March 15, 2012



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


  1. Thank you, Dorje Wangchuk, for your great blog. I've recently been made aware of it through a friend, and I've shared it with another friend. We are all learning Tibetan and some are doing translation. You're making it fun and interesting to add vocabulary, etymology and grammar to our store of Tibetan knowlege.

  2. Dear Chantal,

    Thank you for your interest. Despite the hypothetical and speculative nature of (i.e. particularly of the etymologies), I hope that readers like yourself will benefit a little from some of the things posted on the blog. My colleague and friend Dan Martin (Jerusalem) has been extremely encouraging and several entries here are inspired by him. Please feel free to post comments, questions, critiques, and so on. But please note that this blog is a forum of reflection, recreation, and fun. :) So please have fun!

    Best wishes,