(also aṭṭha, esp. in combinations mentioned under 3) masculine & neuter

  1. interest, advantage, gain; (moral) good blessing, welfare; profit, prosperity, well-being MN.i.111 (atthassa ninnetar, of the Buddha, bringer of good); SN.iv.94 (id.); SN.i.34 (attano a. one’s own welfare), SN.i.55 (id. SN.i.86, SN.i.102, SN.i.126 = AN.ii.46 (atthassa patti); SN.i.162 (attano ca parassa ca); SN.ii.222 (id.); SN.iv.347 (˚ṃ bhañjati destroy the good or welfare, always with musāvādena by lying cp. attha-bhañjanaka); AN.i.61 (˚ṃ anubhoti to fare well to have a (good) result); AN.iii.364 (samparāyika a. profit in the future life); AN.v.223 sq. (anattho ca attho ca detriment & profit); Iti.44 (variant reading attā better); Snp.37, Snp.58 (= Cnd.26, where the six kinds of advantages are enumerated as att˚ par˚ ubhay˚, i.e. advantage, resulting for oneself for others, for both; diṭṭhadhammik˚ samparāyik˚ param gain for this life, for a future life, and highest gain of all, i.e. Arahantship); Snp.331 (ko attho supitena what good is it to sleep = na hi sakkā supantena koci attho papuṇituṃ Snp-a.338; cp. ko attho supinena te Pv.ii.6#1) Pv-a.30 (atthaṃ sādheti does good, results in good, Pv-a.69 (samparāyikena atthena)
    ■ dat. atthāya for the good for the benefit of (gen.); to advantage, often eombd. with hitāya sukhāya, e.g. DN.iii.211 sq.; Iti.79
    ■ Kp.viii.1 (to my benefit); Pv.i.4#3 (= upakārāya Pv-a.18), Pv.ii.12#9 (to great advantage). See also below 6.
    ■ Sometimes in a more concrete meaning = riches, wealth e.g. Ja.i.256 (= vaḍḍhiṃ C.); Ja.iii.394 (id.); Pv.iv.1#4 (dhanaṃ Pv-a.219)
    ■ Often as-˚: att˚; one’s own wellfare, usually combd. with par˚; and ubhay˚; (see above SN.ii.29; SN.v.121; AN.i.158, AN.i.216; AN.iii.63 sq.; AN.iv.134; Snp.75 (att-aṭṭha, variant reading attha Cnd), Snp.284 (atta-d-attha); uttam˚; the highest gain, the very best thing Dhp.386 (= arahatta Dhp-a.iv.142); Snp.324 (= arahatta Snp-a.332); param˚ id. Cnd.26; sad˚; one’s own weal DN.ii.141; MN.i.4; SN.ii.29; SN.v.145; AN.i.144; sāttha (adj.) connected with advantage beneficial, profitable (of the Dhamma; or should we take it as “with the meaning, in spirit”? see sāttha DN.i.62; SN.v.352; AN.ii.147; AN.iii.152; Cnd.316.

  2. need, want (c. instr.), use (for = instr.) SN.i.37 (˚jāta when need has arisen, in need); Ja.i.254; Ja.iii.126, Ja.iii.281; Ja.iv.1; Dhp-a.i.398 (n’ atthi eteh’ attho I have no use for them) Vv-a.250; Pv-a.24 (yāvadattha, adj. as much as is needed sufficient = anappaka).

  3. sense, meaning, import (of a word), denotation, signification. In this application attha is always spelt aṭṭha in compounds aṭṭh-uppatti and aṭṭha-kathā (see below). On term see also Cpd. 4
    ■ SN.iii.93 (atthaṃ vibhajati explain the sense); AN.i.23 (id.), AN.i.60 (nīt˚ primary meaning, literal meaning; neyy˚ secondary or inferred meaning); AN.ii.189 (˚ṃ ācikkhati to interpret); Snp.126 (˚ṃ pucchita asked the (correct) sense, the lit. meaning), Snp.251 (˚ṃ akkhāti); Thag.374; attho paramo the highest sense the ultimate sense or intrinsic meaning Iti.98, cp. Cpd. 6, 81, 223; Mil.28 (paramatthato in the absolute sense) Mil.18 (atthato according to its meaning, opp. vyañjanato by letter, orthographically); Dhp-a.ii.82; Dhp-a.iii.175 Kp-a.81 (pad˚ meaning of a word); Snp-a.91 (id.); Pv-a.15 (˚ṃ vadati to explain, interpret), Pv-a.16, Pv-a.19 (hitatthadhammatā “fitness of the best sense”, i.e. practical application), Pv-a.71. Very frequent in Commentary style at the conclusion of an explained passage as ti attho “this is the meaning”, thus it is meant, this is the sense, e.g. DN-a.i.65; Dhp-a.iv.140, Dhp-a.iv.141; Pv-a.33, etc

