Commonly used Pali and Buddhist terms

Here are some Pali and Buddhist terms that are more commonly used in teachings, talks, and conversations.

Pali or Buddhist terms are used, instead of their English equivalent translations, because the English vocabulary cannot always embody the full meaning of what is that was orignally meant.

In providing them in the shortlist below, we hope that it would increase their accessiblity and for devotees to feel more at ease hearing them. For a more comprehensive guide, please refer to A Glossary of Pali and Buddhist Terms at Access to Insight.
ajaan, ajahn, achaan, etc.:
(Thai). Teacher; mentor. Equivalent to the Pali acariya.

arahant [arahant]:
A "worthy one" or "pure one"; a person whose mind is free of defilement (see kilesa), who has abandoned all ten of the fetters that bind the mind to the cycle of rebirth (see samyojana), whose heart is free of mental effluents (see asava), and who is thus not destined for further rebirth. A title for the Buddha and the highest level of his noble disciples.

bhante [bhante]:
Venerable sir; often used when addressing a Buddhist monk.

buddho [buddho]:flower (5)
Awake; enlightened. An epithet for the Buddha.

Buddha [buddha]:
The name given to one who rediscovers for himself the liberating path of Dhamma, after a long period of its having been forgotten by the world. According to tradition, a long line of Buddhas stretches off into the distant past. The most recent Buddha was born Siddhattha Gotama in India in the sixth century BCE. A well-educated and wealthy young man, he relinquished his family and his princely inheritance in the prime of his life to search for true freedom and an end to suffering (dukkha). After seven years of austerities in the forest, he rediscovered the "middle way" and achieved his goal, becoming Buddha. [MORE]

dana [daana]:
Giving, liberality; offering, alms. Specifically, giving of any of the four requisites to the monastic order. More generally, the inclination to give, without expecting any form of repayment from the recipient. Dana is the first theme in the Buddha's system of gradual training (see anupubbi-katha), the first of the ten paramis, one of the seven treasures (see dhana), and the first of the three grounds for meritorious action (see sila and bhavana). [MORE]

deva; devata [deva, devataa]:
Literally, "shining one" — an inhabitant of the heavenly realms (see sagga and sugati). [MORE]

dhamma [dhamma; Skt. dharma]:flower (3)
(1) Event; a phenomenon in and of itself; (2) mental quality; (3) doctrine, teaching; (4) nibbana. Also, principles of behavior that human beings ought to follow so as to fit in with the right natural order of things; qualities of mind they should develop so as to realize the inherent quality of the mind in and of itself. By extension, "Dhamma" (usu. capitalized) is used also to denote any doctrine that teaches such things. Thus the Dhamma of the Buddha denotes both his teachings and the direct experience of nibbana, the quality at which those teachings are aimed.

Dhamma-vinaya [dhamma-vinaya]:
"doctrine (dhamma) and discipline (vinaya)." The Buddha's own name for the religion he founded.

kamma [kamma; Skt. karma]:
Intentional acts that result in states of being and birth. [MORE]

metta [mettaa]:
Loving-kindness; goodwill. One of the ten perfections (paramis) and one of the four "sublime abodes" (brahma-vihara).

nibbana [nibbaana; Skt. nirvana]:
Liberation; literally, the "unbinding" of the mind from the mental effluents (see asava), defilements (see kilesa), and the round of rebirth (see vatta), and from all that can be described or defined. As this term also denotes the extinguishing of a fire, it carries the connotations of stilling, cooling, and peace. (According to the physics taught at the time of the Buddha, a burning fire seizes or adheres to its fuel; when extinguished, it is unbound.) "Total nibbana" in some contexts denotes the experience of Awakening; in others, the final passing away of an arahant. [MORE]

sangha [sangha]:flower (6)
On the conventional (sammati) level, this term denotes the communities of Buddhist monks and nuns; on the ideal (ariya) level, it denotes those followers of the Buddha, lay or ordained, who have attained at least stream-entry (see sotapanna), the first of the transcendent paths (see magga) culminating in nibbana. Recently, particularly in the West, the term "sangha" has been popularly adapted to mean the wider sense of "community of followers on the Buddhist path," although this usage finds no basis in the Pali canon. The term "parisa" may be more appropriate for this much broader meaning. [MORE]

Extracted from "A Glossary of Pali and Buddhist Terms", edited by John T. Bullitt. Access to Insight, October 25, 2010,