Tuesday, 5 February 2008
guru and gravity
Proto-Indo-European *gʷerh₂- "heavy" in the suffixed zero-grade form *gʷrh₂-u- became Sanskrit गुरुः guruḥ "heavy, venerable; any venerable or respectable person; a spiritual parent or preceptor" and Hindi गुरू gurū "teacher".
The suffixed zero-grade form *gʷrh₂-wi- became Latin gravis "heavy", giving us grave (the adjective) and gravity. grave as in "place of burial" is from a different root (*grebh- "to dig, bury, scratch").
In Greek it's βαρύς barus "heavy" as in barium.
The suffixed extended form *gʷrih₂-g- became Proto-Germanic *krīǥ, Old High German krēg "stubbornness", then German Krieg "war".
The Advayatāraka Upaniṣad (अद्वयतारकोपनिषत् and here) verse 16 provides a folk etymology of guruḥ.
गुशब्दस्त्वन्धकारः स्यात् रुशब्दस्तन्निरोधकः । अन्धकारनिरोधित्वात् गुरुरित्यभिधीयते ।। १६ ।।
guśabdastvandhakāraḥ syāt ruśabdastannirīdhakaḥ
andhakāranirīdhitvāt gururityabhidhīyate ।। 96 ।।
The syllable gu [signifies] darkness. The syllable ru [signifies] the destroyer of that [darkness]. By reason of the [ability] to destroy darkness, he is called a guru.
(translation from here)