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A Practical Grammar of the Pāli Language
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
For free distribution, as a gift of Dhamma.

A Practical Grammar of the Paali Language

Chapter XII


539. Declinable stems are frequently joined to one another to form compounds. In the older language, compounds are simple and rarely consist of more than 2 or 3 stems, but the later the language (i.e. in the commentaries and sub-commentaries) the more involved they become.

540. Compounds may also have an indeclinable as the first member; there are even a few compounds made up entirely of indeclinables.

Remarks. The case endings of the first member or members of a compound are generally dropped; only in a few instances are they preserved.

541. There are six kinds of compound words:

  1. Dvanda, Copulative or Aggregative Compounds
  2. Tappurisa, Dependent Determinate Compounds
  3. Kammadhaaraya, Descriptive Determinate Compounds
  4. Digu, Numeral Determinate Compounds
  5. Abyayibhaava, Adverbial Compounds
  6. Bahubbiihi, Relative or Attributive Compounds

Remarks. Native grammarians distribute the above into four classes by making Nos. iii and iv subdivisions of No. ii, Tappurisa; but this classification, through lack of sufficient distinctness, confuses the student unnecessarily. We shall therefore follow the above division (541).

Dvanda (Copulative or Aggregative Compounds)

542. The members of these compounds are co-ordinate syntatically, in their uncompounded state; each member would be connected with the other by means of the conjunction ca, and.

543. Dvanda compounds are of two kinds:

  1. The compound is a plural and takes the gender and declension of its last member.
  2. The compound takes the form of a neuter singular and, whatever the number of its members, becomes a collective. This is the case generally with the names of: birds, parts of the body, persons of different sexes, countries, trees, herbs, the cardinal points, domestic animals, things that form an antithesis, etc.

Remarks. The following rules are given as to the order of the members of dvanda compounds:

  1. words in i and u are placed first;
  2. shorter words are placed before longer ones;
  3. ii and uu (long), are generally shortened in the middle of the compound;
  4. sometimes a feminine noun, in the middle of the compound, takes the masculine form (candimasuriyaa) sometimes, or remains unchanged (jaraamara.na.m).
Examples of (i)
Examples of (ii)

Note that the compounds which come under no.(ii) sometimes assume the form of the plural like those of no.(i).

544. The compounds which take the plural form are called: itaritara, because the members of the compound are considered separately; those that take the neuter singular form: samaahaara, because the several members are considered collectively, those that take either the plural or the neuter, are called: vikappasamaahaara.

Tappurisa (Dependent Determinate Compounds)

545. In these compounds the first member is a substantive in any case but the Nominative and the Vocative, qualifying, explaining or determining the last member.

(a) The case-ending of the first member is elided.
(b) In a few cases, the case-ending is not elided; these compounds are called: alutta tappurisa.
(c) The aa of such words as: raajaa, maataa, pitaa, bhaata, etc, is shortened in the first member.
(d) Generally, a Tappurisa follows the gender of the last member.

(i) Tappurisa with Accusative case (Dutiya Tappurisa)
(ii) Tappurisa with Instrumentive case (Tatiya Tappurisa)

Remarks. In some Tappurisa compounds, a word, necessary to express properly the full meaning, is altogether elided.

(iii) Tappurisa with Dative case (Catutthii Tappurisa)

Remarks. In these compounds, the last member designates the object destined for or attributed to that which is expressed by the first member.


(b) Compounds formed by adding kaamo "desirous of" to an infinitive are considered to be Tappurisas in the Dative relation (niiruttadiipanii, saddaniiti).

(iv) Tappurisa with Ablative case (Pa~ncamii Tappurisa)

Remarks. These express: fear of, separation or going away from, fredom from, etc.

(v) Tappurisa with Genitive case (Cha.t.tha Tappurisa)

Remarks. (a) Tappurisas in the Genitive relation are by far the most common.
(b) Final ii and uu of the first member are as a rule shortened to i and u respectively.
(c) The word: ratti, night, takes the form ratta.m at the end of a Tappurisa.

(vi) Tappurisa with Locative case (Sattaani Tappurisa)

Anomalous Tappurisa

(a) Sometimes the first member of a Tappurisa is placed last.


Alutta Tappurisa

(b) In these the case-endings are not dropped:


The student will remark that the case of the first member may be any case but the Nominative and Vocative.

Kammadhaaraya (Descriptive Determinate Compounds)

546. The kammadhaaraya compound (which is also called: missakatappurisa) is divided into nine classes:

(a) In Kammadhaaraya compounds, the adjective: mahanta assumes the form: mahaa, and, if the consonant which follows is reduplicated, the form: maha.
(b)The word: santa, good, being, takes the form; sa (Sansk. sat).
(c) The word: puma, a male, rejects its final a.
(d) When the two members of a Kammadhaaraya are feminine, the first one assumes the form of the masculine.
(e) The prefix na, not, is replaced by a before a consonant and by an before a vowel.
(f) Prefix ku, meaning bad, little, may become ka before a consonant, and kad before a vowel.
(g) In their uncompounded state, the two members of a Kammadhaaraya are in the same case.

(1) Visesanapubbapada Kammadhaaraya, in which the determining or qualifying word is placed first.


(2) Visesanaparapada, or Visesanuttarapada Kammadhaaraya; in this, the second member determines the first.

(3) Visesanobhayapada Kammadhaaraya, the two members of which are determinate.

Remarks. A word, as for instance, so, he, is generally understood between the two members of these compounds.


(4) Sambhaavanaapubbapada Kammadhaaraya; in which the first member indicates the origin of the second term, or the relation in which the second term stands to the first. In these compounds such words as: iti namely, thus called; eva.m thus, called; sa`nkhaato, called, named; hutvaa, being are generally understood, in order to bring out the full meaning of the compound.


(5) Upamaa- or Upamaanuttarapada-kammadhaaraya, in these compounds, analogy is expressed between the two terms. The word: viya, like, is understood between the two members.


Remarks. The words: aadicca, sun; siiha, lion; pu`ngava, usabha, bull; naga, elephant; are frequently used as in the above examples, to denote: superiority, greatness, excellence, eminence, so that buddhaadicco may be translated: the eminent Buddha; munisiiho, the great sage; munipu`ngavo, the eminent sage, etc.

(6) Avadhaaranapubbapada-kammadhaaraya, in which the first member specifies a general term. Native grammarians, in resolving these compounds, insert the word eva, just, even (but which in these examples cannot be translated into English), between the two terms of the compounds. In English, these compounds must be translated as if they were in the Genitive relation.


(7) Kunipaatapubbapada kammadhaaraya, the first member of which is: ku, (see f).


(8) Nanipaatapubbapada-kammadhaaraya, (see e).


(9) Paadipubbapada-kammadhaaraya, in which the first member is paa, pa or any other prefix.

Nouns in Apposition

547. Nouns in Apposition are considered to be kammadhaaraya compounds:


Remark. Sometimes the last member of a kammadhaaraya, being feminine, assumes the masculine form.


Digu (Numeral Compounds)

548. There are two kinds of digu:

  1. Samaahaara Digu, considered as collective takes the form of the neuter sing in .m.
  2. Asamaahaara Digu, when the digu does not express a whole, but the objects indicated by the last member are considered individually, the compound as a rule taking the form of the plural.

(a) Some words, when last member of a digu, change their final vowel to a, if it be other than a.
(b) The stems only of the numerals are used as first members.

(i) Samaahaara-Digu


(ii) Asamaahaara-Digu


Abyayibhaava (Adverbial Compounds)

549. (i)

(a) These compounds have for first member an indeclinable (529).
(b) The Abyayibhaava generally assumes the form of the accusative singular in .m, and is indeclinable.
(c) If the final vowel of the last member is aa, long aa is replaced by a.m; other long vowels (except aa), are shortened.


(ii) Sometimes, however, the case-ending is retained; the cases thus retained being mostly the Ablative and the Locative. But in most cases, the Neuter form is also met with for the same compound. The Ablative termination may be retained when the indeclinable is: pari, apa, aa, bahi, yaava, etc.


Bahubbiihi (Relative or Attributive Compounds)

550. Remarks.

  1. A Bahubbihi compound, when resolved into its component parts, requires the addition of such relative pronouns as: "he, who, that, which," etc., to express its full meaning; a bahubbihi is therefore used relatively, that is, as an adjective, and consequently, the final member assumes the forms of the three genders, according to the gender of the noun which it qualifies. A bahubbihi is equal to a relative clause.
  2. All the compounds explained above (dvanda, tappurisa, kammadhaaraya, diigu, abyayibhaava), become, if used as adjectives, bahubbihi compounds.
  3. Babubbihi being used as adjectives qualifying nouns, must agree in gender, number and case with the nouns which they qualify.
  4. It follows from (c) that a bahubbihi may be in any case relation but the Vocative.

