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I have decided to upload a draft of my RUSSIAN – SANSKRIT DICTIONARY OF COMMON AND COGNATE WORDS which is the result of some eight years of work. This dictionary has been conceived as a practical reference book with the objective of providing factual material for researchers in the field of the Indo-European linguistics or anyone interested in etymology, semantics and the origin of the Indo-European, particularly, Slavonic languages. Compiling a dictionary is time-consuming and it is a mammoth task to do for a single person. The first draft published here is only a rough approximation. It contains only 488 entries, which is about a quarter of the planned volume, and still lacks some essential parts in the Introduction section. The entries have not yet been properly proof-read and I am constantly updating the comments.

 Index of entries

You may access the text at my page on Academia.edu

title
Although this work is titled ‘Dictionary’ it is neither a traditional Russian-Sanskrit dictionary nor a formal etymological dictionary, but rather a catalogue of various cognate, common or otherwise connected Russian and Sanskrit words, arranged is a systematic way with cross-references, explanatory notes, links to other Slavonic and Indo-European languages, indexes and other features aimed at making it a valuable and convenient reference book. The specific task called for employing both Cyrillic and Devanagarī scripts throughout the book because transliteration, however elaborate, cannot fully replace the native writing system. Since it is unlikely that every reader would be proficient in both scripts, each word is accompanied by a conventional transliteration.

In writing this book I endeavoured to go through all major works dedicated to this issue starting from the discovery of Sanskrit and its relation to the European languages in general, and particularly to Slavonic, covering the period from the 17th century up to the modern days. Each proposed cognate word has been carefully evaluated, checked through various dictionaries and, sometimes, re-linked or rejected. This method provided some eight hundred pairs that made the back-bone of the dictionary. The rest of the cognate pairs (about another thousand two hundred) are the result of many years of scrupulous research.

Many cognate pairs are obvious, some need more or less detailed explanations and might be difficult to apprehend without some basic knowledge of the principal linguistic concepts and terms. This is why the dictionary is prefaced by an Introduction containing some essential information about the Russian and Sanskrit languages and their phonetic and grammatical features with particular attention to the principal rules of sound correlation. This section is now in work and it is not included in this draft.

I would be grateful for any constructive criticism or comments. If you would like to support this project there are several ways of helping me with the work:

  •  report any spelling or other mistakes that you have noticed
  •  suggest any other cognate pairs
  • check the various cognates I mention in Slavonic and other languages if they happen to be in your native language

Going through some old Russian journals I came across an article by  Svetlana Žarnikova (Zharnikova)  “Kto my v ėtoj Evrope [Who are we in this Europe]”.  Nauka i žizn’, Issue No. 5, 1997.

Žarnikova is known as one of the Russian protagonists of the  controversial “Hyperborean theory” which develops the ideas of  Bal Gangadhar Tilak expressed in his famous book  The Arctic Home in the Vedas.  Leaving aside this questionable  theory I would like to quote a translation of this interesting passage from Žarnikova’s article:

In June 1993 we, a group of scientists and ethnologists from the Vologda region and our guests – a folklore group from India (West Bengali State), were travelling on a ship along the Sukhona [my comment: compare Skt. sukha सुख  ‘running swiftly or easily; agreeable, gentle, mild’ + the common adjective suffix –na]  river heading from Vologda to Velikiy Ustyug. […]

The motor ship was moving slowly along the beautiful northern river. We watched the flower-covered fields, century-old pine trees, country houses:  two-three storied countryside mansions, the striped steep river banks, the silent smoothness of  the water and admired the enchanting quietness of the northern ‘white nights’.

Together we marvelled at how much we had in common. We, the Russians, were surprised how our Indian guests could repeat after us the words of a popular Russian song practically without any accent. They, the Indians, were amazed how familiar the names of rivers and villages sounded to them. And then together we examined the embroideries made in the villages by which our ship was passing. It is difficult to describe the feeling that one experiences when the guests from a far-away country exclaimed interrupting each other pointing at the embroideries “This we have in Orissa, and this one he have in Rajasthan and this is similar to what they make in Bihar, that one – in Gujarat and this one – with us in Bengal”. We were very glad to feel the strong ties connecting us with our distant common ancestors through the millennia.

It is not in my nature to take things for granted so I have done a little research into this area  and  here are some of the results.

Before starting with it, I think that it is appropriate to mention that the Russian for ’embroidery’  is  vyshivka вышивка where shiv  is the root  = Skt. siv  सिव् ‘to sew, sew on, darn, stitch’, the first element is the prefix  vy–  which is identical to Skt. prefix  vi–  वि .  Those who know Sanskrit will not need an interpreter to understand  the Rus. vyshivka,  especially if we write it down in Devanagari:  विषिव्क (viṣivka) since in Skt.  there is विषिव् (viṣiv) meaning `to sew or sew on in different places’. The last  bit –ka is a very productive common  Slavonic – Indo-Aryan  suffix  with a general meaning ‘similar to, like’.  So विषिव्क (viṣivka)  literally means ‘like sewing on in different places = embroidery’.

