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From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Śabda literally means ‘sound’.

Śabda is a term of several connotations which is called as sound in general.

Śabda as per Vedānta Philosophy[edit]

In Vedānta philosophy it means śabda-tanmātra, the element ākāśa[1] in its purest form. It sometimes also indicates the Śruti or the Veda.

Śabda as per Grammar[edit]

In grammar, it denotes a word made up of letters and conveying some meaning. It is then described as sārthaka or with meaning. Words or letters without any particular meaning are called nirarthaka. It is also classed into three groups according to gender:

  1. Pulliṅga - masculine gender
  2. Strīliṅga - feminine gender
  3. Napusakaliṅga - neuter gender

Śabda as per Purvamīmānsā Philosophy[edit]

The Purvamīmāmsā philosophy categorizes the Vedic words into five classes as:

  1. Vidhi - injunction
  2. Mantra - sacred utterance
  3. Nāmadheya - nomenclature
  4. Niṣedha - prohibition
  5. Arthavāda - eulogy

It also recognizes that śabdas or words can be laukika,[2] which again can be classified as:

  1. Vidhi
  2. Niṣedha
  3. Arthavāda

Śabdas or words of reliable persons, āptavākya and Vedic words, are considered pramāṇa.[3]

Śabda as per Amarakośa[edit]

The Amarakośa[4] gives different names to different kinds of sounds such as:

  1. Marmara - sound of leaves
  2. Śiñjita - sound of ornaments when one is moving
  3. Kvaṇana - sweet sound of musical instruments
  4. Ruta - sound of certain animals and birds
  5. Gāna - music
  6. Etc.


  1. Ākāśa means space or ether.
  2. Laukika means pertaining to mundane affairs.
  3. Pramāṇa means valid source of knowledge.
  4. Amarakośa 7
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore