AskDefine | Define Prakrit

Dictionary Definition



1 any of the modern Indic languages
2 any of the vernacular Indic languages of north and central India (as distinguished from Sanskrit) recorded from the 3rd century BC to the 4th century AD

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative forms

Proper noun

en-proper-noun Prakrits
  1. A broad family of the Indic languages and dialects spoken in ancient India.

Extensive Definition

Prakrit (also transliterated as Pracrit) (Sanskrit: : according to one interpretation, "original, natural, artless, normal, ordinary, usual", interpreted as indicating the "vernacular", in contrast to the literary and religious [orthodoxy] of ; both adjectives elliptically referring to vāk "speech"; according to another interpretation, "derived from an original", i.e. derived from Sanskrit) refers to the broad family of the Indic languages and dialects spoken in ancient India. The Prakrits became literary languages, generally patronized by kings identified with the Kshatriya caste, but were regarded as illegitimate by the Brahmin orthodoxy. The earliest extant usage of Prakrit is the corpus of inscriptions of Asoka, emperor of Northern India. While the various Prakrit languages are associated with different patron dynasties, with different religions and different literary traditions, none of them were at any time an informal "mother tongue" in any area of India.


Prakrit is foremost a native term, designating "vernaculars" as opposed to Sanskrit. Some modern scholars follow this classification by including all Middle Indo-Aryan languages under the rubric of "Prakrits", while others emphasise the independent development of these languages, often separated from the history of Sanskrit by wide divisions of caste, religion, and geography.
The three Dramatic Prakrits - Sauraseni, Magadhi, Maharashtri, as well as Jain Prakrit each represent a distinct tradition of literature within the history of India. Other Prakrits are reported in historical sources, but are no longer spoken (e.g., Paisaci).
Ardhamagadhi ("half Magadhi"), an archaic form of Magadhi which was used extensively to write Jain scriptures, is often considered to be the definitive form of Prakrit, while others are considered variants. For this reason, courses teaching "Prakrit" often teach Ardhamagadhi.
Pali (the language of Theravada Buddhism) tends to be treated as a special exception, as classical (Sanskrit) grammars do not consider it as a Prakrit per se, presumably for sectarian rather than linguistic reasons.


According to the dictionary of Monier Monier-Williams, the most frequent meanings of the Sanskrit term , from which our "prakrit" is derived, are "original, natural, normal" and the term is derived from , "making or placing before or at first, the original or natural form or condition of anything, original or primary substance". In linguistic terms, this is used in contrast with , "refined".

Traditional accounts

Virtually every Sanskrit student is taught that refinement of Sanskrit (to reverse much of middle-Indic influence from the standard language) was a process spanning many generations (traditionally more than a thousand years) until it was considered complete and perfect.
Some scholars restrict the Prakrits to the languages used by Hindu and Jain writers; others include the Buddhist languages, such as Pali and Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, and the inscriptional Prakrits. Other Prakrits include the Gāndhārī, and Paisāci, which is known through grammarians' statements. The modern languages of northern India developed from the Prakrits, after the intermediary stage of the Apabhramsa language.

External links


  • Pischel, Prakrit Grammar
  • Woolner, Introduction to Prakrit
Prakrit in Bengali: প্রাকৃত
Prakrit in Danish: Prakrit
Prakrit in German: Prakrit
Prakrit in Spanish: Prácrito
Prakrit in Esperanto: Prakrito
Prakrit in French: Prâkrit
Prakrit in Hindi: प्राकृत
Prakrit in Indonesian: Bahasa Prakerta
Prakrit in Dutch: Prakrit
Prakrit in Japanese: プラークリット
Prakrit in Norwegian: Prakritspråk
Prakrit in Norwegian Nynorsk: Prakritspråk
Prakrit in Polish: Prakryty
Prakrit in Portuguese: Prácrito
Prakrit in Russian: Пракрит
Prakrit in Sanskrit: प्राकृत
Prakrit in Slovak: Stredné indoárijské jazyky
Prakrit in Swedish: Prakrit
Prakrit in Tamil: பிராகிருதம்
Prakrit in Thai: ภาษาปรากฤต
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