Pali Glossary

Most of the words in this glossary are discussed in the section appended to the introduction: Pāḷi Terms Used in the Discourses.


Abhidhamma: ultimate truth. The Abhidhamma-piṭaka is the third section of the Buddhist canon.

Abhidhammattha-saṅgaha: an introduction to the Abhidhamma written by Anuruddha

adhicitta: higher mentality or concentration

adhiṭṭhāna-pāramī: the perfection of determination

adhicitta: higher wisdom

adhisīla: higher morality

adosa: non-anger

agga-sāvaka: chief disciple

ājīva: livelihood

akāliko: immediate 

akusala: unskilful

alobha: non-greed

amoha: “non-ignorance”, knowledge, understanding

anāgāmī: non-returner

Ānāpāna: meditation on the breath

Anuruddha: author of Abhidhammattha-saṅgaha

Anāthapiṇḍika: a leading lay disciple of the Buddha

anattā: non-self

anicca: impermanence

Anottata: a lake in the Himalayas whose waters always remain cool

āpo: water, the element of cohesion (one of the mahābhūta)

arahat: “Noble One”, a fully-awakened individual

ariya: “Worthy One”, an individual who has attained at least the first of the four states of Nibbāna

arūpa: immaterial

asaṅkheyya: incalculably large number

attā: self

atthakathā: commentary

avijjā: ignorance (of the Four Noble Truths)

avyākata: neutral action

bhāvanā: mental development

bhikkhu: Buddhist monk

bhikkhunī: Buddhist nun

Bimbisāra: king of Rājagaha and disciple of the Buddha

bodhi: awakening

bodhipakkhiya-dhammā: 37 Factors of Awakening

Bodhisatta: “One who is intent on Awakening”, Buddha-to-be 

bodhiyaṅgaṇa: area around a Bodhi tree

Brahmā: beings of the twenty highest planes of existence

brahman: member of the caste of priests in India

Buddha: “Awakened One”

Buddhaghosa: author of the Visuddhimagga?

caraṇa: (right) conduct

cetiyaṅgaṇa: area around a pagoda

citta: mind

cuti: the last mind moment when “falling” away from a life (i.e., death).

Deva: beings of the six planes above the human world

dāna-pāramī: the perfection of generosity

Dhamma: the Teaching (of the Buddha)

Dhammapada: collection of verses spoken by the Buddha, part of the Tipiṭaka

dhūtaṅga: ascetic practice

diṭṭhi: (right) view

dosa: dislike

dukkha: unsatisfactoriness, suffering

iddhipāda: “path to power”

Jetavana: monastery in Sāvatthi donated by Anāthapiṇḍika

jhāna: absorption state

Kaccāna or Kaccāyana: a leading disciple of the Buddha

kalāpa: the smallest unit of matter

kāma: sensual desire

kamma: actions (the residual force of past actions)

kammanta: action

Kassapa: a leading disciple of the Buddha

kāyapasāda: clearness of the sense of touch or sense in general

khandha: aggregate

khanti-pāramī: the perfection of patience

kusala: skilful

lobha: wanting

loka: world, sphere, a plane of existence

maggaṅga: the sections of the Noble Eightfold Path

magga: Path

magga-phala: Path and Fruition State

mahā: great

mahā-bhūta: the “great” (primary) elements

Majjhima-nikāya: one of the four Nikāyas of the Sutta section of the Tipiṭaka

mettā-pāramī: the perfection of loving kindness

moha: delusion

nāma: mind

nekkhamma-pāramī: the perfection of renunciation

Nibbāna: “quenching”, the end of all suffering

nikāya: there are four or five nikāyas:

four nikāyas in the Sutta-piṭaka.

five nikāyas if all the texts apart from the Sutta-piṭaka are taken as one nikāya.

These are simply different ways of subdividing the Tipiṭaka.

nirodha: cessation

Pacceka Buddha: a non-teaching Buddha

pakati-sāvaka: an ordinary disciple (i.e., an Arahat, but not a chief disciple or leading disciple)

Pāḷi: the language in which the Theravāda Buddhist scriptures are written

pañca-sīla: the five moral precepts

paññā: insight, understanding

paramattha: highest, ultimate

pāramī: perfection

pariccheda (in nāma-rūpa-pariccheda-ñāṇa): the ability to distinguish between mental and physical phenomena

pariyatti: training (in the texts)

pathavī: earth, element of extension (one of the mahā-bhūta)

Pātimokkha: the collection of the 227 rules of conduct for the monks

paṭipatti: practice of the Teachings

paṭisandhi: rebirth consciousness (following the last mind moment of the preceeding life, cfcuti)

paṭivedha: attainment of Nibbāna

piṭaka: “basket”, collection (of texts)

phala: Fruition State

Rājagaha: a city in India

rūpa: matter

sacca-pāramī: the perfection of truth

sakadāgāmī: a once-returner

Sakka: the king of the Devas

samādhi: concentration

sāmapatti: attainment

samatha: calm

sammā: right, good

saṃsāra: the cycle of births and deaths

samudāya: origin [of suffering]

Saṃyutta-nikāya: part of the Sutta-nikāya

Saṅgha: the Order of Buddhist Monks

saṅgīti: Buddhist Council

saṅkappa: thought

saṅkhāra: the force of past actions

saññā: perception

Sāsana: the Teachings of the Buddha

sati: attention, awareness

Sāvatthi: a city in India

sikkhā: training

sīla: morality

sotāpatti: a Stream-enterer

Sutta: discourse

Suttanta-piṭaka: the books of discourses

tejo: fire (one of the mahā-bhūta)

Thera: Elder (form of address for Buddhist monks who have been ordained for more than ten years)

Therī: Form of address for Buddhist nuns

Tipiṭaka: the three collections (of the Pāḷi canon)

upasampadā: ordination as a full member of the Saṅgha

upekkha-pāramī: the perfection of equanimity

Uposatha: observance day

vācā: speech

vāyāma: effort

vāyo: wind, the element of motion (one of the mahā-bhūta)

vedanā: sensation, feeling

vijjā: understanding (of the Four Noble Truths)

Vinaya-piṭaka: the Collection on Discipline

viññāna: consciousness

Vipassanā: insight

viriya: effort

Vīsākhā: a leading woman lay disciple of the Buddha

Visuddhimagga: a general commentary on the Teachings of the Buddha by Buddhaghosa