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Swami (Sanskrit: स्वामी svāmī [sʋaːmiː]; sometimes abbreviated sw.) in Hinduism is an honorific title given to a male or female ascetic who has chosen the path of renunciation (sanyāsa),[1] or has been initiated into a religious monastic order of Vaishnavas.[2] It is used either before or after the subject's name (usually an adopted religious name).

The meaning of the Sanskrit root of the word swami is "[he who is] one with his self" (swa stands for "self"),[3] and can roughly be translated as "he/she who knows and is master of himself/herself".[1] The term is often attributed to someone who has achieved mastery of a particular yogic system or demonstrated profound devotion (bhakti) to one or more Hindu gods.[1] The Oxford English Dictionary gives the etymology as:[4]

Hindi svāmī 'master, lord, prince', used by Hindus as a term of respectful address, < Sanskrit svāmin in same senses, also the idol or temple of a god.

As a direct form of address, or as a stand-in for a swami's name, it is often rendered Swamiji (also Swami-ji or Swami Ji).

In modern Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Swami is also one of the 108 names for a sannyasi given in Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's Gaudiya Kanthahara, along with Goswami, also traditionally used as an honorific title.[5]

Swami is also the surname of the Bairagi caste in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan. In Bengali, the word (pronounced [ˈʃami]), while carrying its original meaning, also has the meaning of "husband" in another context. The word also means "husband" in Malay, in which it is spelled suami,[6] and in Khmer, Assamese and Odiya. The Thai word for "husband", sami (สามี) or swami (สวามี) is a cognate word.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Boeving, Nicholas Grant (2014). "Swamis". In Leeming, David A. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion (2nd ed.). Boston: Springer Verlag. pp. 1760–1761. doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-6086-2_673. ISBN 978-1-4614-6087-9.
  2. ^ Brewer, E. Cobham (2009). Rockwood, Camilla (ed.). Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. London: Chambers Harrap. "Swami" entry. ISBN 9780550104113. OL 2527037W..
  3. ^ Yogananda, Paramhamsa (1997). Autobiography of a Yogi. Mumbai: Jaico Publishing House. p. 14.[unreliable source?]
  4. ^ "swami". Oxford English Dictionary (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2011. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  5. ^ Narasingha, Bhakti Gaurava. "Bhaktivedanta". Sri Narasingha Chaitanya Ashram. Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  6. ^ "Istilah Malaysia". Pusat Rujukan Persuratan Melayu. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Malaysia. Retrieved 31 May 2013.