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In Hinduism, a swami (Sanskrit: स्वामी svāmī [sʋaːmiː]), sometimes abbreviated sw., is an ascetic or yogi who has been initiated into the religious monastic order, founded by some religious teacher.[1] It is believed to be originally used for the ones who were initiated into the Advaita Vedanta movement, started by Adi Shankara.[2][not in citation given]. Mostly Vedanta scholars use swami. The meaning of the Sanskrit root of the word "swami" is "one who is one with his Self" ("Swa" stands for self).[3] The usage of this word is not just for a yogi but also used for a religious guru, with or without disciples.

The Oxford English Dictionary gives the etymology as

Hindi svāmī master, lord, prince, used by Hindus as a term of respectful address, < Sanskrit svāmin in same senses, also the idol or temple of a god.[4]

In Bengali, the word (pronounced [ˈʃami]), while carrying its original meaning, has a dual meaning of "husband". The word also means "husband" in Malay, where it is spelled "Suami".[5] "Swami" also means "husband" in Khmer and Odiya. The Thai word for husband, sami (สามี), is also a cognate of the word swami.


  1. ^ Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. London: Chambers Harrap, 2009. s.v. "Swami," OL 2527037W.
  2. ^ Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Religion, page 958.
  3. ^ Autobiography of an Yogi, Yogananda, Paramhamsa, Jaico Publishing House, 127, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Bombay Fort Road, Bombay (Mumbai), 400 0023 (ed. 1997) p. 14
  4. ^ "swami, n.". OED Online' June 2011. Oxford University Press. Accessed August 31, 2011.
  5. ^ "Istilah Malaysia". Pusat Rujukan Persuratan Melayu. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Malaysia. Retrieved 31 May 2013.