English-Tibetan Dictionary of Modern Tibetan [1 ed.] 0520051572, 9780520051577

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English-Tibetan Dictionary of Modern Tibetan [1 ed.]
 0520051572, 9780520051577

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Melvyn C. Goldstein WITH

Ngawangthondup Narkyid

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS Berkeley · Los Angeles • London

University of California Press Berkeley and Los Angeles, California

University of California Press, Ltd. London, England

© 1984 by The Regents of the University of California

Printed in the United States of America


Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Goldstein, Melvyn C. English-Tibetan dictionary of modern Tibetan.

1. English language-Dictionaries- Tibetan. II. Title. PL3637.T52G65 1984 423'.9541 83-18119 ISBN 0-520-05157-2

I. Narkyid, Nganwangthondup.

Contents Acknowledgments




Grammatical Introduction


Tibetan Alphabet List of Abbreviations English-Tibetan Dictionary




Acknowledgments The following dictionaries and glossaries were consulted in the preparation of this dictionary: A, IN ENGLISH C. S, T. M,

A. C. G. C.

Bell. English-Tibetan Colloquial Dictionary, West Bengal, 1~05, Dos. Tibetan-English Dictionary. Calcutta, 1~02, Dhongthog, The New Light English-Tibetan Dictionary. Dhoromsolo 1 1~73, Goldstein and N. Nornong. Modern Spoken Tibetan: Lhasa Dialect, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1970.

B, IN TIBETAN AND TIBETAN CHINESE Anon, Rgyo bod shin sbyor gyi tshig mdzod, Peking, 1964, Anon. Rgyo bod ming mdzod. Peking, 1~7~. Bsom gton et ol. Dog yig gsor bsgri~s. Ch 1 inghoi 1 1~79, Bsod noms rgya1 mtshan, Tshig mdzod brdo dog .kun gsol me long, Peking, 1~80, L. S, Dogyob. Bod brda'i tshig mdzod. Dharomsa1o 1 1966, Dge bshes chos kyi grogs, Brdo dog ming tshig gso1 bo bzhugs, Peking, 1~57. The preparation of this volume was mode possible by grants from the Research Tools and Reference Works Program of the Notional Endowment for the Humanities, and the International Research and Studies Program of the Deportment of Education,


Introduction This dictionary was compiled during a thirty-month period beginning in the Summer of 1980 under the sponsorship of the National Endowment "for the Humanities

(RT-*13.74-80) and the Institute for

International Studies, U,S, Department of Education (G008001738), My aim in compiling this English-to-Tibetan dictionary was to produce for the first time a Tibetan dictionary that was semantically sensitive, that is 1 able to bridge the semantic gap between English and Tibetan so that English speakers could express themselves effectively in Tibetan, Let me illustrate the type ·of semantic incongruity this dictionary tries to overcome, Where English uses



"blow," for three types of action--(1) the blowing out of a flame (e,g, 1 a candle) 1 (2) the blowing of


the wind 1 and (3) blowing air (e.g,, into a balloon)--Tibetan utilizes three different terms, Earlier


dictionaries and glossaries at best simply listed various Tibetan terms that represented submeanings in English without indicating which of the English submeanings they conveyed, The user had no way of knowing whether he was selecting the term for "the blowing of ·the wind" when he was trying to "the blowing

up of a

balloon," The present dictionary was compiled



to overcome such

discontinuities between Tibetan and English, Thus 1 it is concerned primarily with spoken communication and is meant to provide English speakers with the spoken Tibetan equivalents of English terms in a semantically sensitive framework, To produce a dictionary of this type, previous works could not be used as prime building blocks 1 and Mr. Ngawangthondup Narkyid 1 a noted Tibetan scholar, and I accordingly started from scratch, We began with the unabridged Random House Dictionary of the English Language ( 1967) and went through


entries from A to Z 1 debating and arguing, not only on spoken usage in Tibetan, but often on current usage

in American English. My colleagues at Case Western Reserve University and Tibetan friends

