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For other uses of Madhu, see Madhu (disambiguation).

Madhu (Hindustani: मधु or مدهو) is a word used in several Indo-Aryan languages meaning honey or sweet. It also means mead and is used for alcohol. The word originates in Sanskrit and has cognates in most Indo-European languages.

Alcohol and mead[edit]

Madhu, and the related terms mad (मद, مد) and madira (मदिरा, مدِرا), also mean alcohol.[1][2] These words are all derived from the Sanskrit language, and are Indo-European cognates of the English mead, Greek μέθυ, Avestan madu, Persian may,[3] Latvian and Lithuanian medus, German Met and Old Church Slavonic ] мєдъ (medŭ).

In this sense, these terms are also used for additional words related to alcohol. For instance, madhushala is a Hindi word for an establishment that serves alcohol, as is madiralaya (lit. abode of alcohol, c.f. himalaya, abode of snow). Madmast (मदमस्त, مدمست) means intoxicated due to alcohol, and is a word frequently used in poetry and song in the region, sometimes as a stylized reference to being in an emotional state resembling intoxication for other reasons, such as romantic love.[4]

Metaphorical use[edit]

Madhu has been used for millennia in a similar metaphorical sense as wine is in English, e.g. "the wine of truth," and employed in that manner in Hindu religious literature. For example, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, believed to have been composed in the first millennium BCE, contains a chapter called the Madhu Brahmana and "the secret essence of the Vedas themselves, was called the madhu-vidya or honey doctrine."[5][6]

Scholars date this metaphorical usage of madhu to a time very close to the initial composition of the Vedas. Soma, the shared sacred drink of the Indo-Iranians (known as Haoma in Avestan), is often metaphorically referred to as Madhu in the Vedas. However, "the Avesta, which is quite close to the Veda with regard to the terminology of Soma, does not know the equation Soma = madhu."[7]

Usage in names[edit]

The derivative form Madhur (मधुर, مدھُر) is used as a Hindu first-name for males and Madhu is a first-name common among males, although both names can occur for either gender. Madhuri is a common feminine variant of Madhur.[8] The word madhur is a combination of madhu (honey/sweet) and -r/-ra (like or similar). Several other names are based on the root madhu, such as Madhukar, Madhusudhan, Madhulika and Madhubala.[9]

See also[edit]

  • Kvasir, a wise being in Norse mythology born from the spit of the gods and from whose blood the Mead of Poetry is crafted


  1. ^ Henk W. Wagenaar, S.S. Parikh, D.F. Plukker, R. Veldhuijzen van Zanten, Allied Chambers transliterated Hindi-Hindi-English dictionary, Allied Publishers, 1993, ISBN 978-81-86062-10-4, "... madhu मधु (m.) honey; wine, liquor, ardent spirits; the nectar or honey of flowers ..." 
  2. ^ Atlantic's Urdu-English dictionary: a comprehensive dictionary of current vocabulary, Atlantic Publishers, 1989, "... مد mad (Sansk.) n.f. Wine; honey; intoxication; spirits ..." 
  3. ^ Jaan Puhvel, Hittite Etymological Dictionary, Walter de Gruyter, 2004, ISBN 978-3-11-018162-3, "... IE *medhu- basically meant 'sweet' ... Ved. madhu, Toch. B mit, Lith. medus, OCS medu honey ... Ved. madhu [svadu madhu 'sweet mead'], OIr mid, We. medd ... Gk. μέθν ... Avest. madu-, Persian mey 'wine' ..." 
  4. ^ Annie Montaut, Aspects, voix et diathèses en hindi moderne: syntaxe, sémantique, énonciation, Peeters Publishers, 1991, ISBN 978-90-6831-349-9, "... dusro ko pi:kar madmast banne do, tum bhi: pi:kar madmast bano ... laisse les autres s'enivrer en buvant, toi aussi enivre toi en buvant ..." 
  5. ^ David L. Spess, Soma: the divine hallucinogen, Inner Traditions / Bear & Company, 2000, ISBN 978-0-89281-731-3, "... the secret essence of the Vedas themselves, was called the Madhu-vidya or 'honey doctrine' ..." 
  6. ^ Sureśvarācārya, K.P. Jog, Shoun Hino, Sureśvara's vārtika on Madhu Brāhmaṇa, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1988, ISBN 978-81-208-0438-8, "... space ie, Akasa which is in the earth as also in the stomach, though referred to separately, applies equally to the Supreme Brahman described in the Madhu Brahmana (a chapter of Brhadaranyaka Upanishad) ..." 
  7. ^ Hermann Oldenberg, The religion of the Veda, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1988, ISBN 978-81-208-0392-3, "... the Avesta, which is quite close to the Veda with regard to the terminology of Soma, does not know the equation 'Soma' = 'madhu'. Here, one does not meet the Vedic poet's fondness for playing with the idea of honey ..." 
  8. ^ R.C. Dogra, Thought Provoking Hindu Names, Star Publications, 1999, ISBN 978-81-7650-316-7, "... Madhu (मधु) (m/f) Sweet, charming, pleasant, delightful, the juice or nector of flowers ... Madhur (मधुर) (a) Sweet, melodious, pleasant, agreeable ..." 
  9. ^ Vimla Patil, Baby names: over 4000 beautiful Indian names for your child, Rupa, 1988, "... Madhubala (f), sweet girl; Madhuchhanda (f), pleasing metrical composition ... Madhulekha (f), beautiful girl; Madhulika (f), honey; Madhumalati (f), a flowering creeper ..."