Sutra, karma, and nirvana are English words derived from Sanskrit, and Pali has corresponding words sutta, kamma, and nibbana. Notice how these Pali words lack the letter 'r' but have double consonants instead.
The Pali language is primarily associated with Theravada Buddhism, as it is the language of the main texts in the Theravada Buddhist tradition (a collection of scriptures called the Pali Canon).
Sanskrit is a classical language of India that has played a significant role in the development of both Hinduism and yoga. Sanskrit is the language of many ancient Hindu texts, including the Vedas and Upanishads, as well as Yogic texts such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
In ancient India, Sanskrit was a scholarly language in contrast to Pali which was a language spoken by the common people. This explains why Pali words are often simpler to pronounce than Sanskrit words.
Pali and Sanskrit have many similar vocabulary words in common.
Pali words tend to be easier to pronounce than Sanskrit words, which often have consonant clusters and diphthongs (combinations of adjacent vowel sounds within the same syllable).
Many of the Pali words which come from Sanskrit have undergone simplifications such as assimilation (the blending into one of two consonantal sounds) or elision (the deletion of a sound). In particular, in many cases the ‘r’ sound which is present in a Sanskrit word has disappeared from the corresponding Pali word.
|mitta||मित्र (mitra)||a friend|
|dhamma||धर्म (dharma)||teachings of the Buddha|
|sacca||सत्य (satya)||true / truth|
|kamma||कर्मन् (karman)||action / karma|
|pāṇa||प्राण (prāṇa)||breath / life|
|passati||पश्यति (pasyati)||to see|
|cakka||चक्र (cakra)||wheel / circle|
|siri||श्री (śrī)||splendor / good fortune|
|taṇhā||तृष्णा (tṛ́ṣṇā)||desire / thirst|
|magga||मार्ग (mārga)||path / road|
|piya||प्रिय (priya)||dear / beloved|
|sāmin||स्वामिन् (svāmin)||owner / master|
|sukka||सुख (sukha)||pleasant agreeable|
|sutta||सूत्र (sūtra)||a text / scripture|
|paṭimā||प्रतिमा (pratimā)||an image / a figure|
|dosa||द्वेष (dveṣa)||anger / ill-will|
Some of the Pali words which are derived from Sanskrit have shifts in meanings, or additional meanings compared to the original term.
There are also many Pali and Sanskrit vocabulary words that are identical or very similar (aside from the scripts used to write them). Some examples of these are provided in the table below:
|ānanda||आनन्द (ānanda)||joy / happiness|
|dāna||दान (dāna)||a gift|
|citta||चित्त (citta)||mind / heart|
|pūjā||पूजा (pūjā)||homage / veneration|
|gacchati||गच्छति (gacchati)||to go|
|bheda||भेद (bheda)||separation / difference|
|bhavati||भवति (bhavati)||to be / to become|
|hetu||हेतु (hetu)||a cause / a reason|
|jīvati||जीवति (jīvati)||to live|
|mūla||मूल (mūla)||a root|
|bala||बल (bala)||strength / power|
|guṇa||गुण (guṇa)||a quality|
Both Pali and Sanskrit belong to the Indo-European family of languages, which also includes English, Latin, and several other European languages.
Sanskrit is an ancient language that predates Pali. Sanskrit is over 3000 years old, with the oldest known Sanskrit text being the Rigveda, which dates from the second millennium BCE. In comparison, Pali is a younger language, estimated to be between 2300 and 2500 years old.
In ancient India, Sanskrit was primarily used as a literary, scholarly, and scriptural language, while other languages and dialects were spoken by the general population. Those vernacular languages spoken during that period which belong to the same language family as Sanskrit are called Prakrits.
The relationship between Sanskrit and the Prakrits is similar to the relationship between the Classical Latin used by Caesar and the form of Latin used by the common people, known as “colloquial Latin” or “vulgar Latin.”
Many prefixes used in Pali are similar to the corresponding Sanskrit prefix.
In both of these languages, the prefix « a- » means “not”:
In both languages, the prefix « vi- » is used to express separation or opposition:
Certain languages are closely linked to a specific writing system, such as Chinese with its Chinese characters or Russian with the Cyrillic alphabet. In contrast, Pali and Sanskrit have been written using various scripts throughout history and in different regions.
For example, Pali has been written in the Thai script in Thailand, the Sinhala script in Sri Lanka, and the Devanagari script in some other places. However, for English-speaking readers, Pali texts are typically written in Roman script with some extra diacritical marks.
Sanskrit has been written using different scripts, such as the Brahmi, Devanagari, and Kannada scripts. Nowadays, Sanskrit texts published for English-speaking readers are either in the Devanagari script (also used for Hindi and Nepali) or transliterated into the Roman alphabet.References: