Sanskrit Translation

mhcrxlc at mhcrxlc at
Thu Oct 12 08:27:26 UTC 1995

Ema Thurairajah writes:

>I am looking for the meaning of the Sanskrit word "Sutra."
>I know that it is ususally used to mean "story" or more particularly,
>"short story."
>I would be interested to know if it also means "Thread," as in "the
>thread of a story."

The original meaning of suutra is no doubt 'thread', but this was early
extended to apply to a specific statement in e.g. a grammatical text. I
have always supposed that the intended metaphor here is that the individual
suutras relate to the grammar as a whole as threads to a piece of cloth. If
so, this is a somewhat similar metaphor to that of the thread of a story,
but not quite the same.

The complication here is that in Middle Indian such forms as the Pali sutta
probably derive (so Richard Gombrich) from Sanskrit suukta 'well-said', not
from suutra. Sutta was later misunderstood (or creatively reinterpreted!)
as from suutra, with the result that Sanskrit suutra acquired many meanings
derived from suukta.

Lance Cousins

Email: mhcrxlc at


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