The following are the different kinds of bahubbihi.

  1. Pathamaa-bahubbihi, relative in the Nominative case.
    • chinnahattho puriso = hand-cut man, a man whose hands have been cut off
      Here, chinnahattho is the bahubbihi qualifying the noun puriso
    • lohitamakkhita.m mukha.m = lohitena makkhita.m mukha.m, the mouth besmeared with blood; lohita makkhita.m is the bahubbihi
    • susajjita.m pura.m, a well-decorated city; susajjita.m is the bahubbihi
  2. Dutiyaa-bahubbihi, relative in the Accusative case; that is, the bahubbihi gives to the word which it determines or qualifies the sense of the Accusative relation.
    • aagatasama.no sa`nghaaraamo = ima.m sa`nghaaraama.m sama.no aagato, this monastery the priest came to, the monastery into which the priest came; aagatasama.no is the bahubbihi.
    • aaruu.lhanaro rukkho = so naro ima.m rukkha.m aaruu.lho, the tree into which the man climbed; aaruu.lhanaro is the bahubbihi.
  3. Tatiya-bahubbiihi, relative in the Instrumentive case; in which the bahubbihi gives to the word it determines the sense of the Instrumentive relation.
    • jitindriyo samano = yena jitaani indriyaani so sama.no, the samana by whom the senses have been conquered; jitindriyo is the bahubbihi.
    • vijitamaaro bhagavaa = so bhagavaa yena maaro vijito, the Blessed One by whom Mara was vanquished, the Blessed One who vanquished Mara; vijitamaaro is the bahubibhi.
  4. Catutthii bahubbihi, relative in the Dative case; in which the bahubbihi gives to the word it determines the sense of the Dative relation.
    • dinnasu`nko puriso = yassa su`nko dinno so, he to whom tax is given; dinnasu`nko is the bahubbihi.
    • upaniitabhojano sama.no = so sama.no yassa bhojana.m upaniita.m, the priest to whom food is given; upaniitabhojano is the bahubbihi.
  5. Pa~ncamii-bahubbihi, relative in the Ablative case; in which the compound gives to the word determined the sense of the Ablative relation.
    • niggatajano gaamo = asmaa gaamasmaa janaa niggataa, that village from which the people have departed, an abandoned village; niggatajano is the bahubbihi.
    • apagatakaa.laka.m vattha.m = ida.m vattha.m yasmaa kaa.lakaa apagataa, the cloth from which (the) black spots have departed = a cloth free from black spots; apagatakaa.laka.m is the bahubbihi.
  6. Cha.t.thii-bahubbiihi, relative in the Genitive case; in which the compound gives to the word it determines the sense of the Genitive relation.
    • chinnahattho puriso = so puriso yassa hattho chinno, the man whose hands are cut off; chinnahattho is the babhubbihi.
    • visuddhasiilo jano = so jano yassa siila.m visuddha.m, that person whose conduct is pure, a moral person; visuddhasiilo is the bahubbihi.
  7. Sattama-bahubbiihi, relative in the Locative Case; that is, in which the bahubbihi gives to the determined word the sense of the Locative case.
    • sampannasasso janapado = yasmi.m janapade sassaani sampannaani, a district in which the crops are abundant, a fertile district; sampannasasso is the bahubbibi.
    • bahujano gaamo = yasmi.m gaame babuu janaa honti, a village in which are many persons, a populous village; bahujano is the bahubbihi.
  1. The word determined by the Bahubbihi compound is often understood or implied and not expressed.
    • dinnasu`nko (4) = he who receives taxes, a tax collector
    • jitindriyo (3) = he who has subdued his senses
    • lohitamakkhito (1) = besmeared with blood
    • sattahaparinibbuto = dead since a week
    • somanasso = joyful (lit., he to whom joy has arisen)
    • chinnahattho (6) = he whose hands have been cut off
    • maasajato = a month old (lit., he who is born since one month)
    • vijitamaaro (3) = he who has conquered Mara, the Buddha
  2. In some bahubbihi, the determining word may be placed either first or last without changing the meaning:
    • hatthachinno or chinnahattho
    • jaatamaaso or maasajaato
  3. Feminine nouns ending in ii, uu as well as stems ending in tu (=taa, see, 163, words declined like satthaa), generally take the suffix ka, when they are the last member of a bahubbihi; possession is then implied:
    • bahukattuko deso = a place in which there are many artisans
    • bahukumaarika.m kula.m = a family in which there are many girls
    • bahunadiko janapado = a district with many rivers
    Note that long ii is shortened before ka; the same remark applies to long uu.
  4. When a feminine noun is the last member of a babubbihi, it takes the masculine form if determining a masculine noun, and the first member, if also feminine, drops the sign of the feminine:
    • diighaa ja`nghaa, a long leg;
      diighaja`nghaa itthii, a long-legged woman, but:
      diighaja`ngho puriso, a long-legged man.
  5. The adjective mahaa, may be used as the first member of a bahubbihi:
    • mahaapa~n~no, of great wisdom, very wise
  6. Sometimes aa is added to the words: dhanu, a bow; dhamma, the Law; and a few others, when last members of a bahubbihi:
    • gandhivadhanu = gandhivadhanvaa (27, ii), Arjuna, he who has a strong bow
    • paccakkhadhammaa, but also paccakkhadhammo, to whom the Doctrine is apparent

