ahim·​sa ə-ˈhim-ˌsä How to pronounce ahimsa (audio)
: the Hindu and Buddhist doctrine of refraining from harming any living being

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Ahimsa has been part of the English language since at least the late 19th century, but the word didn't gain the attention of the English-speaking world until the first half of the 20th century, when it was recognized as an important component of the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. Ahimsa comes from a Sanskrit word meaning "noninjury," and Gandhi's policy of nonviolent protest played a crucial role in the political and social changes that eventually led to India's independence from Britain in 1947.

Examples of ahimsa in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The principle of ahimsa is a part of the yamas limb of the Yoga Sutras, which is often considered one of yoga’s ethical guidelines for moral codes. Michelle Konstantinovsky, SELF, 20 July 2022 Modi hopes to reach more people with the Jain teachings of ahimsa, or nonviolence in thought, word, and deed; nonpossessiveness; and acceptance of multiple viewpoints. Los Angeles Times, 2 May 2021 Now the ancient Hindu principle of ahimsa, an exhortation to do no harm and revere life, is being used to encourage Hindus in North America to embrace the vaccine, said Dr. Kashyap Patel, a cardiologist in Atlanta who is a medical adviser to BAPS. New York Times, 14 Mar. 2021 His role models include leaders of the non-violent civil rights movement and Gandhi, who used the principle of ahimsa, doing no harm, to guide his own campaign of non-violence. San Diego Union-Tribune, 27 Sep. 2020 The practice of ahimsa benefits wildlife but can also complicate procedures in animal hospitals. Oliver Whang, New York Times, 19 Feb. 2020 Gandhi the scientist spent a lifetime exploring a question that is at the core of human existence: Is violence more natural than nonviolence or ahimsa? Rajni Bakshi, Quartz India, 1 Oct. 2019 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ahimsa.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Sanskrit ahiṁsā noninjury

First Known Use

1875, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of ahimsa was in 1875


Dictionary Entries Near ahimsa

Cite this Entry

“Ahimsa.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ahimsa. Accessed 3 Dec. 2023.

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