• namaste •
nah-mê-stay, nê-mah-stay • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, interjection
Meaning: A traditional gesture of greeting made by bringing the hands together and bowing, used widely in South Asia and the Far East. It is called sampeah in Cambodia and wai in Thailand.
Notes: The good doctor was at an Indian festival recently and was greeted several times by Hindu friends and acquaintances with a namaste. Namaskar is considered slightly more formal than namaste, but both express deep respect. Both are lexical orphans.
In Play: The main work of namaste is as a noun: "We were met at the door with a namaste from our hostess." However, it works just as well as a interjection: "Finishing work on his motorcycle, Pranit said, 'Namaste', praying that it works."
Word History: In 1965, when immigration quotas were removed, immigration from India surged to the point Indian immigrants became the second largest such population after Mexicans. Hence, even though namaste is used throughout Southeast Asia, today's Good Word came to us from Hindi, from Sanskrit namas te "obeisance to you", from namas "obeisance, homage" + te, dative (the to/for case) of tuam "you". Namas was made from PIE nem-/nom- "to take, put in order, count", source also of Greek nomos "habitual practice, use", Latin Nemesis "goddess of justice", Russian snimat' "take off, remove", Icelandic nema "study, learn, take", and German nehmen "to take". Tuam was passed down from PIE tu "you (singular). This word ended up as Latin tu, Welsh ti, Irish tú and thú, Russian ty, German du, and English thou. (Gratitude is now due Susan Maynard for recommending today's Hindi Good Word, now worming its way into the English vocabulary.)
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