Nearly all (ultimately prob. all) words under this heading are compounds with the pref. ni.

A. Forms

  1. Pāli ni˚; combines the two prefixes ni, nis (nir). They are outwardly to be distinguished inasmuch as ni is usually followed by a single consonant (except in forms where double cons. is usually restored in composition, like ni-kkhipati = ni + kṣip; nissita ni + sri. Sometimes the double cons. is merely graphic or due to analogy, esp. in words where ni-is contrasted with ud- (“up”), as nikkujja → ukkujja, niggilati → uggilati, ninnamati → unnamati). On the other hand a compound with nis is subject to the rules of assimilation viz. either doubling of cons. (nibbhoga = nir-bhoga where vv is represented by bb (nibbiṇṇa fr. nir-vindati) or lengthening of ni to (nīyādeti as well as niyy˚ nīharati = nir + har), or single cons. in the special cases of r & v; (niroga besides nīroga for nirroga, cp. duratta → dūrakkha; niveṭheti = nibbeṭheti, nivāreti = *nivvāreti = nīvāreti). Before a vowel the sandhi-cons. r is restored: nir-aya, nir-upadhi etc.
  2. Both ni & nis are base-prefixes only, & of stable, well-defined character i.e. never enter combinations with other prefixes as first (modifying) components in verb-function (like saṃ, vi etc.), although nis occurs in such combination in noun-cpds negating the whole term: nir-upadhi, nis-saṃsaya etc.
  3. ni is freq. emphasised by saṃ as saṃni˚ (tud, dhā pat, sad); nis most freq. by abhi as abhinis˚ (nam, pad vatt, har).

B. Meanings

  1. ni (with secondary derivations like nīca “low”) is a verb-pref. only, i.e. it characterises action with respect to its direction, which is that of (a) a downward motion (opp. abhi & ud); (b) often implying the aim (= down into, on to, cp. Lat. sub in subire, or pref. ad˚); or(c) the reverting of an upward motion = back (identical with b); e.g. (a) ni-dhā (put down), ˚kkhip (throw d.), ˚guh (hide d.), ˚ci (heap up) ˚pad (fall d.), ˚sad (sit d.); (b) ni-ratta (at-tached to) ˚mant (speak to); ˚yuj (ap-point), ˚ved (ad-dress), ˚sev (be devoted to) etc.; (c) ni-vatt (turn back).
  2. nis
    1. as verb-pref. it denotes the directional “out” with further development to “away from, opposite, without, pointing out the finishing, completion or vanishing of an action & through the latter idea often assuming the meaning of the reverse, disappearance or contrary of an action = “un” (Lat. dis-), e.g. nikkhamati (to go out from) opp. pavisati (to enter into), ˚ccharati (nis to car to go forth), ˚ddhamati (throw out), ˚pajjati (result from), ˚bbattati (vatt spring out from), nīharati (take out), nirodhati (break up, destroy)
    2. as noun-pref it denotes “being without” or “not having” E. -less, e.g. niccola without clothes, ˚ttaṇha (without thirst), ˚ppurisa (without a man), ˚pphala (without fruit); niccala motion-less, ˚kkaruṇa (heartless), ˚ddosa (fault˚), ˚maṃsa (flesh˚), ˚saṃsaya (doubt˚) nirattha (useless), ˚bbhaya (fear˚)
      ■ Bdhgh evidently takes ni- in meaning of nis only, when defining: ni-saddo abhāvaṃ dīpeti Vism.495.

Sk. ni- & nih-, insep. prefixes: (a) ni down = Av. ni, cp. Gr.; νειός lowland, νείατος the lowest, hindmost Lat. nīdus (*ni-zdos: place to sit down = nest); Ags nēol, nider = E. nether; Goth. nidar = Ohg. nidar; also Sk. nīca, nīpa etc (b) niḥ out, prob. fr. *seni & to Lat. sine without