February 29, 2012



Dan Martin poses the question as to where the syllable to in sdig to (can) comes from. He also points out that term sdig to occurs in the Mahāvyutpatti (no. 6801) and it is a rendering for the Sanskrit pātakin (“wicked,” “sinner”). My feeling is that a word (often an adjective) that contains the syllable to has a negative meaning or ring to it. Admittedly, except for sdig to can, we do not seem to encounter many such words in classical Tibetan. Such words seem to be more common in modern (or colloquial) Tibetan.

1. sdig to (can) “evil, wicked” (Mahāvyutpatti, no. 6801)
2. nyob to “lazy, dull, boring” (Bod rgya, s.v.)
3. gob to “useless, worthless.” Cf. Goldstein 2001: s.v. “old, dilapidated, worn out”
4. mkhregs to “incorrigible.” Cf. Goldstein 2001: s.v. “obstinate”
5. rmor to “old woman” (pejorative), “hag”? Goldstein 2001: s.v.
6. spor to “old man” (pejorative), cf. Goldstein 2001: s.v.
7. ’bur to “wound, abscess.” Requires a written source. Not recorded in Goldstein 2001. 
The orthography of words occurring only in modern Tibetan is often doubtful. For instance, I am not sure if the orthographies mkhregs to/rdo (in Goldstein 2001: s.vv.) are historically plausible or are simply creative/speculative orthographies.

Cf. also:

1. mchu to “beak, lip”
2. mu to/lto ba “pauper”


  1. Dear DW,
    You think mu-lto-ba could mean a 'famine' (mu-ge) 'stomach' (lto) 'owner' (-ba)?
    I kind of wonder about the gto / lto confusion you seem to see a lot. Sometimes it means a kind of ritual offering, doesn't it?
    Anyway, here's an interesting article about Mipam's gTo rituals: Lin Shen-Yu, Tibetan Magic for Daily Life: Mi pham's Texts on Gto-Rituals, Cahiers d'Extrême-Asie, vol. 15 (2005), pp. 107-125.
    Rainy miserable day here, and I'm starting to feel hungry after all this word discussion. There must be a ritual for overcoming this...
    Yours, D

  2. Dear Dan,

    I would not have come to the idea of linking mu lto/to ba with mu ge but it sounds plausible. Thus mu lto ba is to be understood as “one who possesses only famine provisions.” But gto must have a completely different origin. Some (also Shen-Yu?) say it is from Chinese Tao or Dao, right?

    Do you have snow there?

    Keep warm.


  3. Yes, we're living in Kha-ba-can. (Not exactly Bde-ba-can!) I noticed the mention of the book on gTo rituals in thay IIJ article of yours. Congratulations for that! -D

  4. :) Thanks. I have a feeling that we have to reconsider mu in mu to/lto ba. I am going to make an entry for mu and collect there some words with mu.