Derivation of word "Hindu"

Lars Martin Fosse l.m.fosse at
Fri Jun 20 14:10:36 UTC 1997

>>        Or did the sound change s>h take place after the Iranians had
>>settled in Iran and come to know the Indus by the name _sindhu_?
>Wait a second, my understanding of (for example) Lars Martin's explanation
>was that Iranian hindu was cognate to Indian sindhu, not that it derived
>from it, although I can't go back an check.

That was precisely my point. sindhu/hindu are cognate words going back to
the same point of origin, which would be *sindhu (the Skt. version is the
same as the Indo-Iranian original, since Skt. is a more conservative
language (in phonetic terms) than the Iranian dialects we know. 

So why didn't the Persians / Iranians just import "sindhu" from India? There
are two explanations: 1) The place was known to both peoples before the
Iranian sound changes began. 2) When the Iranians heard the name, they found
it so similar phonetically and semantically to their own "hindu" that they
simply used the Iranian term. Loan words are usually approximated to local

Anyway, if the word sindhu had been imported at a later date, it would in
Iranian have been "sindu", since Iranian dialects did not have aspirated stops. 

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo

Tel: +47 22 32 12 19
Fax: +47 22 32 12 19
Email: L.M.Fosse at
Mobile phone: 90 91 91 45

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