If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Sanskrit connections to English

How Sanskrit is connected to Latin, English and other European languages.

Want to join the conversation?

  • blobby green style avatar for user saraswat.vinayak99
    Is it possible that the Proto-Indo European language is Brahmi or the language of Indus valley civilization?
    (31 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • male robot hal style avatar for user chinmaybho4151
      There is extremely little possibility that Proto-Indo-European is Brahmi or the language of the Indus Valley Civilization. The most likely place of origin of the Proto-Indo-European language is on the Pontic-Caspian steppe. Brahmi is merely the writing system of ancient India, and the ancestor for modern Indian writing systems. The language of the Indus Valley civlization is of unclear nature. It may be a language isolate, meaning that there are no languages to which it is connected to, or it may possibly have a connection to the Dravidian languages. Thus, it almost with certainty that one can state the Proto-Indo-European language is not Brahmi or the language of the Indus Valley Civilization.
      (9 votes)
  • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user Celina Webber
    Very fascinating! So there're many Indo-European languages, descended from Proto-Indo-European. I think Semitic languages are a different family, aren't they? What other big ancient language families are postulated and which modern living languages are derived from them? To which does ancient Egyptian belong?
    (17 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • hopper cool style avatar for user Madeliv
      - Yes, Semitic languages are a different family. The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family.
      - There are many other language families, big ones are Sino-Tibetan, Niger–Congo and Austroneasian languages.
      - The language spoken in ancient Egypt was a branch of the Afroasiatic language family
      (27 votes)
  • leaf orange style avatar for user Stèf
    Is there any way of knowing if other myths came from a common ancestor, or if one group adopted another's myths?
    (8 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • duskpin sapling style avatar for user TheCherry
      A good way to know that would be to study changes in nomenclature, or the names given to mythical beings, as similarity in names would show a common ancestry.
      On the other hand, by studying conquests of one group by another, or changing patterns of cultural dominance, historians draw conclusions on adoption of myths, or in other words, appropriation of cultures.
      A good example would be how the Romans appropriated Saturnalia, the pagan Roman winter solstice festival to mark the birth of Christ, or in other words, modern day Christmas.
      Often, in the Indian subcontinent, major Vedic cultures went on to appropriate myths from smaller, tribal-based cultures to gain more support. They also appropriated Buddhism (initially a movement that started out of opposition to traditional Vedic structures) into Hinduism itself, portraying Buddha as a god himself, or an incarnation of Vedic gods, so that it wouldn't threaten the prevailing cultural dominance of Vedic groups. We know this because this was the common pattern observed in the way Vedic religions adopted other cultures and continue to do so, and also by observing the changes in the ways these smaller cultures were later portrayed- as part of a bigger faith system, than as isolated communities.
      (16 votes)
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Joseph Babu
    What about the language of Tamil in South India, are there any connections there since Tamil is as old as Sanskrit ,maybe older?
    (6 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • hopper cool style avatar for user Madeliv
      No, Tamil is part of a different language family (Dravidian) than English and Sanskrit. Of course speakers of Tamil, English and Sanskrit have been in contact, so there are some loan words but grammatically the languages are different. One example I could find of a connection is the English word patchouli (a plant with a distinct smell, used in perfumes) which comes from Tamil பச்சை இலை (which says 'pach-chai ilai', that is Tamil for 'green leaf').
      (19 votes)
  • hopper happy style avatar for user KNLAEM_CODING
    So, how did all these languages form? Did they travel to different places and start new languages?
    (5 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • blobby green style avatar for user J T
      It's a matter of time and isolation. Languages slightly change with each generation. As a simple example, look at English. The English that is spoken in the 21st century is very different than the English spoken in the 19th century. The foundations are the same but words and phrases change. Do you think someone in 1900 would know what a selfie is? Now the time frame I'm talking about is only 100 years, imagine what English will be in 1000 years, do you think it will be the same as what is spoken today?
      For the isolation part, when the British ruled America a few hundred years ago they spoke English, but once they were defeated America was pretty much isolated from the "mother tongue influence" and developed their own nuances, American English is very different from British English (again, the foundations are still the same), and again only a couple hundred years.
      (13 votes)
  • aqualine seed style avatar for user c25mf
    Is there a connection between the Sanskrit dyaus and Spanish dios, meaning God? It comes from the Latin deus, which is also similar to Zeus. Also, the Greeks didn't call their god Zeus Pater, did they? I thought pater was exclusively Latin.
    (6 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • male robot hal style avatar for user Zamriz
    What language does "Proto" refer to?
    (3 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • leaf yellow style avatar for user Steve Schroeder
      Hi Zamriz, thanks for the question! "Proto" is just a prefix that indicates an early form of something. For example, Proto-Indo-European was a language from which later Indo-European languages developed. Or, another common usage - a prototype is a rough model of something that can be improved upon.