throughout the U.S.A. and abroad were often drawn into these discussions, and their patience and advice were greatly appreciated, Since I

assume that this dictionary will be used primarily by teachers,

students, and scholars, we have included not only "basic" English lexical items such as "house" and· "blow" but also terms that might be useful in research or scholarly communication, On the other hand 1 it seemed pointless to include obscure words such as "prolegomenon," "proleg 1 11 or


proline 1 11 since

these either have more standard English equivalents or fall within the realm of highly technical subspecialties such as organic chemisJ:-ry and would be meaningless to all but a handful of Tibetans who would probably already know the English term. It is important to note that in no instances did we simply transrate definitions of English terms into Tibetan, While such translation-definitions might be useful for Tibetans learning English, they do not assist native English speakers studying Tibetan, Instead, we tried to select Tibetan terms and phroses that could be used equivalently in spoken Tibetan. For example, we did not define "ketchup" as "a type of sauce for food 1 11 since this would be of no help to English speakers communicating in Tibetan, Finally, although we consulted older Tibetan dictionaries, including a realphabetized version ix



of my own, large Tibetan-English Dictionary of Modern Tibetan (Bibliotheca Himalayica, Series II, Vol. 7., Ratna Pustak Bhandar, Kathmandu, 1975), in the end our decisions regarding equivalent terms were based on our own knowledge of modern Tibetan. It is worth reiterating that our guiding principle was simple: what would the user hove to know to convey English terms in Tibetan.

Thus, whenever there was

an option between a spoken and a more literary term, the spoken term was always selected. This spoken orientation of the dictionary, however, does not preclude its usefulness in communicating in modern written Tibetan, since the written loreuoge is based to a large extent on the spoken. In fact, we see assisting Westerners to write and spell correctly in Tibetan as one of the important functions of the dictionary. Two techniques have been employed to convey the relationship between the Tibetan oi1d English semantic universes. The first consists of indicating which submeaning of English terms is intended by means of very brief paraphrases introduced usually by


(in the sense of). The second technique is

to provide a sentence or clause to illustrate the usage of that submeoning. For example, for the term "blunt" we distinguish two submeonings: (1) iso. not sharp and (2) iso. frank. With each of these submeanings we provide on illustrative sentence. For (1) the example is (2) it is



This knife is blunt," and for

He is very blunt." There are, of course, other submeonings of "blunt," but we felt that

these were the two most useful and common meanings. Clearly 1 then, the present dictionary does not attempt to list comprehensively all submeonings of English terms, but rather presents only what we consider the more important submeonings.

Illustrative examples are also often used to demonstrate the

most common form of syntactic construction used for that entry. In many cases common English terms simply could not be meaningfully translated into Tibetan and were omitted. We hove also tried to ovoid including newly invented Tibetan terms that ore used only by a small group of intellectuals. In general, we preferred to toke less precise, "common" phraseologies that would be universally understood in context rather than arcane, newly invented terms. When we have included more specialized new terms, we assume either that they ore widely used,

that they ore

self-explanatory from the constituent morphemes, or that they will be used only by specialists in


field (e.g., physicians for medical terms). Finally 1 it is important t.o note that there are really two speech communi ties of Lhasa Tibetan. One consists of the Tibetans now residing in exile in such countries as India, Nepal, England; the other, of the Tibetans residing in Tibet. Whiie these two groups hove absolutely no difficulty in comm~nicoting,

divergences with regard to new vocabulary hove occurred since their initial separation

in 1959. Although it is not unlikely that the two speech communi ties will continue to diverge in the years ahead--with the "exile" Tibetans continuing to use substantial numbers of English and Hindi phonological borrowings as well as newly coined terms, and Lhasa Tibetans using Chinese phonological borrowings and other newly coined terms (which ore indicated in the dictionary by


c 11 )--with only a few

exceptions the terms used in the present dictionary will be understood by Tibetans both in Tibet and in exile. Melvyn C. Goldstein Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, Ohio March 1983