  4. Contrasted with dhamma in the combn. attho ca dhammo ca it (attha) refers to the (primary, natural) meaning of the word, while dhamma relates to the (interpreted) meaning of the text, to its bearing on the norm and conduct; or one might say they represent the theoretical and practical side of the text (pāḷi) to be discussed, the “letter” and the “spirit”. Thus at AN.i.69; AN.v.222, AN.v.254; Snp.326 (bhāsitatthañ ca pāḷidhammañ ca Snp-a.333); Iti.84 (duṭṭho atthaṃ na jānāti dhammaṃ na passati: he realises neither the meaning nor the importance); Dhp.363 (= bhāsitatthañ c’ eva desanādhammañ ca); Ja.ii.353;; Cnd.386 (meaning & proper nature); Pv.iii.9#6 (but expld. by Pv-a.211 as hita = benefit, good, thus referring it to above 1) For the same use see compounds ˚dhamma, ˚paṭisambhidā, esp in adv. use (see under 6) Snp.430 (yen’ atthena for which purpose), Snp.508 (kena atthena variant reading BB for T attanā), Ja.i.411 (atthaṃ vā kāraṇaṃ vā reason and cause); Dhp-a.ii.95 (+ kāraṇa(Pv-a.11 (ayaṃ h’ ettha attho this is the reason why).

  5. (in very wide application, covering the same ground as Lat. res & Fr. chose):

    1. matter, affair, thing, often untranslatable and simply to be given as “this” or “that” SN.ii.36 (ekena-padena sabbo attho vutto the whole matter is said with one word); Ja.i.151 (taṃ atthaṃ the matter); Ja.ii.160 (imaṃ a. this); (taṃ atthaṃ pakāsento); Pv-a.6 (taṃ atthaṃ pucchi asked it), Pv-a.11 (visajjeti explains it), Pv-a.29 (vuttaṃ atthaṃ what had been said), Pv-a.82 (id.)
    2. affair, cause, case (cp. aṭṭa2 and Lat. causa) Dhp.256, Dhp.331; Mil.47 (kassa atthaṃ dhāresi whose cause do you support, with whom do you agree?). See also alamattha.
  6. Adv. use of oblique cases in the sense of a prep.:

    1. dat. atthāya for the sake of, in order to, for Ja.i.254 dhan’ atthāya for wealth kim˚ what for, why?), Ja.i.279; Ja.ii.133; Ja.iii.54; Dhp-a.ii.82; Pv-a.55, Pv-a.75, Pv-a.78
    2. acc. atthaṃ on account of, in order to, often instead of an infinitive or with another inf. substitute Ja.i.279 (kim˚); Ja.iii.53 (id.); Ja.i.253; Ja.ii.128; Dhp-a.i.397; Pv-a.32 (dassan˚ in order to see), Pv-a.78, Pv-a.167, etc
    3. abl. atthā Ja.iii.518 (pitu atthā = atthāya C.)
    4. loc. atthe instead of, for Vv-a.10; Pv-a.33; etc.


