[INDOLOGY] Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Wilson’s still useful

David and Nancy Reigle dnreigle at gmail.com
Sun Jul 26 04:17:22 UTC 2015

The Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English dictionary and its relation to the
preceding Böhtlingk/Roth Sanskrit-German dictionary were brought up in
recent posts. Before either of these was the very early pioneering
Sanskrit-English dictionary by Horace Hayman Wilson. Although it has long
ago fallen out of use, it is still useful in one important way: it gives
the traditional etymologies of the Sanskrit words. By chance I learned this
from the dust jacket of a 1979 reprint of it by Nag Publishers, Delhi. It
said they undertook this reprint at the request of Dr. Rasik Vihari Joshi
of Delhi University because it is the only dictionary that gives the

The Nag Publishers reprint is of the 1900 edition, which they re-titled *A
Sanskrit-English Dictionary*, and to which they added Wilson’s Preface from
the first edition of 1819. From this 1819 Preface we learn that Wilson’s
material for this dictionary was translated from a voluminous manuscript
Sanskrit dictionary compiled by pandits under the final superintendence of
Raghumani Bhattacharya and completed in 1809. The title of Wilson’s
original 1819 edition, now available for free download from Google Books,
reflects this: *A Dictionary, Sanscrit and English: Translated, Amended and
Enlarged, from an Original Compilation Prepared by Learned Natives for the
College of Fort William*.

As an example etymology, we may look at what Wilson’s dictionary gives for
*sākṣin*, which Patrick McCartney had asked about on July 12. It uses the
abbreviation “E.” for etymology, and gives the Sanskrit words in devanāgarī
script, which I here romanize and italicize: “E. *sa* for *saha* with, (in
presence of,) *akṣi* the eye, *ini* aff.” Those of us who have not yet
memorized Pāṇini will now have to turn to a reference book to determine
what the *ini* affix is. Two good ones for this are *A Dictionary of
Sanskrit Grammar*, by Kashinath Vasudev Abhyankar and J. M. Shukla (Baroda:
Oriental Institute,1961; 2nd rev. ed. 1977), and *Dictionary of Pāṇini*, by
Sumitra Mangesh Katre, 3 vols. (Poona: Deccan College, 1968-1969).

These reference books tell us that *ini* is the *kṛt* (i.e., primary) affix
or suffix *-in*, and we are referred to Pāṇini 3.2.93 and 3.2.156-157. This
explains the *-in* ending on *sākṣin*. We now have to look up *akṣi* in
Wilson’s dictionary to find the root. It gives: “*aś* to pervade, and *si*
affix.” Again using the Pāṇini dictionaries, we find that *si* is the
*unāḍi* affix or suffix *-si* or *-ksi*, and we are referred to
*Unāḍi-sūtra* 3.155 or Pāṇini 7.2.9. In brief, the root *aś* plus -*si*
becomes *akṣi*. This example was a bit complex, but I have found Wilson’s
dictionary very helpful for determining the formation of words whose
etymology is not obvious. Of course, most of us will also need an English
translation of Pāṇini’s *Aṣṭādhāyī* to consult, such as those by Śrīṣa
Chandra Vasu or by Sumitra M. Katre.

Best regards,

David Reigle

Colorado, U.S.A.

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