Ancient India's Contribtuion to Modern Civilization

zydenbos at zydenbos at
Fri Jun 13 23:03:20 UTC 1997

Replies to msg 12 Jun 97: indology at
(sudheer_birodkar at

 sc> It is corroborated
 sc> in the Oxford Dictionary that the English
 sc> Word "Cash" originated from the Sanskrit  term "Karsha".

"Cash" is from the Tamil kaacu, which is an old Dravidian word. In Kannada it
is the cognate kaasu, about which Kittel says (vol. 2 of his Kannada-English
Ditcionary, Madras, 1977, p. 442): "the smallest copper coin, a cash [N.B.!]; a
coin or money in general", and he mentions that the same word "kaasu" exists in
Telugu and Tulu too. Marathi has kaa;su (ibid.). That the word means "coin" can
be seen from an expression like "taamrada kaasu" (a kaasu of copper).

To say that "cash" is derived from Sanskrit (which means a particular
measure of gold), and to base this statement on the Oxford English Dictionary,
seems to show that the writer has misread that dictionary. It clearly says
(Compact Edition, vol. 1, p. 347, quoting Yule, i.e. probably Hobson-Jobson)
that the word is "adaption (ultimately) Tamil kaasu ('or perhaps some Konkani
form of it'), name of a small coin, or weight of money." Singhalese kaasi,
which is also mentioned in the Oxford dictionary, has probably been borrowed
from Tamil, just as the Marathi will have been borrowed from Kannada, and it is
unclear why the Sanskrit "karsha" should be mentioned in that entry at all
(unless one wants "cash" to be an Aryan rather than a Dravidian word and
"contribution to modern civilization").

If "ancient India's contribution to modern civilization" is to be judged by the
number of words borrowed into English, then the renowned Hobson-Jobson
Dictionary can provide many more such instances. Does this criterion also imply
that people who do not speak English do not partake of modern civilization? I
hope not.

Robert Zydenbos

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