551. The student will have remarked that all the examples given above of bahubbihi, digu, tappurisa, kammadhaaraya, dvanda and abyayibhaava, are used relatively. To make the matter clearer, however, a few examples are here given.

Dvanda used relatively


Tappurisa used relatively


Kammadhaaraya used relatively


Digu used relatively


Abyayibhaava used relatively


Upapada Compounds

552. When the second member of a Dutiyaa Tappurisa compound is a Kita noun or Primary derivative, (see Chapter XIII, Primary and Secondary Derivation), and the first member a noun in the Accusative relation, the compound is called Upapada. Such a compound may therefore be called indifferently: upapada or upapadatappurisa; or simply: tappurisa. (Niruttidiipanii)


Anomalous Compounds

553. A few compounds are found which are quite anomalous in their formation, that is, they are made up of words not usually compounded together. These compounds must probably be considered as of very early formation, and be reckoned amongst the oldest in the language. We give a few examples:


Complex Compounds

554. Compounds, as above explained, may themselves become either the first or the last member of another compound, or two compounds may be brought together to form a new one, and this new one again may become a member of another compound, and so on to almost any length, thus forming compounds within compounds. These compounds are mostly used relatively that is, they are bahubbihi. The student ought to bear in mind that, the older the language is, the fewer are these complex compounds, and the later the language, the more numerous do they become; it therefore follows that long compounds are a sign of decay and, to a certain extent, a test as to the relative age of a text.


Remark. The student should follow the above method in resolving compounds.

Changes of certain words in compounds

555. Some words, when compounded, change their final vowel; when last members of a bahubbihi, they, of course, assume the ending of the three genders, according to the gender of the noun they determine. The most common are here given:

go, a cow, bullock, becomes gu, gavo or gava.m:

bhuumi, place, state, stage, degree, storey becomes bhuuma:

nadii, a river, is changed to nada:

a`nguli, finger, becomes a`ngula (see, 548, a).

ratti, night, is changed to ratta (see, 548, a); here are a few more examples:

akkhi, the eye, changes to akkha:

sakhaa, (masc.) friend, companion, becomes sakho:

attaa, self, one's self becomes atta:

pumaa = male, a man, becomes pu.m, and final .m is assimilated to the following consonant according to the usual rules:

saha, with, is abbreviated to sa, which is placed at the beginning of compounds, ka is sometimes superadded:

saha is used in the same sense:

santa, good, being, is also abbreviated to sa (see, 546, b):

samaana, same, similar, equal; is likewise shortened to sa:

mahanta, becomes mahaa (see 546, a)

jaayaa, wife, takes the forms jaani, ja.m, tuda.m*, jaya.m, before the word pati, lord, husband:

* The niruttidiipanii has the following interesting note on the word tuda.m: "yathaa ca sakka.taganthesu 'daaro ca pati ca dampatii' ti". And lower down: "tattha 'tu' saddo padapuura.namatte yujjati".

Verbal Compounds

556. Many nouns and adjectives are compounded with √kar, to do and √bhuu, to be, or with their derivatives very much in the manner of Verbal Prefixes.

557. The noun or adjective stems thus used change final a or final i to ii.