masculine & neuter

  1. unprofitable situation or condition, mischief, harm, misery, misfortune SN.i.103; SN.ii.196 (anatthāya saṃvattati); AN.iv.96 (˚ṃ adhipajjati) Iti.84 (˚janano doso ill-will brings discomfort); Ja.i.63, Ja.i.196 Pp.37; Dhs.1060, Dhs.1231; Sdhp.87; DN-a.i.52 (anatthajanano kodho, cp. Iti.83 and Cnd.420 Q2); Dhp-a.ii.73; Pv-a.13, Pv-a.61, Pv-a.114, Pv-a.199.
  2. (= attha 3) incorrect sense false meaning, as adj. senseless (and therefore unprofitable no good, irrelevant) AN.v.222, AN.v.254 (adhammo ca) Dhp.100 (= aniyyānad˚īpaka Dhp-a.ii.208); Snp.126 (expld. at Snp-a.180 as ahitaṃ).
  • -akkhāyin showing what is profitable DN.iii.187
  • -attha riches (= atthabhūtaṁ atthaṁ Commentary)
  • -antara difference between the (two) meanings Mil.158 At Thag.374, Oldenberg’s reading, but the variant reading (also Commentary reading atthandhara is much better = he who knows the (correct) meaning, especially as it corresponds with dhamma-dhara
  • -abhisamaya grasp of the proficient SN.i.87 ‣See abhisamaya
  • -uddhāra synopsis or abstract of contents (“matter”) of the Vinaya Dīpavaṁsa.v.37
  • -upaparikkhā investigation of meaning, (+ dhamma-savanna) MN.iii.175 AN.iii.381f.; AN.iv.221;.AN.v.126
  • -uppatti (aṭṭh˚) sense meaning, explanation, interpretation Ja.i.89 DN-a.i.242 Kp-a.216 Vv-a.197Vv-a.203 (cp. pāḷito) Pv-a.2 Pv-a.6 Pv-a.78; etc
  • -kāma adjective (a) well-wishing, a well-wisher, friend, one who is interested in the welfare of others (cp. Sanskrit arthakāma e.g. Bhagavadgīta ii.5: gurūn arthakāman) SN.i.140 SN.i.197 SN.i.201 sq. AN.iii.143 DN.iii.164 (bahuno janassa a., hitakāmo) Ja.i.241 Pv.iv.3#51; Pv AN 25 Snp-a.287 (an˚). (b) one who is interested in his own gain or good, either in good or bad sense (= greedy) SN.i.44 Pv-a.112
  • -kathā (aṭṭha˚) exposition of the sense, explanation, Commentary Ja.v.38 Ja.v.170 Pv-a.1 Pv-a.71, etc. Frequently in name of Commentary
  • -kara beneficial, useful Vin.iii.149 Mil.321
  • -karaṇa the business of trying a case, holding court, giving judgment (variant reading aṭṭa˚) DN.ii.20 SN.i.74 (judgment hall?)
  • -kavi a didactic poet ‣See kavi AN.ii.230
  • -kāmin = ˚kāma, well-wishing Snp.986 (devatā atthakāminī)
  • -kāraṇā ablative for the sake of gain DN.iii.186
  • -kusala clever in finding out what is good or profitable Snp.143 (= atthacheka Kp-a.236)
  • -cara doing good, busy in the interest of others, obliging SN.i.23 (narānaṁ = “working out man’s salvation”)
  • -caraka
  • adjective one who devotes himself to being useful to others, doing good, one who renders service to others, e.g. an attendant, messenger agent etc. DN.i.107 (= hitakāraka DN-a.i.276) Ja.ii.87 Ja.iii.326;.Ja.iv.230;
  • -cariyā useful conduct or behaviour DN.iii.152 DN.iii.190 DN.iii.232 AN.ii.32 AN.ii.248 AN.iv.219 AN.iv.364
  • -ñu one who knows what is useful or who knows the (plain or correct) meaning of something (+ dhammaññū) DN.iii.252 AN.iii.148 AN.iv.113f.
  • -dassin intent upon the (moral good Snp.385 (= hitânupassin Snp-a.373)
  • -dassimant one who examines a cause (cp. Sanskrit arthadarśika) (but explained by Commentary as “saṇha-sukhuma-pañña” of deep insight one who has a fine and minute knowledge)
  • -desanā interpretation, exegesis Mil.21 (dhamm˚)
  • -dhamma “reason and morality” ‣See above no. 3. ˚anusāsaka one who advises regarding the meaning and application of the Law, a professor of moral philosophy Ja.ii.105 Dhp-a.ii.71
  • -pada a profitable saying, a word of good sense, text motto AN.ii.189 AN.iii.356 Dhp.100
  • -paṭisambhidā knowledge of the meaning (of words) combined with dhamma of the text or spirit ‣See above no. 3 Pts.i.132; Pts.ii.150.Vb 293f.
  • -paṭisaṁvedin experiencing good DN.iii.241 (+ dhamma˚) AN.i.151 AN.iii.21
  • -baddha expecting some good from (c. locative) Snp.382
  • -bhañjanaka breaking the welfare of, hurting Dhp-a.iii.356 (paresaṁ of others, by means of telling lies, musāvādena)
  • -majjha of beautiful waist Ja.v.170 (= sumajjhā Commentary ; reading must be faulty there is hardly any connection with attha; variant reading atta)
  • -rasa sweetness (or substance, essence) of meaning (dhamma˚, vimutti˚) Cnd.466; Pts.ii.88, Pts.ii.89
  • -vasa “dependence on the sense”, reasonableness, reason, consequence cause DN.ii.285 MN.i.464 MN.ii.120 MN.iii.150 SN.ii.202 SN.iii.93; SN.iv.303; SN.v.224 AN.i.61 AN.i.77 AN.i.98 AN.ii.240 AN.iii.72 AN.iii.169 AN.iii.237 Dhp.289 (= kāraṇa Dhp-a.iii.435) Iti.89 Snp.297 Ud.14
  • -vasika sensible Iti.89 Mil.406
  • -vasin bent on (one’s) aim or purpose Thag.539
  • -vādin one who speaks good, i.e. whose words are doing good or who speaks only useful speech, always in combination with kāla bhūta˚ dhamma˚ DN.i.4 DN.iii.175 AN.i.204 AN.ii.22 AN.ii.209 Pp.58 DN-a.i.76 (explained as “one who speaks for the sake of reaping blessings here and hereafter”)
  • -saṁvaṇṇanā explanation, exegesis Pv-a.1
  • -saṁhita connected with good, bringing good, profitable, useful, salutary DN.i.189 SN.ii.223 SN.iv.330 SN.v.417 AN.iii.196f. AN.iii.244 Snp.722 (= hitena saṁhitaṁ Snp-a.500) Pp.58
  • -sandassana determination of meaning, definition Pts.i.105
  • - siddhi profit, advantage, benefit Ja.i.402 Pv-a.63

