This post may contain affiliate links, which means that when you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.

Hindi and Sanskrit: Language Similarities and Differences

If you’ve been to a yoga class, you may have heard some Sanskrit words like “Surya Namaskar” (Sun Salutation).

Well, technically, that Sanskrit word is “सूर्यनमस्कार” (sūryanamaskāra).

You might also know that Sanskrit is an ancient classical language of India, and many important texts, like the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and the Upanishads, are written in Sanskrit.

But if you speak Sanskrit when visiting New Delhi, you will get puzzled looks, just as you would if you spoke Latin in Paris.

There are many similarities between Latin and French, just as there are many similarities between Sanskrit and Hindi. But these are different languages.

Hindi is the most widely spoken language in India and the official language of the Indian government. Hindi is closely related to Sanskrit, an ancient language that originated in the Indian subcontinent over 3,000 years ago.

Sanskrit and Hindi vocabulary

There are many Hindi vocabulary words which originate from Sanskrit. The table below contains some examples of such words.

Table: examples of vocabulary words which are similar in Sanskrit and Hindi
Hindi Sanskrit English
शांति (shaanti) शान्ति (shaanti) peace
आग (aag) अग्नि (agni) fire
चांद (caand) चन्द्र (candra) moon
नदी (nadī) नदी (nadī) river
हृदय (hrday) हृदय (hrdaya) heart
प्यार (pyaar) प्रिय (priya) love
हर्ष (harsh) हर्ष (harsha) joy
सुख (sukh) सुख (sukha) happiness
वन (van) वन (vana) forest
स्मृति (smrti) स्मृति (smrti) memory
नाव (naav) नावा (nāvā) boat
द्वीप (dvīp) द्वीप (dvīpá) island
गीत (gīt) गीत (gīta) song
बुद्धि (buddhi) बुद्धि (buddhi) intelligence
प्रकाश (prakaash) प्रकाश (prakaasha) light
फल (phal) फल (phala) fruit
महान (mahaan) महत् (mahat) great
मार्ग (maarg) मार्ग (mārga) path
पैर (pair) पद (pada) foot
निद्रा (nidrā) निद्रा (nidrā) sleep
सत्य (satya) सत्य (satya) true
राजा (raaja) राजन् (rājan) king
सिंह (sinh) सिंह (simha) lion

During recent centuries, Sanskrit has remained relatively free from outside linguistic influences, whereas Hindi has absorbed many words from other languages —Persian and English, in particular.

The Mughal Empire ruled the Indian subcontinent between the 16th and the 19th centuries. The Taj Mahal was built during that period. Persian was the language of the court, which explains why Hindi has many loanwords from Persian.

Table: Examples of Hindi loanwords from Persian
English Hindi Persian
city शहर (shahar) شهر (šahr)
heart दिल (dil) دل (dil)
market बाज़ार (baazaar) بازار (bâzâr)
revenge बदला (badala) بَدَل

The British colonial rule brought some English loanwords into Hindi, while other English loanwords come from the more recent globalization.

Table: Examples of Hindi loanwords from English
English Hindi
computer कंप्यूटर (kampyootar)
internet इंटरनेट (intaranet)
hotel होटल (hotal)
radio रेडियो (rediyo)
cinema सिनेमा (sinema)

Sanskrit is a much older language than Hindi

Sanskrit has been around for over 3 thousand years (the oldest known Sanskrit text, the Rigveda, was written between 1500 and 1000 BCE).

Hindi is less than one thousand years old. So, it is a much more recent language than Sanskrit.

The use of Sanskrit spans a very long period, so there are differences between the earlier form (Vedic Sanskrit) and the later form (Classical Sanskrit).

The Devanagari script is used for writing both Sanskrit and Hindi

A variety of writing systems have been used for the Sanskrit language, depending on the time in history and the location. Today it is common for Sanskrit texts to be written in the Devanagari script, which is also used to write in Hindi.

Devanagari script used for Sanskrit and Hindi

The Devanagari script is classified as an alphasyllabary, also called an “abugida” by some linguists. This type of script consists of symbols representing syllables rather than individual sounds.

The inherent vowel of consonant symbols

The Devanagari script uses consonant symbols that have an inherent vowel. For instance, the symbol “त” represents the syllable “ta”. The default vowel in this writing system is 'a', which is a very common vowel in both Sanskrit and Hindi.

Additional marks are added to the symbol to change the vowel from the default. For example, “ति” corresponds to the syllable “ti”, and “तु” corresponds to the syllable “tu”.

To suppress the inherent vowel, an additional marker is used (which is called a Virama). For example, “त्” corresponds to the pure consonant “t”.

The linguistic phenomenon of “schwa deletion” in spoken Hindi

Sanskrit, when written using the Devanagari script, is highly phonetic because words are pronounced the way they are spelled. One way in which Hindi differs from Sanskrit is that it is less phonetic.

Hindi is considered less phonetic than Sanskrit due to a linguistic phenomenon known as “schwa deletion” in spoken Hindi. This refers to the non-pronunciation of one of the default vowels in some Hindi words, even though there is no Virama marker indicating its absence.

For example, the word “वन” means “forest” in both Sanskrit and Hindi. In Sanskrit, this word is exactly as it is spelled: “vana”. However, in Hindi, it is pronounced “van”.

Comparing Sanskrit and Hindi Grammar

There are a few reasons why Hindi grammar is considered simpler than Sanskrit grammar. One of the main reasons is that Hindi has fewer noun cases than Sanskrit, which makes noun declension less complex.

Grammatical gender is also simpler in Hindi compared to Sanskrit. Each Sanskrit noun has one of three possible grammatical genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter). For example:

In contrast, Hindi nouns have one of two possible grammatical genders (masculine and feminine).


In some ways, the relationship between Sanskrit and Hindi is similar to the relationship between Latin and Italian. Many Hindi vocabulary words come from Sanskrit, but there are significant grammatical differences between the two languages.

To further explore this topic, refer to this list of the thousand most common Sanskrit words and this article on Sanskrit words used in Yoga.

If you are interested in learning Hindi, check out this Hindi course.