What is the meaning of Namaste?

Do you know the real meaning of “Namaste”? Whether you are close to Asian culture or not, whether you are a follower of Hinduism or not, whether you practice yoga or not, it is obvious that you have heard this term before, but do you understand it?

Find out in this article:

  1. What does the word “Namaste” represent?
  2. The historical and etymological origins of the term “Namaste”.
  3. A term accompanied by a gesture
  4. Its current use
  5. To summarize
What is the meaning of Namaste?


1/ Quick explanation of the meaning of namaste

Namaste” is a greeting between two people. It expresses a mark of respect towards the person for whom it is intended.

2/ The use of the word namaste throughout the world

It is quite normal that, although you have heard it at some point in your life, you are not familiar with the term. Over the years, the use of this word has spread in the West . And this, mainly thanks to the practice of Yoga which is developing little by little). Nevertheless its use remains mainly in Asian countries, such asIndia or Nepal.

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1/ Historical origin

The word ” Namaste” has its origin in India, and belongs to the ancestral Hindu culture. Therefore, it is a very old word, which is extremely complicated to date precisely.

2/ Etymological origin

It is in the Sanskrit an ancient language derived from Hindu and Buddhist religious texts ( the Vedas ), that the term Namaste finds its origin. It is therefore the contraction of three words of this language.

  • The verb ” Nama “, whose translation would be “to bow down”.

  • The Sanskrit pronoun ” as “, whose meaning is “I

  • The pronoun ” te “, which means “you” in Sanskrit

By performing Namaste, one person bows to another. The literal translation of the Sanskrit word “Namaste” is “ I bow to you “.

3/ Difference between Namaste and Namaskar

Although the wording “Namaste” is the standard greeting in areas of the world where Hindu culture is very present, it is also customary to use the term ” Namaskar “, mainly in India but also in the West during yoga classes.

The difference between the two terms is that “Namaskar” expresses a more formal greeting, we are talking about simple greetings between two individuals, the real meaning being ” I give my greetings “.


What is the meaning of Namaste?

1/ Performing Namaste

More than a simple word, a good execution of Namaste also implies a gesture, a mudra.

To perform it, simply join the palms of your hands, close your eyes and lean forward. Depending on the entity for which the gesture is intended, the position of the hands may vary.

2/ Adapting to the situation

In the most frequent context, i.e. when the gesture is addressed to a person to whom one simply wants to show one’s greeting or gratitude, one must position one’s hands in front of the heart chakra. To show deeper respect, especially to a master, it is more appropriate to join hands in front of the face, the thumbs should touch the point between the eyebrows, also called ” third eye “.

Finally, to pay homage to a deity, placing one’s hands together above one’s head is the expected gesture. Be careful, however, to always bring your hands together in front of the heart chakra.

Within a framework very informalWhen the “hierarchical” difference between the two entities linked by the gesture is too great for this simple gesture, it can also be accompanied by a prostration of the person below her, a sign of the immense respect she has for the person for whom she is performing this mudra.

Its current use

The term “Namaste” is used at different levels.

1/ In social relations

Fundamental in Hindu society, hierarchical inequality is found in the Namaste.

Indeed, this willingness to bow down to someone implies, when it is unilateral, a subordination link. This is how, within the families of Hindu communities, the wife greets her husband. This is also how the child greets his parents.

This principle also applies in professional relations. Thus, through the Namaste, employees greet their employers.

2/ In religion

Drawing its origin from Hindu religious texts, the use of “Namaste” is also done to pay homage to a deity. And this, especially when a person passes near a religious monument such as a temple or a tomb.

In Hinduism, deities also perform this gesture among themselves, mainly goddesses towards their husbands, a sign that hierarchical inequality is also practiced in the order of the divine, but it can also happen that this gesture is performed in the other direction, from the gods towards their wives.

Namaste is used to greet the divine light that is in everyone, reinforcing the very religious connotation of this word.

What is the meaning of Namaste?
What is the meaning of Namaste?

3/ In yoga

In this discipline, the performance of Namaste is omnipresent, whether it is for the students to express their gratitude towards their yoga teacher, at the beginning as well as at the end of the class, or, within the framework of collective classes, between the students.

This gesture is used here to create a connection between two people, by the fusion of their energies, or chakras. It is essential to have peace of mind in order to achieve Namaste. This rule is not limited to the practice of yoga, but also to religion and simple greetings.

In practice therefore, this mudra is usually performed at the end of the yoga class, when the student’s heart is most liberated and pure, and therefore most able to establish a connection with his fellow man. The form of meditation that is yoga requires a mind that is willing to give and receive love, love that is difficult to share with a tortured mind.

In yoga classes, this mudra is more than a form of greeting, but a way to merge one’s chakra with that of a person with a liberated heart in order to greet the light of the divine within. One finds, within the session of yoga, a transmission of human values paramount in the course of a life (respect, love…) of the professor to his pupils.

To summarize

The meaning of Namaste is therefore multiple, which can be perceived at first sight as a simple greeting, this word from the Sanskrit has several levels of use (social relationships, religion, yoga practice…), according to which the position of the hands in relation to the body varies. The idea behind this mudra is to establish a connection between two individuals with a liberated mind, so that they can merge their chakras. The most correct translation of the term “Namaste” would be: ” I bow to the light of the divine within you” .

Did this explanation of the meaning of namaste interest you? Discover many articles on the philosophy of yoga on the Yogom blog, especially in this special philosophy section.