Sanskrit vaiśya, from viś settlement; akin to Greek oikos house — more at vicinity
First Known Use: 1665
Third highest of the four varnas of India. Traditionally described as commoners, Vaishyas are connected with productive labour, such as trade, agriculture, and pastoralism. According to legend, they sprang from the thighs of Prajapati, after the Brahmans and the Kshatriyas but before the Shudras. Like the two higher classes, they are twice-born (seeupanayana). They are credited historically with favouring the rise of the reformist religious beliefs of Buddhism and Jainism. In modern times they have become a symbol of middle-class prestige, and many rise to higher classes.