October 01, 2018

Etymology of the Tibetan Word for “Guest”

A guest in Tibetan is called a mgron po. But have we reflected why? The clue seems to lie in its orthographic variant ’gron po. But again we may like to know the etymology of ’gron po. The etymology seems to be obvious. We just have to cognize and recognize it. It is clearly derived from ’gro ba (“to go/travel”). But why ’gron? Well, one can observe the phenomenon of nominalizing a verb (including what I call an “adjectival verb”) by changing its postscript (rjes ’jug) to an n-postscript. One simple example should suffice. Take the verb skyi ba “to borrow” (e.g. money).  One can nominalize it to skyin pa, and hence it would mean something like “what one owes someone” and hence it would mean, for example, “money that one owes someone including the ensuing interest.” Thus a “traveller” is a ’gron po. We also have to remember that a “guest” is necessarily a “traveller.” We also know that prescripts (sngon ’jug)  and m are interchangeable although m-prescript seems to have become a standard and hence mgron. Nominalizing particle po makes the word mgron po clear that it refers to a “traveller” and a “guest.”


  1. Dear D, Do you have any speculative ideas about the derivation or etymology of the Tibetan term rmi-lam for 'dream'? Perhaps you already did this and I missed it? I'd like to hear what you have to say about it. As ever. Yours, D