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A comparative and etymological dictionary of the Nepali language
[page v]


[page vii]


THOUGH the work of sixteen years has now reached its end, it is an end which I hope may be the beginning of a better and completer work in other hands more competent than my own. For none knows more clearly than the author what wide gaps and innumerable imperfections are to be found in this first Nepali-English dictionary.

It has never been my fortune to set foot within the Kingdom of Nepal. The nearest that I have been to it was when, following the high ridges of the eastern frontier, I looked down into the mystery of its cloud-veiled valleys. But for four years I lived among men of Nepal, and for much of that time in one of the closest and most searching associations that men can know, the comradeship of war.

The first collections of words, begun under the wall of the old Gurkha fort in Almora, were continued throughtout a summer in the fortified camp of Thal on the North-West Frontier, during four ocean voyages between Bombay and Suez, on the banks of the Canal and the southern shores of the Gulf of Suez, and among the stony Judaean Hills where so many Gurkhas found their graves; and finally, when peace had once more returned to the world, during a six-month sojourn in Darjeeling.

Since 1922, when I returned to England, till the present date, I have been cut off from personal communication with any Nepali speaker, and all my inquiries have perforce been made through the tedious and imperfect communication of writing. Any who have ever attempted to obtain an accurate definition of the meaning of a word in another language under the best conditions of personal interrogation will realize with what difficulties, often insuperable, I have been faced.

My original aim was to make a practical dictionary of Nepali; and although the work has in the end somewhat outgrown that first intention, in the part of it which deals with the meanings and uses of Nepali words the original aim has been held constantly in view.

But during the last six years much new material has been added in the etymological notes which are placed at the end of the articles. The study of the history of the great family of the modern Indo-Aryan languages is still in its infancy. But the foundations have been laid, first in the great achievement of Sir George Grierson, the Linguistic Survey of India, and secondly in that brilliant and solid work of Jules Bloch, La formation de la langue marathe, which is the starting-point of modern scientific research in this field. With their example before me it has been my endeavour in this dictionary to give to all those interested in the Aryan languages of India generally and in Nepali in particular a dictionary in which for the first time an attempt has been made to indicate with some degree of scientific accuracy the etymologies of an Indo-Aryan language as a whole. The indexes have been planned to enable those concerned with Indo-Aryan languages other than Nepali to use the etymological material here collected. Even Sanskrit lexicography may gain something from such studies: for a number of words of unknown or doubtful meaning in ancient texts like the Atharvaveda survive in the Middle or Modern Indo-Aryan languages.

[page viii]

The publication of this work has been made possible by generosity from three quarters.

In the first place His late Highness the Prime Minister of Nepal, Maharaja Chandra Sham Sher Jang Bahadur Rana, whose untimely death has deprived Nepal of one of the greatest of her rulers, was pleased to make a munificent grant towards the cost of printing. Without this generous help the dictionary could not have been published at so low a price, or, indeed, have been published at all.

The Royal Asiatic Society, on the recommendation of the Academic Board of the School of Oriental Studies, made a further grant from the Forlong Fund; and finally the Publishers, stepping in where the University Presses of this country would not venture, have, with public-spirited generosity in the furtherance of knowledge, taken full responsibility for the remaining charges.

The list of those who have helped me in this task is long; but the heartfelt thanks which I offer to them all is not the less for being widely dispersed.

In 1920, hearing that the Rev. H. C. Duncan, M.A., of the Scottish Churches Mission in Darjeeling, was about to bring out a Nepali-English dictionary, founded on material gathered by Dr R. Kilgour, I proposed to relinquish my own plan and to hand over my material to him. Later, however, Mr Duncan and Dr Kilgour invited me to continue, and generously placed the whole of their material at my disposal.

To my friend Pandit Dharanidhar Sharma Koirala, B.A., B.T., of the Government High School, Darjeeling, I owe more than I can say. Since 1922, when for a period of six months I spent a part of each day in his company, he has been my constant counsellor and collaborator. He has examined every one of the 26,000 entries. The task, which has been a labour of love undertaken in the midst of his official duties, has been immense. Lovers of the Nepali language cannot be too grateful to him.

An equal debt is due to Mr Bodh Bikram Adhikari of Kathmandu, through whose hands also almost every slip passed, and who added a very considerable number of words and meanings on his own account. The British Envoys at the Court of Nepal and their Staff have been unremitting in the care with which they forwarded and returned these slips over a period of several years. Nor can I fail to recall the kindness of the Bada Kaji Manyabar Mariciman Sing, Officer of the Star of Nepal, Principal Private Secretary to His Highness the Prime Minister, who helped me in many ways.

The name of Mr Duncan, joint-author of the English-Nepali dictionary, has already been mentioned. His hospitality was equalled only by his readiness to put at my disposal his long experience of the Nepali language. Both he and Miss M. Crompton and the Rev. Gangaprasad Pradhan have been indefatigable in answering the many questions put to them from time to time.

Brigadier-General the Hon. C. G. Bruce, C.B., M.V.O., late of the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles and the 6th Gurkha Rifles, Major B. Northey, M.C., late of the 1st K.G.O. Gurkha Rifles, and Captain C. J. Morris, of the 3rd Q.A.O. Gurkha Rifles, provided me with many words; and the last has given much time to investigating among his men problems that I sent him.

The botanical identifications I owe chiefly to the knowledge and kindness of Mr G. H. Cave, late Curator of the Botanical Gardens at Darjeeling.

In the etymological portion I have had constant recourse to the learning of my colleagues at the School of Oriental Studies, and in particular to Dr T. Grahame Bailey. With characteristic generosity, Sir George Grierson, O.M., doyen of Indo-Aryan studies, gave me access to those portions
[page ix]
of his great Kashmiri Dictionary which are as yet only in proof or manuscript. To my fellow-workers on the Continent in the Indo-Aryan or Indo-Iranian fields -- M. J. Bloch, M. J. Przyluski, and Professor G. Morgenstierne -- I have never appealed in vain. The identifications in Newari I owe to Dr H. Jórgensen; those in Tibetan to Professor F. W. Thomas, C.I.E., and Dr L. D. Barnett.

To the printers, Messrs. Stephen Austin & Sons, Ltd., and especially to the compositors and readers, I desire to express my gratitude for the painstaking care and long forbearance with an author's demands which they have shown in the setting up of many different and intricate types.

But without the constant help and encouragement of my wife, who for years has undertaken the sorting and resorting of slips and has now read all the proofs, the task would never have been accomplished. It is she, moreover, who has prepared the indexes, which, containing about 48,000 entries, will enable the book to be used in some measure as a comparative etymological vocabulary of all the main Indo-Aryan languages.

As I write these last words, my thoughts return to you who were my comrades, the stubborn and indomitable peasants of Nepal. Once more I hear the laughter with which you greeted every hardship. Once more I see you in your bivouacs or about your fires, on forced march or in the trenches, now shivering with wet and cold, now scorched by a pitiless and burning sun. Uncomplaining you endure hunger and thirst and wounds; and at the last your unwavering lines disappear into the smoke and wrath of battle. Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had country more faithful friends than you.


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