I am looking for an etymology on the Sanskrit word jāla 'web'. What is the origin of it? I am trying to find a parallel in other Indo-European languages but no luck so far.

  • I vote to leave it open (at least for the moment). Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 9:09
  • same here as jknappen. Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 12:11
  • 2
    Have you looked in Mayrhofer's etymological dictionary?
    – fdb
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 0:47
  • @fdb: Not yet, but I will. I have at least confirmed the root exists in Iranic languages as well.
    – Midas
    Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 21:25
  • Sanskrit dictionaries derive it from root jala "to cover; to be sharp; to be wealthy". One dictionary says "cf. Latin galea". Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 22:00

1 Answer 1


(I'm posting this not as a definitve answer, but in the hope that this information can stimulate some further thought and search.)

StarLing database

In the Starling database (the Indo-European part was compiled by Sergei Nikolayev), it is supposed to be related to the Indo-European root *ger "to weave":

Proto-IE: *ger-

Meaning: to weave

Old Indian: guṇá- m. `a single thread or strand of a cord or twine, string, rope';
jaṭā f. `hair twisted together; fibrous root';
jāla- n. `net, snare, cob-web, any woven texture';
gala- `reed, rope of reed (L.)';
gárta- m. `high seat, throne'

Baltic: *geran̂k=, *garan̂k= (2); *gerg=, *gerk=

Germanic: *kar-m-a- m.

Russ. meaning: плести

References: WP I 593 f

However, the details of this derivation is unclear to me.

(I can suppose deriving it from a protoform like *gērT- through Indo-Iranian palatalization before ē, merger of non-high vowels, and some unclear consonant cluster development into l; this protoform has a long ablaut grade (under which rule?) and some unclear consonant T. But my knowledge in this field is limited; I'm just refering to some well-known historical phonetic processes.

The development like *rt, *rd, *ry > l is typical for the history of some Iranian languages, though I lack the knowledge concerning similar processes in Old Indian or Prakrits.)

Additional, possibly relevant entries from Pokorny's dictionary

If we follow the reference to the Pokorny's dictionary (as saved in the StarLing database), there are a lot of suggested related forms (with extensions), though Old Indian jāla- is not among them. (So, it must be the idea of the authors of the Starling database.)

An extract from WP I 593 f (Root: ger-3) in Pokorny's dictionary (I'm listing only the dental extensions, since they seem to be closest to the Old Indian form in question jāla-):

Number: 576

Root: ger-3

English meaning: to turn, wind

German meaning: `drehen, winden'

Material: A. Ai. guṇá-ḥ (*gr̥-nó-s) `der einzelne Faden einer Schnur, Schnur, Strick;
mal' (dvi-, tri-guṇa- eigentlich `aus zwei, drei Fäden bestehend');
gárta-ḥ `Wagensitz des Streitwagens' (`*aus Ruten geflochtener Sitz, Wagenkorb'),
vgl. mit Formans -mo- anord. karmr `Brustwehr',
schwed. karm `Rückenlehne aus Flechtwerk, Wagenkorb' (*gor-mo-s `Flechtwerk').

    1. Gutturalerweiterungen:


    2. Dentalerweiterungen:

    a. gr-et(h)-: ags. cradol m. `Wiege' (*kradula- `geflochtenes'), ahd. kratto `Korb' (*kraddan-), krezzo, mhd. krezze, nhd. Krätze `Tragkorb' (*krattian).

    b. Nasaliert:

    Ai. granth-, grathnā́mi, Fut. granthiṣyāmi `winden, knüpfen, einen Knoten binden', Partiz. grathitá- `gewunden, knotig, zusammengeballt', granthí-ḥ m. `Knoten, Gelenk, Anschwellung', grantha-ḥ `Knoten', grathín- `ränkevoll', grathila- `verrückt'; aber ghatā- `Menge, Schar' ist nichtidg. (Kuiper Proto-Munda 55 f.).

    c. ger-d, gr-ed-, nasaliert grend-:

    Air. grinne (*grend-n-i̯o-) `Bündel, Reisbündel, fascis';

    anord. kartr, ags. cræt m. `Wagen' (wohl `geflochtener Wagenkorb'), wohl auch anord. kart-nagl `mißgestalteter Nagel', norw. kart m. `unreife Frucht, Knorren', ostfries. kret `verschrumpfte Frucht', mhd. krenze `Korb', ahd. kranz, nhd. Kranz;

    lit. grandìs (reduktionsstufig grundis) `Armband, Eisenring, Reif des Rades, runder Käsekuchen', apr. grandis `der Grindelring am Pflug, der den Pflugbaum mit dem Vordergestell verbindet', lett. grùods `stark gedreht, drall';

    poln. grędać się `sich drehen'.

    3. Labialerweiterungen:


    4. s-Erweiterung *gre-s-, nur germ.: ...

    B. Wurzelform gr-eu-; grū̆-mo- `Zusammengekratztes':


References: WP. I 593 ff., WH. 623, Trautmann 94 f., 97, 99 f.

Pages: 385-390

It is linked to one more entry in the IE database of Starling, namely *grent- (-th-), -d- "to plait, to braid, to bind, to twist":

Proto-IE: *grent- (-th-), -d-

Meaning: to plait, to braid, to bind, to twist

Old Indian: grathnā́ti, f. granthiṣyati `to fasten, tie or string together',
grantha- m., granthí- m. `knot'

Old Greek: gróntho-s m. `geballte Faust'

Slavic: *grǭdātī sę̄ (Pol dial. grędać się `sich drehen')

Baltic: *grañd-i- c., *grund-i- m., *grañd-a- adj.

  Proto-Baltic: *grañd-i- c., *grund-i- m., *grañd-a- adj.

  Lithuanian: grandì-s 'Ring einer Kette, Kettenglied, Armband', ostlit. grundi-s

  Lettish: grùods 'drall, stark gedreht, stramm'

  Old Prussian: grandis (überl. graudis) 'Rincke' ('Grindelring am Pfluge, der den Pflugbaum mit dem Vordergestell verbindet') Voc. 251

Germanic: *krant-a- m., *krant-iōn- f.; *krad-Vl-a- m., *kradd=, *kratt=

  Proto-Germanic: *kranta-z, *krantiōn; *kradVla-z, *kradd=, *kratt=

  Meaning: cradle, basket

  Old English: cradol m. `Wiege'

  English: cradle

  Old High German: kranz `schmückende Kopfbinde, Krone' (11.Jh.);
  kratto `Korb', krezzo

  Middle High German: kranz st. m. 'kranz';
  krɛnze, krinze, krɛtze wk. f., m. 'tragkorb';
  { krazze `Korb' }

  German: Kranz m.;
  { Krätze `Korb' }

Celtic: OIr grinne `Bündel, Reisbündel, fascis'

Russ. meaning: плести, вязать, скручивать

References: WP I 590 f

Pali Text Society's Pali-English dictionary

PED (Pali Text Society, London. The Pali Text Society's Pali-English dictionary. Chipstead, 1921-1925. With the "Additions and Corrections" applied.) has the following concerning the etymology in the jāla entry. It points to analoguous l:ṭ alternations in other words. Also note that it says that this word can be traced to Vedic, i.e., old.

1) Jāla (p. 283) Jāla Jāla1 (nt.)
[Vedic jāla, prob. from jaṭ to plait, make a tangle cp. jaṭita & jaṭā;
on l:ṭ cp. phulla: sphuṭa; cāru: cāṭu; cela: ceṭa]
a net; netting, entanglement (lit. or fig.): snare, deceptíon (=māyā).

Concering the etymology of jaṭ "to plait, make a tangle", which it refers to (and which is also mentioned in the entry for *ger in the StarLing database), there is not much additional interesting information:


1) Jaṭā (p. 277) Jaṭā Jaṭā (f.) [B.Sk. jatā]
tangle, braid, plaiting, esp. (a) the matted hair as worn by ascetics (see jatila)


1) Jaṭita (p. 277) Jaṭita Jaṭita [pp. of jaṭ, to which also jaṭā; Dhtp 95: sanghāte]

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