Sanskrit Language

Definition: Sanskrit, Latin, and ancient Greek form a trio of classical literary languages. Sanskrit is the ancient language of India and the Indian subcontinent. Its literature, the Vedas, was written in Vedic Sanskrit, as in the Rig Veda, from about 1500 B.C. Chronologically next came Classical Sanskrit (c. 4th century B.C.).

Sanskrit was one of the most important keys to the Indoeuropean language puzzle.

When philologists in India, well-versed in classical Greek and Latin, as well as modern language like German, started seeing similarities across the languages, they were able to develop methods of study, including the Comparative Method, and theories of language development from a proto-language. Sanskrit is classified as a Satem ('100') language, as opposed to the Centum ('100') languages, like Latin. It is part of the Indo-Aryan sub-branch of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indoeuropean language family.

Sanskrit is still one of India's official languages, although its use in the vernacular is limited. Early Sanskrit was written using Brahmi or Kharosthi scripts. It is now usually written with the Devanāgarī alphabet.

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Alternate Spellings: Sanscrit


The first to understand the connection between Greek, Latin and Sanskrit was Sir William Jones (Sept. 28, 1746-April 27, 1794) who said: "... no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists. There is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that ... Gothick ... had the same origin with the Sanscrit; and the old Persian might be added to the same family....


Jones, Sir William. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved February 19, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online.

Sanskrit Quiz