Basic Pali Terms for Dhamma

Share this:

Burmese Pāḷi

I have made a list of the most basic Pāḷi terms which will help you in your Theravāda Buddhist Readings and listening to Dhamma Talks. I could have added more, but there are already 165+ terms. I have decided to sort the words in alphabetical order so I would not have to decide which were the most important. Grouping the words would have also given me the same dilemma. If you learn 10 words per day, it should not take long to master. You will likely know many of these terms already.

If you wish to learn these words with a flashcard program, I have uploaded 165 words to ankiweb at the link below:

The words are listed below:

abhidhammathe “higher-dhamma”, or explanation of mind, matter and causes and nibbāna, or the listings groups of the 3 baskets
adinnādānāstealing (Part of the five precepts)
adukkhamasukha vedanāneither painful nor pleasant feeling
anāgāminthird level of enlightenment; Nonreturner
ānāpānain breath and out breath
anumodanadonation, or rejoicing depending on the context.
āpattian offense a monk may commit (any type)
arahantfourth and final level of enlightenment; Fully Enlightened with greed hatred and delusion permanently destroyed.
ariyasaccanoble truth (4 Noble Truths)
asaṅkhyeyyauncountable measure of time often referred in modern times to a period of time for a big bang cycle to occur
aṭṭhakathāThe books which explain the meaning of the specified text (like the vinaya,suttas, or abhidhamma)
avijjaignorance (part of dependent origination)
āvuso“friend” or “brother” a polite form of addressing junior monks
bhante“venerable sir” a polite form of addressing senior monks
bhāvanāterm for meditation or development
bhavobecoming (part of dependent origination)
bhikkhua mendicant monk
cakkhuviññaṇaeye consciousness
cittamind/consciousness (Thai Forest Tradition uses “citta” which seems to be more of a Vedanta term to describe a permanent mind which was never taught by the Buddha)
cittānupassanāinsight meditation with a focus on the mental phenomena as the object
cīvaraa monk’s robes
cūḷasmall, often used in the names of smaller discourses
dāyakasupporter of a monk
desanaa dhamma talk or sermon
devaa heavenly being
dhammathe teaching
dhammānupassanācontemplation on dhamma
diṭṭhiwrong view (connected with a self)
domanassa vedanāunpleasant feeling
dukkataa small class of offense (but some are serious like dressing in lay clothes (wearing shirts) or playing a musical instrument)
dukkhasuffering, unsatisfactoriness, mental and physical pain
dukkha vedanāpainful feeling
ekaggataṃ“one-going of mind”, tranquility of mind; one-pointedness.
gacchāmiI go for
ghānaviññāṇanose consciousness
gilānasickness (gilānapaccaya is support for the sick)
issajealous (cannot bare to see the success and gain of one not liked)
jarāold age (part of dependent origination)
jātibirth (part of dependent origination)
jhānaterm for concentration or samadhi
jīvha viññāṇatongue consciousness
kalyāṇamittaa good and wholesome friend who helps with the practice of dhamma and maintaining wholesome actions and speech
kāmarāgadesire and lustful mind
kāmāvacarasensual plane of existence
kāmesumicchācārāsexual misconduct (sexual activity without the woman’s protector’s permission)
kammasimilar to the english word karma (action that has results)
kappiterm often referring to a helper who helps do things not allowed by monks (usually offering things that are stored for him or getting things from the shop)
kappiyaa helper of a monk
kasiṇaobject for meditation, usually a color disk or a representation of the 4 elements
kāyānupassanācontemplation on the body
kāyaviññāṇabody consciousness
macchariyaselfishness (cannot bare to share with someone not liked)
maggaPath (as in enlightenment)
mahagreat, big, often used with maha-thera 20 years or more, also used for the names of larger discourses.
majjathat which causes unawareness of mind (Part of the five precepts)
maraṇaṃdeath (part of dependent origination), also part of a meditation called marananussati