Vedic artha from; ; arti & ṛṇoti to reach attain or to proceed (to or from), thus originally result (or cause), profit, attainment. Cp. semantically Fr. chose Lat. causa


neuter home, primarily as place of rest & shelter, but in P. phraseology abstracted from the “going home”, i.e. setting of the sun, as disappearance going out of existence, annihilation, extinction. Only in acc. and as ˚-in foll phrases: atthaṅgacchati to disappear, to go out of existence, to vanish Dhp.226 (= vināsaṃ natthibhāvaṃ gacchati Dhp-a.iii.324), Dhp-a.384 (parikkhayaṃ gacchati); pp. atthaṅgata gone home, gone to rest, gone, disappeared; of the sun (= set): Ja.i.175 (atthangate suriye at sunset); Pv-a.55 (id.), Pv-a.216 (anatthangate s. before sunset) fig. Snp.472 (atthagata). Snp.475 (id.), Snp.1075 (= niruddha ucchinṇa vinaṭṭha anupādi-sesāya nibbāna-dhātuyā nibbuta); Iti.58; Dhs.1038; Vb.195 -atthagatatta (nt. abstr.) disappearance Snp-a.409. -atthaṅgama (atthagama passim) annihilation, disappearance opposed to samudaya (coming into existence) and synonymous with nirodha (destruction) DN.i.34, DN.i.37, DN.i.183; SN.iv.327; AN.iii.326; Pts.ii.4, Pts.ii.6, Pts.ii.39; Pp.52; Dhs.165 Dhs.265, Dhs.501, Dhs.579; Vb.105. -atthagamana (nt.) setting (of the sun) Ja.i.101 (suriyass’ atthagamanā at sunset DN-a.i.95 (= ogamana)
attha-gāmin, in phrase uday’ atthagāmin leading to birth and death (of paññā): see udaya. -atthaṃ paleti = atthangacchati (fig.) Snp.1074 (= atthangameti nirujjhati Cnd.28)
■ Also atthamita (pp. of i) set (of the sun) in phrase anatthamite suriye before sunset (with anatthangamite as variant reading at both pass. Dhp-a.i.86; Dhp-a.iii.127
■ Cp. also abbhattha.

Vedic asta, of uncertain etym.


pres. 2nd pl. of atthi (q.v.).