September 01, 2013

ཞབས་ཏོག་བྱེད། ཞབས་ཏོག་མཛད། ཞབས་ཏོག་ཞུ། ཞབས་ཏོག་པ།

Isn’t the etymology of zhabs tog actually self-evident or self-explanatory? One has to simply come to it! That is, zhabs tog byed would mean something like “to put [someone’s] feet (zhabs) at one’s top or crown (tog)” (i.e. to serve someone or to revere someone). Cf. also zhabs ’bring and zhabs phyi. The latter seems relatively late.

The opposite would be zhabs ’dren (verb “to drag down someone’s feet” or as noun “one who drags someone’s feet down”) and zhabs ’dren zhu ba “to do disservice to someone/something” or “to be a disgrace to someone/something.”


  1. It may be that zhabs-phyi is relatively late, but zha-'bring is relatively early. The OTDA has zha-'bring in situations where it appears to mean 'servant,' but you don't find the spelling zhabs-'bring. I wonder if this has any effect on the etymology. What would the zha in zha-'bring mean?

  2. Dear Dorji,
    May I ask for your opinion on the etymology of རྔ་ and རྔ་མོ་ please?
    Adam W.

  3. Dear Dan, the relative chronology of the orthographies makes sense. The orthography zha in the OTDA (assuming that it is indeed ”orthos”) may reflect a phase in which the spelling is not yet fixed. If it, however, already represents an established spelling, then we ill have to consider its meaning. I assume that zhabs in the sense of ”leg or foot” historically must precede zhabs in zhabs ’bring (or zha ’bring or zham ring). So I consider zhabs to be primary and zha and zham to be secondary forms (influenced by phonetic saṃdhi). By the way, zham ring is also recorded in the Tshig mdzod chen mo (s.v.) as obsolete/archaic (rnying) and means ’khor g.yog “retinues/servants.” And undoubtedly also ring in zham ring is due to phonetic saṃdhi at least according to some regional dialects. We have ample examples. D.

  4. Dear Adam, it is an interesting case about which I have no idea. But let us create an entry and see what others such as Dan say about it. D.