Word of the Day : December 30, 2010


noun muh-HAHT-muh


1 : a person to be revered for high-mindedness, wisdom, and selflessness

2 : a person of great prestige in a field of endeavor

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."


Film directors regard Alfred Hitchcock as the mahatma of the suspense thriller and still often borrow his plot devices and filming techniques.

"Vince Lombardi -- one of the Seven Blocks of Granite at Fordham, the coaching saint, the mahatma of Green Bay -- is the subject of a new play, and its producers plan to bring it to Broadway late next year." -- From an article by Richard Sandomir in The New York Times, November 7, 2009

Test Your Vocabulary

What word from Sanskrit refers to Gandhi's use of friendly passive resistance to effect social and political reform? The answer is ...


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