Category Archives: Compounds


In English and other languages I find I often get ridiculed or misunderstood whenever I make up new words. People think its illegal. But in Sanskrit it’s built in to the language. You are supposed to make new words, you have to if you want to be really descriptive and exact about what you are saying.

We already know about adding prefixes and suffixes to roots to make new words. Now here’s another way – you can also add two roots together (if they are both nouns) to make a new word.

You can do this in English, too. For example, “Wallpaper” is a new word made by combining two other nouns (“wall” and “paper”). But in Sanskrit you can make compounds out of any number of nouns.

The thing about compounds is that, no matter how many words are involved, they all become one grammatical entity – so only the “last word” in the compound gets inflected. The rest of the words will retain their basic, stem form.

And, the regular rules of external sandhi apply when you put the words together.

We’ll look at two types of compounds today. Here’s the first, most famous example:

तत्पुरुषः Case 6 Tatpurusha Compound

Lets say we want to take the two words tasya (“his”) and puruṣa (“person”) and put them together to make a single compound word with a rich meaning something like “his person.” It conveys the sense of one person belonging to another. So its often translated as “his servant.”

Firstly you can note that compounds can also involve pronouns, not just nouns. tasya is a pronoun (Case 6 singular masculine). The rule is that words forming a compound revert to their stem, so

  1. tasya reverts to tad. 
  2. Combine it with puruṣa (which already in it’s stem), and get tad-puruṣa.
  3. Factor in the sandhi, so you get tat-puruṣa. 

Now tatpuruṣa is a single word. So If you want to use it as a singular noun you just inflect it as such, tatpuruṣaḥ.

Case 1 Tatpurusha Compund

Sometimes nouns act as adjectives… so adjectives are not excluded from being used in compounds. Here is an example:

kṛṣṇa can be used as an adjective, meaning “black.” So you can say kṛṣno hastaḥ (“black hand”). If you wanted to make this phrase a single word you could, just take kṛṣṇaḥ because to its original stem, kṛṣṇa and combine it with hasta. Then apply sandhi, but there are no sandhi changes between a and h, so you have the compound as kṛṣṇahasta, and you can use it for example as singular masculine like this: kṛṣṇāhastaḥ.

Another example:

Nara (“man”) + siṁha (“lion) = nasasiṁha, which you can then inflect, for example as singular masculine: narasiṁhaḥ. 


पुरुषाणाम् उत्तमः puruṣāṇām uttamaḥ

  1. Revert words back to their stems: puruṣa + uttama
  2. Blend together with sandhi = puruṣottama

The meaning is “better than” (uttama) “all other people” (puruṣāṇām). Or simply the Ultimate (uttama) Person (Puruṣa)

नीलानि फलानि nīlāni phalāni

  • nīla + phala = nīlaphala (“blue-fruit”)
  • nīlaphalāni (“blue-fruits”)

सुन्दरा अश्वाः sundarā aśvāḥ

  • sundara + aśva = sundarāśva (“beauty-horse”)

नगरस्य मध्ये nagarasya madhye

  • nagara + madhya = nagaramadhya (“center-city”)
  • nagaramadhye (“in center-city”)

ग्रामस्य वृक्षात् grāmasya vṛkṣāt

  • grāma + vṛkṣa = grāmavṛkṣa (“villiage-trees”)
  • grāmavṛkṣāt (“from the village-trees”)

वैराय वीराय vairāya vīrāya

  • vaira + vīra = vairavīra (“aggressive-hero”)
  • vairavīrāya (“for the aggressive-hero”)