Origin of the word 'Hindu'

Dominik Wujastyk D.Wujastyk at ucl.ac.uk
Sat Jun 26 12:44:20 UTC 1993

In message Fri, 25 Jun 93 23:53:15 BST,
  rajs at com.sgi.esd.lugano (Raj Sehgal)  writes:

> Recently I came across some discussion on the origin of this word - there appear
> to be at least two schools of thought - one tracing the origin to the Sindhu
> river (whose origin itself is also obscure) and the juxtaposition of 's' and 'h'
> by the people who lived west of the river. The other school of thought traces
> the etymology of the word to the Sanskrit 'hin' (violence) and 'du'
> (without)(which, from prior postings to this group, appears a little suspect!).
> Do we have any scholarly endorsements for either or yet another?

"Hindu" is a Persian version of the Sanskrit word Sindhu, the name of the
river aka Indus.  Cf. Sind.   Any decent English dictionary will tell you

The other etymology is nonsense.  There is no root "hin" to harm, nor does
"du" mean "without".  The root of words like ahi.msaa is "hi.ms".  This
attempt to etymologize Hindu as "Harmless" is part of a tradition of
didactic folk etymologizing that goes back to Vedic times.  As the history
of "Hindus" from Rigvedic warriors fighting the Dasas under Indra's banner
through the medieval fighting aakhaa.das to the Ayodhya mosque episode and
the current plans of the RSS and the BJP show, Hindus can be far from
"harmless".  Anyway, the idea of "harmlessness" and ahi.msaa arose and was
probably chiefly fostered amongst Buddhists and Jains.

I don't know where the "kush" in Hindu Kush comes from: I'd be interested
to know.  I've never heard "Hinduraj" as a name of those mountains, but
the suffix is just the Sanskrit "raaj", "to rule".

Dominik Wujastyk           Phone (and voice messages): +44 71 611 8467

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