As the main source of information on Russian embroidery I took the academic  study by Boguslavskaja, I. J. Russkaja narodnaja vyšivka [Russian embroidery]. Moskva: Izdatel’stvo “Iskusstvo”,1972.

For Indian embroidery I had to search the internet and found the following sites:

http://www.needlenthread.com/2009/02/beautiful-hand-embroidered-indian-sari.html

http://birdsofoh.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/kasuti-traditional-embroidery-from.html

First I give the embroidery patterns from Žarnikova’s article:

Zharnikova1

Left: stylised embroidery from the Vologda Region (19th cent.) and Indian embroidery of the same period (right).

Zharnikova2

Top: Embroidery theme from Northern Russia. Bottom: Indian embroidery theme.

Zharnikova3

 Vologda Region embroidery patterns (19th cent.)

Now let us compare some other embroideries from Russia and India:

                      Embroidery1  

Left: Woman’s head gear “kokoshnik“. The 18-th century. Vladimirskaya province (?). Gold needle work on dark-red velevet. Russian State Museum (Boguslavskaja 1975 fig. 105)  and (right)  “The embroidery technique used on Jayashree’s sari is called Kasuthi. It’s a technique that originated in the Hubli Dharwad region in North Karnataka around a thousand years ago, and is quite similar to blackwork.” (quoted from http://www.needlenthread.com/2009/02/beautiful-hand-embroidered-indian-sari.html.)

Compare also this typical old Russian embroidery with the same symmetrical motif an the identical ‘roof’ element:

Embroidery2

Valance. The 19-th century. Pskovskaya province (?). Embroidered with double running stitch in red cotton threads on flaxen cloth. 262 X 21.3. Detail. Russian State Museum (Boguslavskaja 1975 fig. 17).

The top elements bear a striking resemblance to the  śrīvatsa श्रीवत्स / triratna त्रिरत्न symbol and are most probably historically related:

Triratna

Note  the central pattern design made of a rhombus with an X-like cross and flowers in the middle. This is an ancient fertility symbol in which the rhombus represents the female reproductive organ, the X-like cross symbolises the male productive force and it is well known to Indians as  vajrākṛti वज्राकृति  ‘shaped like a thunderbolt or vajra, having transverse lines a cross-shaped symbol (formerly used in grammars to denote jihvāmūlīyas’ (Monier-Williams, M. A Sanskrit-English Dictionary: Etymological and Philologically Arranged With Special Reference to Cognate Indo-European Languages. Oxford University Press, 1899, p. 914).

Jihvāmūlīya was an ancient Vedic Sanskrit  letter for a velarised voiceless fricative [x] identical to modern Russian x. Interestingly, in writing  jihvāmūlīya  was exactly the same as the Russian letter: X (Müller, F. M. A Sanskrit Grammar for Beginners in Devanagari and Roman Letters Throughout. (Reprinted edition). New Dehli–Chennai: Asian Educational Services, 2004{[1870]}, p. 5). The flowers in the sections of the rhombus symbolised the new life.

The full significance of this  symbolic design is obvious from this wonderful ‘Mother Goddess’ statuette from the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture (approximately 4800 to 3000 BC). (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MotherGoddessFertility.JPG)

Compare also  the swastika from a later period  placed into the female generative organ (Wilson, T. The Swastika. The Earliest Known Symbol, and Its Migration; with Observations on the Migration of Certain Industries in Prehistoric Times, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1896, p. 826) sw1

This ancient auspicious symbol was later split into two  Swastikas (so brutally and shamelessly desecrated by the Nazis!) pointing into opposite directions as the representation of the eternal cycle of life and death and the life-giving unity of the male and female elements:

Indian_Swastika

Next comes the traditional Kasuti embroidery with this characteristic cross-like design which is, in fact, a  variation of the above fertility symbol:

(http://birdsofoh.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/kasuti-traditional-embroidery-from.html) See more wonderful Kasuti patterns here:

http://www.pinterest.com/isiscat/embroidery-indian-kasuti-patterns/

The same element is clearly seen in the centre and  flower-like elements in this Russian embroidery:

Embroidery5

Valance. The 19-th century. Olonetskaya province. Embroidered with a double running stitch in a combination of red cotton threads and coloured wool on flaxen cloth. 18 6 X 3 7 . Russian State Museum (Boguslavskaja 1975 fig. 22).

This pattern is also built around the ancient fertility theme: the two horses (each of them having their own  life-force or seeds of life, represented by the flower-like design) are united to produce a new life (the flower design in the middle) which grows  up in the form of the  śrīvatsa श्रीवत्स / triratna त्रिरत्न . This design represents the fundamental idea: “division of the divine nature between a ­­god and a goddess who, together with their child, form a natural trinity, glorifying and repeating on their divine plane the life of the human family” (Waites, M. C. “The Deities of the Sacred Axe”. American Journal of Archaeology, Archaeological Institute of America, 1923, 27, 25-56, p.34) . See more fertility related embroideries at  pinterest.com.

