mahatma was our Word of the Day on 12/30/2010. Hear the podcast!
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Did You Know?
Mahatma is an adaptation of the Sanskrit word mahātman, which literally meant "great-souled." As a general, uncapitalized English noun, "mahatma" can refer to any great person; in India, it is used as a title of love and respect. When capitalized, however, it usually refers to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the great leader who helped guide India to independence in 1947. Renowned for his policy of nonviolent protest, he was widely known as "Mahatma Gandhi" or "the Mahatma." The title was reportedly conferred on him by poet Rabindranath Tagore in 1915, but spiritual leader and author Paramahansa Yogananda claimed that Gandhi didn’t embrace it himself. According to Yogananda, Gandhi never referred to himself as "Mahatma," but rather "made some humble, and witty, protests about the title."
MAHATMA Defined for English Language Learners
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