Table.

6. I plan to add another table for Pāli words with a few more key “roots”.

Pāli Words with “San” Root

Pāli WordRootsMeaning of added
word
Meaning of whole word
Sammāsan + māmā means to "remove"associated with removing "san"
sammāpaṭipattisan + mā +patipattipatipatti is a processmethod or effort to remove "san"
sammāvimuttisan + mā + vimuttivimutti is complete releaseArahant phala; Nibbana
Sammantisan + mālike gaccā to gaccantiattaining peacefulness by removing "san"
samantanōsan + anta; rhymes like samanantaanta is enda process that gets rid of "san"
Sammā ditthiSammā + ditthiditthi is vision (here to see Tilakkhana)clear vision to see danger of (and how to remove) "san"
Sammā sankappaSammā + sankappasankappa are conscious/unconscious thoughtsthoughts to removing "san"
Sammā vācāSammā + vācāvācā is conscious thoughts/speechspeech to remove "san"
Sammā kammantaSammā + kammantakammanta is actionsbodily actions to remove "san"
Sammā ajīvaSammā + ajīvaajīva is way one livesliving style to remove "san"
Sammā vāyāmaSammā + vāyāma vāyāma is efforteffort to remove "san"
Sammā satiSammā + satisati is mindfulness (about Tilakkhana)mindfulness to remove "san"
Sammā samādhiSammā + samādhisamādhi is the state of equanimity (sama + adhi)state of samādhi resulting from removing "san"
Sambhavasan + bhavabhava is existence existence due to "san"
Sambuddhasan + bhava + uddhauddha is rooting outone who rooted out existence in 31 realms
Sambōdhistate attained by a sambuddha; Nibbana
Sambhūtasan + bhūtabhūta refers to satara maha bhūta creation of bhūta via "san" in the mind; The Origin of Matter – Suddhashtaka
Sammapaññasamma + paññapañña is wisdomwisdom to see the way to remove "san"
Samma-Sambodhi
(Samma-Sambuddha)
Emphasizing the achievement of sambodhi on one's ownreserved for the Buddhas
Sammattasan+mā+attaatta means the "truths leading to samma"steps in the Eightfold path
Sambojjangasan +bodhi+anga; rhymes as sambojjanga"anga" means factorsFactors that lead to Sambodhi
Sampajāna
(Sampajanna)
san + pajānapajāna is to comprehendto figure out defilements (san)
sammappadhānasan + mā+ padhāna mā is to remove; padhāna means "first"first to do to remove "san"
Sambandhasan + bandhabandha is to bind, associate withbind with someone/something with "san"
sambhāvitāsan + bhāvitābhāvitā is to useengage in "san" or sense pleasures
Sambhēdasan + bhēdabhēda means to quarrelfighting over pleasurable things or "san"
Sambhītasan + bhītabhīta means to terrify"san" leading to terror (in mind or in future births)
Sambhōgasan + bhōgabhōga means pleasurable things, especially foodsense pleasures
Sambhunjatisan + bhunjabhunja means to eat or consumeengage in sense pleasures
sammohasan + mohamoha is delusionextreme delusion
sampādesi / sampādetasan + pādēsipādēsi is to sort out and seeto clarify what is "san", as in "vaya dhammā sankhāra, appamādēna sampādēta".
sampahansētisan +pahāna pahāna is to removeto remove "san"
sampaññōsan + paññōpaññō means with wisdom, possessive of paññā attained wisdom to see 'san"
Sampajānasan + pajānapajāna is to clarifysort out or to clarify "san"
sampayōgasan + payōgapayōga is a clever plan to get something doneplan to access a pleasurable thing
Samphassasan + phassacontact with san (in the mind)Vedana (Feelings) Arise in Two Ways
Sampassatisan + passatipassati means to comprehendcomprehend "san'
sankiliṭṭha or saṃkiliṭṭhasan + kilitthakilittha is to defilemaking mind defiled by adding "san"
sankilesa or saṃkilesasan + kilesa kilesa are defilementsthings that defile the mind
Samsāra (Sansāra)san + sārasāra means "good"perception that san (things in this world) are good.
Sansēva
(Samsēva)
san + sēva sēva means to "associate"to indulge in worldly pleasures
Samuccēda
(as in samuccēda pahāna)
san + uccēdauccēda means to "remove from the roots"; pahāna is remove samuccēda pahāna means to "get rid of permanently"
saṃyōga or sanyōgasan + yōgayōga is to bindbound with "san" (to this world)
saṃyōjanā or sanyōjanāsan + yō +ja"yo' is to bind; "ja" is to producefactors that leads to bonds to rebirth process
samudayasan + udayaudaya is to arisearising due to "san"
Samutthānasan + utthānautthāna means "where it arises"Samutthāna citta is same as cittaja; where "san" originates (mind)
samvāsa or sanvāsasan + vāsavāsa live with live together; sexual intercourse
Samvara (Sanvara)san + varavara means to stop, avoidmoral behavior
Samvaddhasan + vaddhavaddha is to "grow"to add "san", i.e., defilements
Samvannanāsan + vannanāvannanā is to praiseto praise immoral acts
Samvattana
(Samvattati)
san + vattanavattana is to "drop"aiding in removing "san"
samvēdanā or sanvēdanāsan + vēdanāvēdanā is to feelfeelings due to "san": samphassa jā vēdanā
saṃvidhāna or sanvidhānasan + vidhānavidhāna means orderinggiving orders, organize (normally used mundanely)
saṃsaraṇa or sansaraṇasan + saranasarana means move around, travelwandering in samsara
Samyutta
(as in Samyutta Nikāya)
san + yuttayutta means "contains"Suttas in the Samyutta Nikāya explain "san" terms
Sancetanāsan + cetanācetanā is intention (in a thought)defiled thoughts
sanditthikasan + ditthiditthi is seeing, visionseeing "san" with Buddha Dhamma
Sangāyanāsan + gāyanā gāyanā is to reciteBuddhist Council where suttas describing "san" are recited.
Sangasan + gaga is to attach,attach to "san"
Sangatisan + gatigati is character, habitbad character/habits
Sanghasan + ghagha is to removeThose who have removed "san" belong to Sanhga; Nobles or Ariyas, but usu. include bhikkhus
Sāṅghikapossessive of Sanghaoffered to Sangha
Sangīta (Sangeetha)san + gītagīta is a poem, songmusic that bend mind towards sense pleasures
sankalpana or sankappa san + kalpanakalpnana means conscious thoughtsdefiled thoughts
sankhittasan + kittakitta is action (kriya)anything done with 'san' (defilements) in mind
Sansunsan + sûn (û rhymes like put)sûn means to destroycalming the mind via removing "san"
Sanvarasan + varavara is to stay away fromdiscipline via staying away from "san", i.e., moral behavior
sanvēga or samvēgasan + vēgavēga is speed or rapidityenhanced javana of a citta due to "san", i.e., highly emotional
sankhāra san + kārakāra is action (all actions are initiated via thoughts) Sankhara – What It Really Means
Sankatasan + katakata is a resultproduced via sankhāra; anything in this world
Sansāra (Samsāra)San + SāraSāra is good, beneficialWhat is “San”? Meaning of Sansara (or Samsara)
Santāpasan + tāpatāpa is heatheating of the mind due to "san"
Santutti (or Santhutti)san + thuttithutti is to remove: Arogya Parama Labha..ease of mind when "san" removed; but commonly used to indicate happiness
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