Published On: Thu, Jan 12th, 2017

The 19 different meaning of the word ॐ (OM) in Sanskrit

As we all know the word Om is considered as most sacred and powerful utterance across all Dharmic traditions of India. Be it Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, or even Sikhism as Omkar.  Have we wondered what is the meaning of the word OM. As it is Sanskrit word we need to look into its Sanskrit etymology to understand what Om means.  For this we turn to three different Sanskrit sources of ancientIndian Lore; Aṣṭādhyāyī, avateṣṭilopaśca’ (Uṇādi Sūtra) and Dhātu Pātha.

The Sanskrit word ‘om’ is derived from the verb (root) ‘av’ by the rules ‘uṇadayo bahulam’ (Aṣṭādhyāyī 3.3.1) and ‘avateṣṭilopaśca’ (Uṇādi Sūtra 1.128). The derivation is: ava rakṣaṇa-gati-kānti-prīti-tṛptyavagama-praveśa-śravaṇa-svāmyartha-yācana-kriyecchā-dīptyavāptyāliṅgana-hiṃsādāna-bhāga-vṛddhiṣu (DP 1.600) → uṇadayo bahulam (PS 3.3.1) → avateṣṭilopaśca (US 1.128) → av man → ṭilopa → av m → jvaratvaraśrivyavimavāmupadhāyāśca (PS 6.4.20) → ū m → sārvadhātukārdhadhātukayoḥ (7.3.84) → ārdhadhātuka guṇa → o m → om The meaning is ‘avati iti om’: the performer of the action denoted by the verb ‘av’ is called ‘om’ in Sanskrit. The Pāṇinīya Dhātupāṭha lists the verb ‘av’ as the 600th entry with as many as nineteen meanings: ‘ava-rakṣaṇa-gati-kānti-prīti-tṛptyavagama-praveśa-śravaṇa-svāmyartha-yācana-kriyecchā-dīptyavāptyāliṅgana-hiṃsā-dāna-bhāga-vṛddhiṣu.’ In accordance with these nineteen meanings of the verb ‘av’, there are nineteen meanings of the word ‘om’ in Sanskrit as follows:

(1) rakṣaṇa (protection): ‘om’ means the protector; that which protects those who chant it.

(2) gati (motion): ‘om’ means eternally movin, unstoppable.

(3) kānti (charm or beauty): ‘om’ means the divine charmer, beauty. Accordingly OM means the possessor of divine charm, attracting the minds of all those who meditate on it.

(4) prīti (bliss or favourable disposition): ‘om’ means blissful or favourably dispose. As a result the word OM means possessor of bliss or Aanand and that who is favourably disposed towards everybody.

(5) tṛpti (satisfaction): ‘om’ means satisfied or contentet.

(6) avagama (knowledge): ‘om’ means the omniscient. As a result the word OM means the knowledgeable, the knower, the omniscience.

(7) praveśa (entrance): ‘om’ means all-pervading.  As a result the word OM means that which enters all places and form in the Universe.

(8) śravaṇa (hearing): ‘om’ means the listener, to be understood as listener of both expressed words and unexpressed emotions.

(9) svāmyartha (rule): ‘om’ means the ruler. As a result the word OM means ruler of all sound that exist in Dhātu tradition. 

(10) yācana (entreaty): ‘om’ means entreater. As a result the word OM means it urges us to be on righteous path.

(11) kriyā (action): ‘om’ means the doer. As a result the word OM means doer or performer of all actions including Sristi (Creation), sthiti (Preservation), samhara (rejuvenation), Tirobhava (putting in Illusion) and Anugraha (Liberation).

(12) icchā (desire): ‘om’ means the well-wisher, desirous of well being of everybody, as reflected in our motto: Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinaḥ (सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः).

(13) dīpti (radiance): ‘om’ means radiant.  As a result the word OM means which is brilliant or radiant, the divine aura.

(14) avāpti (attainment): ‘om’ means the supreme attainer. There is nothing out of reach of all this pervading sound.

(15) āliṅgana (embrace): ‘om’ means all-embracing.

(16) hiṃsā (violence): ‘om’ means the destroyer [of vices or Karma], to be understood as destroyer of our karmās.

(17) ādāna: ‘om’ means the receiver, to be understood as receiver of all our material offerings and our spiritual efforts.

(18) bhāga: ‘om’ means one that divides itself [into many], to be understood as that which is one that divide itself and reside within soul or Atman.

(19) vṛddhi: ‘om’ means the ever-growing, that which grows, ever growing, expanding like cosmic universe.

So these are the 19 meaning of Sanskrit word OM.

Compiled by : Nityananda Misra


[1] T. R. Chintamani (ed.) (1933), The Uṇādisūtras with the Vṛtti of Śvetavanavāsin, Madras: University of Madras, pp. 49–50.

[2] Pushpa Dikshit (ed., tr.) (2011), Pāṇinīyadhātupāṭhaḥ Sārthaḥ, Mahādevaśāstrigranthamālā 19, New Delhi: Samskrita Bharati ISBN 978-93-81160-12-1, p. 17.

[3] Pt. Ishwar Chandra (ed., tr.) (2004), Aṣṭādhyāyī of Maharṣi Pāṇini (Volume 1), Delhi: Chaukhambha Sanskrit Pratisthan, p. 351.

[4] Pt. Ishwar Chandra (ed., tr.) (2004), Aṣṭādhyāyī of Maharṣi Pāṇini (Volume 2), Delhi: Chaukhambha Sanskrit Pratisthan, p. 784.

[5] Jagadguru Rāmānandācārya Svāmī Rāmabhadrācārya (2000), Īśāvāsyopaniṣadi Viśiṣṭādvaitaparakam Śrīrāghavakṛpābhāṣyam, Chitrakoot: Śrītulasīpīṭhasevānyāsa, pp. 6–9 (Sanskrit part), 6–11 (Hindi part).

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