Tamil - Sanskrit Linguistics, Etymology

Linguistics and Etymology

Theivam (Deivam): Tamil or Sanskrit?

Inia Pandian

TAMIL TRIBUNE, August 1998 (ID. 1998-08-02)
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There are thousands of words that are common to both Tamil and Sanskrit (with some minor differences). It is customary in such cases for many scholars and common people to assume that these words are Sanskrit in origin and are borrowed by Tamil. This is the result of centuries of repeated falsehood propagated by powerful Sanskrit enthusiasts and the resultant "brain-washing" and conditioning of scholars and the public alike (and it continues even today). Rationally, one should examine the root of each such word and thus make a determination whether the word is of Tamil or Sanskrit origin.

In this series "Tamil or Sanskrit", we bring the root analysis (analysis of the origin) of some words common to both Tamil and Sanskrit. These articles are based on my own research or the work of others. If it is based on the work of others, it is clearly indicated and credit is given to whom it is due.

Theivam (Deivam): Tamil or Sanskrit?

The word "theivam" (also spelled in English as "deivam")(தெய்வம்) is common to both Tamil and Sanskrit, and commonly considered a Sanskrit word borrowed into Tamil centuries ago. In an article published a few decades ago Devaneyan (popularly known as Pavanar or Devaneya Pavanar) points to the Tamil word "thee" (தீ) (means fire) as the root for "theivam". Worship of nature, especially those natural phenomena that benefited them or scared them, is common among ancient people. Rain was worshiped as something that benefited human kind, and fire was worshiped because they were afraid of it. Ancient Tamils, and even today aborigines in many countries, worship fire. Initially the "fire-god" must have been called "theivam" ("deivam"). With time the word came to refer to god in general. (For example, the word "thanneer" referred to cold water. Now it refers to water in general.)

English words "deity", "theology" and "theism" are all derivatives of the Tamil word "theivam" (deivam).

By the way, what is the origin of the Tamil word "thee". Deveneyan points to the Tamil word "thaei" (meaning "rub"). In ancient times fire was made by rubbing dry sticks. Brush fires in old Tamil Nadu were caused by the accidental rubbing of dry bamboo stems as they moved and swayed in wind. Thus the word "thee" originated from "thaei" (தேய்).

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