      Hope that helps!
      (10 votes)
  • starky tree style avatar for user grace
    isn't Zeus and Jupiter the same since when the romans attacked the Greeks theyrenamed their gods? Or am I thinking of something else.
    (5 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • female robot grace style avatar for user Robin
      that's what he's saying there
      "sky father" transforms to "Zeus Piter" transforms to "Jupiter" and they're all The Big Guy up in the clouds, displeasure shown by thunder and lightning.
      no change needed, just more or less of an accent
      no renaming involved at all hardly
      (1 vote)
  • starky seedling style avatar for user zoha
    Is it possible to find full evidence of Proto-Indo-European language?
    (4 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • starky tree style avatar for user holly
    I never realized how connected the earth really was until i watched this... WOW
    (4 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user

Video transcript

- In the 18th century you start to have significant interaction between the English and the Indians, especially in the East Indian Company. And as part of that, you start to have Western scholars start to really study Sanskrit and the Vedas. And as they do these, it starts to really open up their mind not just to the roots of Sanskrit but also many of the Western languages including English itself. So, this is a quote in 1786 by the English philologist, someone who studies written languages especially from historical sources, Sir William Jones. He wrote, “The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of wonderful structure. More perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refine than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity both in the roots of the verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could not possibly have been produced by accident...” Let me underline that. “…than could not possibly have been produced by accident.” So he says there’s a lot of commonality between the Sanskrit and Latin and Greek, and it’s a strong affinity, a strong connectedness that could not have produced by accident. So strong indeed, that no philologer could examine all three without believing them to have sprung from some common source." Let me underline that. “Without believing them to have sprung from some common source which, perhaps no longer exists; there is a similar reason though not quit so forcible for supposing that both the Gothic and the Celtic, though blended with a very different idiom had the same origin with the Sanskrit; and the old Persian might be added to the same family.” And so when they started to study the Vedas and look at the Sanskrit, they started to realize well maybe all of these languages are connected. And now modern day philologists believe this very strongly the more they have studied it. Based on the connections and the grammar and even the vocabulary and the word structure themselves, they now theorize that a parent language of Sanskrit, Latin, and the Germanic languages and the Celtic languages recall a language today called Proto-Indo–European, which is a lost language. But we think that Sanskrit is one of the oldest… Is one of the oldest evidences that we have of that Proto-Indo-European Language. Sanskrit as of course the parent language has evolved in different parts of Indian to languages like Hindi, Bengali, and Punjabi. Latin, which is also a dead language now, has evolved into languages like Spanish, Italian, and French. And English which is considered a Germanic language structurally, but has significant influence from Latin and French, they all come from that same Proto-Indo-European root. And just to get an appreciation for why these philologist believe this, and this is something when I first saw it, really blew my mind a little bit. I’ll show you some connections between Sanskrit words, and those of you who might be Hindi, Bengali or Punjabi speakers, or any of these North Indian languages in India, will see the connection to Sanskrit. But what’s amazing is how these words are connected to Latin and many of the languages derived from Latin. Some of your Persian speakers might recognize some, some commonalities and, most importantly, the language that we are speaking right now, how to relate it to English. And here is just a sample of some Sanskrit words that have an eerie resemblance to both English and in some cases Latin words. Or many cases Latin words. I’ve just given Latin in a few of them. So the Sanskrit matr, well in English we have mother and in Latin we have mater. And we also from Latin in English via Latin, we have words like maternity and maternal all referring to the same idea of motherhood. And this general trend, this t sound, matr or mater becoming of more of a tha sound in English and the Germanic languages is a trend you’ll see over and over again. In Sanskrit you have pithr, in Latin you have pater, and by way of Latin in modern English we have words like paternity and paternal. But going through the Germanic languages you have once again that tha sound becoming more of a tha sound. And you also see this pattern as you go from this Proto-Indo-European, this theoretical language, and especially if you think about relative to Sanskrit, that you have the sound going from a pa to a fa as you go to the Germanic languages. So pithr becomes, you could say it father. And other words. Na in Sanskrit…and those of you who speak Hindi or Bengali would recognize that of course, and in English it is no. Gau which is still, it’s a Hindi word for cow, in English it’s cow. Gau , cow. Naama,name. In Latin nomen. Dwar, door. This one I thought was really interesting. I didn’t know this until I started looking it up a little bit. Anamika is Sanskrit, and it means anonymous. Kaal, which is referring to time in Sanskrit and in modern Sanskrit drive languages like Hindi and Bengali it’s referring to references in time; tomorrow, yesterday. And in English you have calendar. Naas and in something like, in modern languages in the sub-continent and you have naas, and in English you have nose. Loc in...in English you have the prefix loc, as in location or locate. And then this is of course a very nice one, Sanskrit lubh, which means desire, well in English we have the word love. And this is just a sample, I encourage you to look it up more, you’ll be amazed by the connections between Sanskrit and English. And now I'm going to show you what I think is one of the coolest, because it isn’t just a linguistic connection, but it is also a, I guess you could say spiritual connection. And this is the names for the sky god from several different traditions So in the Vedas they make reference to a god, Dyauspithr, and it’s literally referring to Dyaus, referring to sky. And we already talked about Pithr been the word for father. So it’s referring to this idea of sky father. And some of you might be getting goosebumps now when you see where this is going. Well, in Greek we have a very similar word, instead of Dyaus we have Zeus and those are very similar words. The spelling might be different, but with the way it comes out of your mouth is very similar. Dyaus, Dyaus, Zeus, instead of Pithr you have Pater, once again you have sky, you have sky father, sky father right over here. And this is another connection that blew my mind. It wasn’t obvious when I first saw it, but Jupiter from Latin, the Roman god, you could use Jupiter. This is once again instead of Zeus you have Dyau, instead of Pater you have Pitr. So, instead of Dyauspitr you have Jupiter. Dyauspitr, Jupiter. These are very very similar words even though the spelling seems different, the way it comes out of your mouth is very very very very very close. And this is further evidence for the closeness between Sanskrit, between Greek, and between Latin. So once again, we have sky father. And this of course an image of… well it’s hard to tell whether that’s Jupiter or Zeus. I believe that is a picture of Jupiter. And what’s also interesting is, the Vedas sight Dyauspitr as the father of Indra. Who’s considered the King of the gods. One of the most significant, if not the most significant god in Hinduism. And Indra is now in, especially in the Vedas, and this is the most spoken about god in the Vedas, Has many of the of the qualities that we now in Greek and Roman traditions associate with Zeus and Jupiter. Indra is a sky god, throws bolts of lightning. Actually eerie similarity with the Nordic god of Thor. Where Nordic people were also Indo-European people. Where Indra he throws a hammer and he defeats these monsters. And all of these things, very similar to Thor. So hopefully these… You know when I first learn this, it just kind of made me realize how connected the world is, and it started to make me start to look for patterns where I hadn’t seen them before. And it really shows how these civilizations that seemed very unconnected might have, and probably we do believe emerged and (mumbles) emerged from the same place. Modern philologists and historian believe that this Proto-Indo-European might have been spoken by people in the Caucuses. The word Caucasian is referring really to these people from that Caucuses area there, but we don’t know for sure. And we believe that they migrated out. And so when we talk about the Germanic tribes going into Northern Europe. The Celtic tribes going into, I guess you could say North South Central Europe. You could talk about the Italic, the Latin tribes, you could talk about the Greek tribes, and you could also talk about the In… you could also talk about Indo-Aryan tribes which eventually would settle into Persia and into Northern India. These we believe are all connected.