muditājoy arising from the success of others. (sympathetic joy)
musāvādawrong speech (lying) (Part of the five precepts)
nibbānaSimilar to Nirvana, however the Pali version is according to Pali Buddhism. Nirvana can mean anything according to different philosophies.
nikāyaa grouping of books (dīgha nikāya) or an organization consisting of monks (swezin nikāya, dhammayutta nikāya, etc)
nimittaoften a meditation sign for meditation, or a subject of the mind
nissaggian expression for something that is not allowed (money, objects bought by monks or wrongly obtained objects through fundraising and directing people to a helper to collect money without being prompted by the donor)
ottappafear of doing wrong
pabbajjāordination (it can be full ordination of a bhikkhu or just a novice monk)
paccekabuddhaa self enlightened Buddha who does not teach enlightenment
pamādatowithout wisdom, awareness (part of the five precepts)
pāṇātipātākilling (Part of the five precepts)
pārājikaoffense of defeat (cause for disrobing, sex, stealing, killing a human, and false claims of attainments)
paṭiccasamuppādadependent origination
phalafruition, one of the 4 pairs of enlightenment
phassacontact which arises with the 6 sense consciousness (also part of dependent origination)
piṇḍapātacollecting alms
piṭakabasket.. (as part of the group of books, carried in a basket).
pītijoy (one of the 5 factors of jhāna)
rūpāvacara mindmind that arises mostly in the fine material plane
sādhu“amen” often used three times to express a gratitude and agreement of what was said or done. In India it is the title given to a virtuous hermit – one who does good.
sakadāgāmisecond level of enlightenment; Once Returner
sālāa hall where various things are formed (ie dhammasālā for listening to dhamma)
saḷāyatanaṃ6 sense bases (eye, ears, nose, tongue, body sensation, mind (heart) )
samathacalm meditation
sammāājīvoright livelihood
sammādiṭṭhiright view
sammākammantoright action
sammāsambuddhaa self enlightened Buddha who does teach
sammāsaṅkapparight thought
sammāsatiright mindfulness
sammāvācāright speech
sammāvāyāmoright effort
samphappalapatalking nonsense (useless talk)
saṃyuttaconnected, often used with “saṃyutta nikaya” a grouping of teachings
saṅghagroup of monks
saṅghādisesaheavy offense a monk commits which requires special meetings by sangha
saṅkhāravolitional formations (part of the 5 aggregates, and part of dependent origination)
saññāperception (part of the 5 aggregates)
saraṇagem (part of triple gem, Buddha, Dhamma, Saṅgha)
Satipaṭṭhānafoundation of mindfulness
senāsanalodging for monks
sīmaa hall where formal acts are performed (ie ordination)
sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsāthe whole mass of suffering (part of dependent origination)
somanassa vedanāpleasant feeling
sotadvāravīthithe ear-door mental process
sotāpannafirst level of enlightenment; Stream Winner
sotaviññaṇaear consciousness
suññatāemptiness (of self)
surāmerayaalcoholic drinks (Part of the five precepts)
suttathe discourse section of the 3 baskets
taṇhācraving (part of dependent origination)
theraan elder monk, usually of 10 years or more
ṭīkāThe subcommentary which explains further information from the Aṭṭhakathā
tipiṭakaThe three baskets, often known as tripitaka in Sanskrit.
upādānaclinging, or repeated craving (part of dependent origination)
vedanāfeeling (part of the 5 aggregates)
vedanānupassanācontemplation on feeling
veramaṇiI will not do, I will refrain from doing (used with taking the 5 precepts)
vicārasustained thought (usually part of the 5 jhāna factors) (also means investigation),
vinayathe morality section of the 3 baskets
viññāṇaconsciousness (part of the 5 aggregates and part of dependent origination)
vipākathe results of previous kamma
vipassanāinsight meditation (with seeing impermenence, suffering and non self)
viriyaenergy (effort)
vitakkainitial or applied thought (usually part of the 5 jhāna factors)
vivekabeing alone, detachment, seclusion
Table of Pali words

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top