Pāli (पालि)

Pāli is the language of the scriptures of Theravada Buddhism, (the Pāli Canon or the Tipitaka in Pāli), which were written in Sri Lanka during the 1st century BC. Pāli has been written in a variety of scripts, including Brahmi, Devanāgarī and other Indic scripts, and also using a version of the Latin alphabet devised by T. W. Rhys Davids of the Pāli Text Society.

The name Pāli means "line" or "(canonical) text", and probably comes from the commentarial traditions, wherein the "Pāli" (in the sense of the line of original text quoted) was distinguished from the commentary or the vernacular following after it on the manuscript page. There are a number of ways to spell the name of the language: Pali, Pāli, Paḷi, Pāḷi, all four of which are found in textbooks.

Today Pāli is studied mainly by those who wish to read the original Buddhist scriptures, and is frequently chanted in rituals. There are non-religious text in Pāli including historical and medical texts. The main areas where Pāli is studied are Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

Devanāgarī alphabet for Pāli

Devanāgarī alphabet for Pāli

Thai alphabet for Pāli

Devanāgarī alphabet for Pāli

Download alphabet charts for Pali

Sample text in Pāli (Romanized script)

Manopubbaṅgamā dhammā, manoseṭṭhā manomayā;
Manasā ce paduṭṭhena, bhāsati vā karoti vā;
Tato nam dukkhaṁ anveti, cakkaṁ'va vahato padaṁ.


Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.
(Translated by Acharya Buddharakkhita)

Sample text in Pāli (Romanized script)

Appam pi ce saṃhitaṃ bhāsamāno dhammassa hoti anudhammacārī, rāgañ ca dosañ ca pahāya mohaṃ sammāppajāno suvimuttacitto, anupādiyāno idha vā huraṃ vā sa bhāgavā sāmaññassa hoti.


Even if he recites a little of scriptures, but lives in truth according to the Dharma, having abandoned lust, hatred and delusion, has the right knowledge, with a well emancipated mind, is not attached to anything, either in this world, nor in the other one, he shares the [blessings of] monkshood. (Source: of Digital Library & Museum of Buddhist studies)

Hear a recording of this text by Oscar A. Solari

The information on this page comes mainly from Oscar A. Solari.


Information about the Pāli language

Pāli language sources and resources

A Guide to Learning the Pāli Language

Tipitaka Network - includes information about the Pāli language and some lessons

Pāli Text Society

Pāli-English dictionary

Languages written with the Devanāgarī alphabet

Aka-Jeru, Angika, Athpare, Avestan, Awadhi, Bahing, Balti, Bantawa, Belhare, Bhili, Bhumij, Bilaspuri, Bodo, Bhojpuri, Braj, Car, Chamling, Chhantyal, Chhattisgarhi, Chambeali, Danwar, Dhatki, Dhimal, Dhundari, Digaro Mishmi, Dogri, Doteli, Gaddi, Garhwali, Gondi, Gurung, Halbi, Haryanvi, Hindi, Ho, Jarawa, Jaunsari, Jirel, Jumli, Kagate, Kannauji, Kham, Kangri, Kashmiri, Khaling, Khandeshi, Kharia, Khortha, Korku, Konkani, Kullui, Kumaoni, Kurmali, Kurukh, Kusunda, Lambadi, Limbu, Lhomi, Lhowa, Magahi, Magar, Mahasu Pahari, Maithili, Maldivian, Malto, Mandeali, Marathi, Marwari, Mewari, Mundari, Nancowry. Newar, Nepali, Nimadi, Nishi, Onge, Pahari, Pali, Pangwali, Rajasthani, Rajbanshi, Rangpuri, Sadri, Sanskrit, Santali, Saraiki, Sirmauri, Sherpa, Shina, Sindhi, Sunwar, Sylheti, Tamang, Thakali, Thangmi, Wambule, Wancho, Yakkha, Yolmo

Languages written with the Thai script

Bisu, Isan, Kuy, Northern Khmer, Northern Pwo, Nyah Kur, Pāli, Sanskrit, Thai, Thai Song, Urak Lawoi’

Page last modified: 23.04.21


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