We all know that rdul means “a particle” or “an atom.” But what could be its etymology, if it at all has one? Have we thought about it at all? I haven’t before. After ruminating on it for a while, I am tempted to assume that rdul is related with rtul ba “to pestle/crush/grind” (cf. rtun “a pestle”) and ’dul ba (“to tame/train”), suggesting a shared sense of rendering something coarse or gross to something subtle/fine/softer and supple. Cf. rtul in rtul po “blunt/dull.” Thus “atom” is the fine particle of something that one gets after grinding (rtul) it with a pestle (rtun). Cf. Stein 1941: 218.
© Wangchuk 2012