At the root of names India and Indos river (or Indus river)

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At the root of names India and Indos river (or Indus river)

Post by Seva Lamberdar on Fri Dec 30, 2016 10:05 am

Let us look critically into the role of Hindu as a word on the origin of names India for the Subcontinent and Indos river (or Indus river) for a river in the Northwest (Sindhu, specifically). These new names in the European languages probably appeared first about two millennia (two thousand years) ago when Alexander the Great and his army from Greece ventured into the Northwest in 326 B.C., giving rise to the words India etc. based on the pre-existing word Hindu for local people (Ref. 1).
 
The Greeks, including the men in Alexander the Great’s entourage, from the 4th century B.C. to well into the A.D. era used to pronounce the names / words starting with “h” sound / letter by replacing the beginning “h” sound with “e” or “i” sound. In addition, they not only did not utter the “h” sound at the beginning of a word even if it had the “h” letter in front, it was not unusual for them to sometimes drop the starting “h” letter in the original word / name thus creating a new word / name without the “h” letter in front, even though the new word created this way (without “h” in the beginning) would carry almost the same meaning / significance as before. Some of the examples, with “h” dropped from the original Greek name / word leading to new a name / word, include Iraklis (from the original Heracles or Hercules), Esperides (from Hesperides -- the celestial maidens or “apsaras”) and Ippolyta (from Hyppolyta – a queen’s name).
 
In contrast, no such thing would happen with Greeks then trying to pronounce words / names starting with “s” sound / letter. Unlike in the case of names / words starting with “h” which they used to  utter without “h” sound while replacing the starting “h” with “e” or “i” sound and sometimes during conversation or writing even dropping the starting “h” altogether leading to a new name / word (albeit with the original meaning / significance, as explained earlier), they would pronounce or write names / words starting with “s” sound / letter as such and without dropping the starting “s” in favor of “h”, “e” or “i”. Thus, for example, the name Spartacus for a 1st century B.C. slave in Greece would continue to retain its original form (as Spartacus, with “s” in front and “s” even at the end) during writing and conversation.
 
However, as shown earlier for words / names with “s” letter / sound in the beginning maintaining integrity by Greeks in their language, the same thing did not happen with Greeks for names etc. starting with “h” sound / letter which invariably had the “h” sound turned silent and replaced with “e” or “i” during conversation and “h” even sometimes dropped during writing. This indicates that, rather than the word Sindhu (Vedic name for a river in the Northwest and generically used in the Vedas for a large body of water e.g. river or sea), the word Hindu (with Vedic religious significance for people, Ref. 1) is the most likely source / root for names / words India and Indos / Indus.  
 
It seems when Greeks (Alexander the Great and his army) arrived in the Northwest, they encountered the name Hindu for the locals. These foreigners naturally, as explained earlier, took to pronouncing and writing the name Hindu by omitting the beginning “h” sound / letter, giving rise to a number of new words based on the original Hindu, such as Inde or Indi (meaning Hindu), India (the name for the Subcontinent and also representing the land of Hindu or Inde), and Indos Potamos (or Indus Potamos) implying a Hindu river (or Indian river) in the Northwest (Sindhu, specifically). All these new names (e.g. India, Indos and Indus) derived originally by the Greeks from the name Hindu would be transmitted later into other European languages becoming a part of their lexicons.
 
Incidentally, as noted earlier, Indos and Indus in Greek and other European languages simply mean Indian or Hindu and do not signify or represent any river unless followed by the word Potamos (meaning river), which again shows that Hindu is the real cause (root) for these words / names (Indos, Indus and India), and not Sindhu (the river in the Northwest).  Had the name Sindhu led Greeks to coin names India etc. directly, or indirectly (Sindhu leading to the creation of name Hindu as well and before other names), the river in the northwest (Sindhu) would be known now and in the past in Greek and other European languages as Sindhu (or Sindu, or Sindh, etc.), but that is not the case considering it continues to be called in Greek and European languages as Indos potamos, Indus potamos, Indus river, etc. Suffice to say, the origin of the words Inde, India, Indos and Indus is due to the long existing Hindu (Ref. 1) and not in any way, directly or indirectly, from Sindhu.    
 
References
 
(1)   Subhash C. Sharma, “On the origin and meaning of the word Hindu,” Nov. 19, 2016, http://creative.sulekha.com/on-the-origin-and-meaning-of-the-word-hindu_630583_blog
 
 
: Dr. Subhash C. Sharma

Seva Lamberdar

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