G ra·mmatical Introduction In contrast to English, meo·ning in Tibetan is basically syllabic in that most Tibetan syllables

have meaning independent of the compound word

(morpheme) in which they ore found,


example, just as the English word "soldier" is disyllabic, so too is the Tibetan word for "soldier" (dmag mi). However, while neither of the two English syllables has a separate meaning, both of the Tibetan syllables have: dmag 1 war;


person, This syllabic structure affords tremendous flexibility

with respect to both the expression of new ideas

and concepts and the expression of old ones in new

and original ways, Because of-this, an understanding of patterns of word formation in Tibetan will aid i~using

the reader

this dictionary effectively,

A. Word Formation 1. Nominal compounds Nominal compounds consist of two or four syllables each of which is o nonderived noun, 1,1 Synonymic compounds Synonymic compounds consist of two syllables that are synonyms, The overall meaning of the compound word is identical to the meaning of the component parts, For example,


when there is impeccable secondhand information from someone having such knowledge) and certainly conveys this;


and this is important, it also conveys a dimension I shall call "specificity,"

Specificity refers to the fact that


is always used with respect to knowledge deriving ·from a

specific situation or state and is never useg for general, usual, or corrmonly known situations or -.r states. For these the-.:.~.~"\~·"'\"\ form is used. When fl.S"1.

abolition of slavery

/ffi!:,epo s£yoo/

11 the

bran g,yog mad po bzo yog


. .


(th££ny~~ ~epa s~yoo

A-bomb 1 see:

atomic bomb

abominable ~.q'j'CI:>'t\'



·kho sdug chag red, on aborigine,

11 He is abominable,

(qho t~;;.qco'?l r!~l


aborigine is

is o meadow above that,

/th5~cc ytrumi/

kho thog ma'i yul mi

11 He

lha'?l yb·ona)



terminate, vo. A, !'1-1~·"'1.@\..l'

abstain, 1. iso. refrain from, va. sho spongs pa red.

bal po mi


dir chu mang po

absorbent cotton



academic association ~·~~-~~ ch!:_&/

He got the {government) passport because he

affiliated with the school,

{qho lopi&& qhont:>~ ch!:_hsaan sh,!:!?Jqi

l~qkhee r~~pare~)

affinity ~F-~-

~ She has a great offin-


dbyings zhe drag

mo gangs shur glad



(m~ qh2_1)shuu lti"Syo~la



affix, see:

afford, va, [Note: to 1 ; also see:


Use the verb


buy 1 with



expenses, ']


/shil')na~ s'§_d/

afraid, see: to school,

kho tshos dmag sgar la me

frightened; scared /sh,!:!tla/


2. iso, make

~ After this I shall go

di 1 i gzhug la nga slob grwar


gro ~

ngas kha lag zas

gzhug la deb bklogs pa yin,

S!:_£p&& sh~tla th!P 13~payin) ~

{r:JE_t qhala~

/qh~ntsam son&/

She left and after a while he came,

chi~n& qh~ntsam s&l& qho leku)

mo phyin (mo

[Syn. gang tsam

zhig nos]



3, iso, expel! the afterbirth, va.

-- ~::> qhi n~~tary t~~ru toanparea)

11 atomic age (era)

(t~t~~n th~rep)

rdul phren dus robs


4. iso,

aggression, 1. n, ?> chao/

11 Her maternal uncle hod· aged. (m~

mo'i a zhang rgan gog chogs shag. q_£nq::>~ chaoshao)


iso. persons looking youthful ~~~·"'\']f'"

ageless, ~ 2t-

/sh~nso todpo/

gzhon bzo dod po red, age limit Q:l-~""-·

11 He is ageless.

/tuqshiin k::_p/

11 She has agitated them,

mos (m!fd

~C::-N.' /l~qun/


Tibetan adds

(qho sh~nso toopo r~a) government~~­

11 intelligence agency

so· pa 1 i

[Note: tshogs pa can












American bank, las



2. iso. authorized ~--'t\'6':l~'19.\'? 'ClJ.' Ct.!~·

agricul turol cooperative

/sh_!~lcc thEnkee nomteeqaan/