This is only a brief comparison on a limited material but it fully confirms  Žarnikova’s words  and looking at this wonderful affinity I too could share the feeling of “the strong ties connecting us with our distant common ancestors through the millennia”.

See other posts

I would like to demonstrate here the remarkable phonetic affinity between Sanskrit and Russian taking two dozen of unquestionable cognate pairs as examples.  It is well known that all Indo-European languages contain a greater or lesser number of common words but only Slavonic and, to a lesser degree, Baltic languages approximate Sanskrit to such an extent that in me instances the difference between certain Slavonic languages could be greater than between some Slavonic languages and Sanskrit.

Take the  word for `spindle’: Sanskrit  vartana, Russian vereteno, Bulgarian. vretе́no, Slovenian vreténo, Czech vřeteno, Polish wrzeciono, Upper Sorbian wrjećeno and Lower Sorbian rjeśeno.  The phonetic shape of cognates in other Indo-European languages differs considerably.

A good example is the word `alive’: Sanskrit jīva, Russian živ, Lithuanian gývas, Greek bíos, Latin vīvus,  Irish biu,   Gothic qius, Old High German quес, and English quick.

Transliteration notes

Sanskrit: ā, ī, ū – long sounds;  = ri (a short   similar to Rus. soft рь/r‘); c=chj similar to j in “jam”;  ṣ  similar to shś  a subtler sort of sh, closer to German /ch/  as in  ich.

Russian:  š  similar to sh; č = chž = like g in garage , the vowel y  is a sort of  ‘hard’  i  sounding somewhat similar to unstressed i   in Eng. it .  the  sign ‘ indicates softness and stands for a very short i . Vowels with  j are iotated so ju would be similar to Eng.  you and Skr. yu  etc.

Skt. Rus. Lith. Greek Latin Goth. OHG/Ger. Eng
bhrātṛ brat brólis phrátēr frāter brōþar Bruder brother
bhrū brov’ bruvis ophrus brāwa brow
vidhava vdova vidua widuwō Widuwō widow
vartana veretenò Wirtel spindle
viś ves’  viešė oikos vīcus weihs abode, village, home
vātṛ veter vėtra wind
vṛka volk vilkas lýkos lupus wulfs Wulfs wolf
dvār dver’ dùrys thýra forēs daúr turi door
dvaya dvoe dvejì twaddjē two of smb.
devṛ dever’ dieveris daḗr lēvir zeihhur husband’s brother
dina den’ dienà diēs day
dam, dama dom nãmas(?) dō̂ma domus house, home
janī žena gynḗ qino wife
jīva živ gývas bíos vīvus qius quес alive
jñāna znanie žinios gnōsis knowledge
kada kogda kada when
katara kotoryj kuris póteros uter ƕаþаr hwedar which
kumbha kub kýmbos cupa pitcher
laghu ljogok leñgvas elaphrós levis leihts lungar light
roci luč leukós lūх liuhaþ light, ray
madhu mjod medùs méthy metu honey
mūṣ myš’ mŷs mūs mûs mouse
mās mjaso mėsà mimz(?) meat

Note that we compare the attested languages and not hypothetical `reconstructions’ however, according to  Antoine Meillet:

“[..] Baltic and Slavic show the common trait of never having undergone in the course of their development any sudden systemic upheaval. […] there is no indication of a serious dislocation of any part of the linguistic system at any time. The sound structure has in general remained intact to the present.  […] Baltic and Slavic are consequently  the only languages in which certain modern word-forms resemble those reconstructed for Common Indo-European.” ( The Indo-European Dialects [Eng. translation of  Les dialectes indo-européens (1908)], University of Alabama Press, 1967, pp. 59-60).

See also my other posts:

https://borissoff.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/russian-sanskrit-verbs-3/

https://borissoff.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/russian-sanskrit-nouns/

https://borissoff.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/sanskrit-russian-lithuanian-and-latin-conjugations-compared/

See all posts

This is a  list of some most obvious  Russian – Sanskrit cognate nouns. It is only a short-list in which I give only the generally accepted cognate pairs having the rating 5 & 6.  Since one should  compare similar forms, I give Russian nouns in a special transcription, approximated to Sanskrit Latin transliteration. Read the rest of this entry »

The topic of Iranian loans into Slavonic has become a common place in Slavistics reflecting, to a considerable extent, the stereotype view on Slavonic mainly as a target language for borrowing. In reality, the number of truly attested Iranian loans is confined to a rather short list of words. Strictly speaking, the term ‘iranism (иранизм)’, widely used in Russian linguistic literature, stands for a direct borrowing from one of the attested Iranian languages.  However, according to the academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences Oleg Nikolajevič Trubačev, such loans are limited to a few cultural terms such as *kotъ ‘stall, small cattle shed’, *čьrtogъ ‘inner part of a house’, *gun’a ‘shabby clothes, rags’, *kordъ ‘short sward’, *toporъ ‘axe’ etc., plus a separately standing group of religious terms and names of gods. However, even if any of these words are indeed borrowings they may not  necessarily be ‘iranisms’ in the true sense (i. e. direct borrowings from one of the attested Iranian languages). Read the rest of this entry »

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