Sanskrit nouns

Sanskrit is a highly inflected language with three grammatical genders (masculine, feminine, neuter) and three numbers (singular, plural, dual). It has eight cases: nominative, vocative, accusative, instrumental, dative, ablative, genitive, and locative.[1]

Nouns are grouped into "declensions", which are sets of nouns that form their cases in a similar manner. In this article they are divided into five declensions. The declension to which a noun belongs is determined largely by form.


Sanskrit nouns have eight cases: nominative, accusative, instrumental, dative, ablative, genitive, locative, and vocative.[2] Of these eight cases, Pāṇini identified six as kārakas, or accessories to a verb. The six kārakas are the nominative, accusative, dative, instrumental, locative, and ablative cases.[3] He defined them as follows (Ashtādhyāyi, I.4.24-54):

  1. Apādāna (lit. 'take off'): "(that which is) firm when departure (takes place)." This is the equivalent of the ablative case, which signifies a stationary object from which movement proceeds.
  2. Sampradāna ('bestowal'): "he whom one aims at with the object". This is equivalent to the dative case, which signifies a recipient in an act of giving or similar acts.
  3. Karaṇa ("instrument") "that which effects most." This is equivalent to the instrumental case.
  4. Adhikaraṇa ('location'): or "substratum." This is equivalent to the locative case.
  5. Karman ('deed'/'object'): "what the agent seeks most to attain". This is equivalent to the accusative case.
  6. Kartā ('agent'): "he/that which is independent in action". This is equivalent to the nominative case. (On the basis of Scharfe, Hartmut (1977). Grammatical literature. History of Indian literature. 5. Wiesbaden: O. Harrassowitz. p. 94. ISBN 978-3447017060.)

Pāṇini did not identify the genitive (Sambandha) and vocative (sambuddha) as cases, in the term of Karakas.[4]

Basic noun and adjective declension[edit]

The basic scheme of suffixation is given in the table below and applies to many nouns and adjectives. However, according to the gender and the final consonant or vowel of the uninflected word-stem, there are sandhi rules dictating the form of the inflected word.[5]

Singular Dual Plural
Masc./Fem Neu. Masc./Fem Neu. Masc./Fem Neu.
Nominative Ø au ī aḥ i
Accusative am
Instrumental ā bhyām bhiḥ
Dative e bhyaḥ
Ablative aḥ
Genitive oḥ ām
Locative i su


A-stems (/ə/ or /aː/) comprise the largest class of nouns. As a rule, nouns belonging to this class, with the uninflected stem ending in short-a (/ə/), are either masculine or neuter. Nouns ending in long-A (/aː/) are almost always feminine. A-stem adjectives take the masculine and neuter in short-a (/ə/), and feminine in long-A (/aː/) in their stems. This class is so big because it also comprises the Proto-Indo-European o-stems.

Masculine (kāma- 'desire') Feminine (kānta- 'beloved') Neuter (āsya- 'mouth')
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative kāmaḥ kāmau kāmāḥ kāntā kānte kāntāḥ āsyam āsye āsyāni
Accusative kāmam kāmau kāmān kāntām kānte kāntāḥ āsyam āsye āsyāni
Instrumental kāmena kāmābhyām kāmaiḥ kāntayā kāntābhyām kāntābhiḥ āsyena āsyābhyām āsyaiḥ
Dative kāmāya kāmābhyām kāmebhyaḥ kāntāyai kāntābhyām kāntābhyaḥ āsyāya āsyābhyām āsyebhyaḥ
Ablative kāmāt kāmābhyām kāmebhyaḥ kāntāyāḥ kāntābhyām kāntābhyaḥ āsyāt āsyābhyām āsyebhyaḥ
Genitive kāmasya kāmayoḥ kāmānām kāntāyāḥ kāntayoḥ kāntānām āsyasya āsyayoḥ āsyānām
Locative kāme kāmayoḥ kāmeṣu kāntāyām kāntayoḥ kāntāsu āsye āsyayoḥ āsyeṣu
Vocative kāma kāmau kāmāḥ kānte kānte kāntāḥ āsya āsye āsyāni

i- and u-stems[edit]

This class contain nouns of all three genders, but its most defining features are best preserved in the masculine forms. Feminine nouns may borrow part of their singular endings from the and classes, and neuters regularly use a derived consonant stem in -in or -un. They are considered part of this class by traditional grammars for etymological reasons, as well as the fact that adjectives in -i and -u complete their paradigms suppletively for the three genders with these forms.

Masculine (agní- 'fire') Feminine (gáti- 'gait') Neuter (vā́ri- 'water')
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative agníḥ agnī́ agnáyaḥ gátiḥ gátī gátayaḥ vā́ri vā́riṇī vā́rīṇi
Accusative agním agnī́ agnī́n gátim gátī gátīḥ vā́ri vā́riṇī vā́rīṇi
Instrumental agnínā agníbhyām agníbhiḥ gátyā gátibhyām gátibhiḥ vā́riṇā vā́ribhyām vā́ribhis
Dative agnáye agníbhyām agníbhyaḥ gátaye, gátyāi gátibhyām gátibhyaḥ vā́riṇe vā́ribhyām vā́ribhyas
Ablative agnéḥ agníbhyām agníbhyaḥ gátes, gátyāḥ gátibhyām gátibhyaḥ vā́riṇas vā́ribhyām vā́ribhyas
Genitive agnéḥ agnyóḥ agnīnā́m gátes, gátyāḥ gátyoḥ gátīnām vā́riṇas vā́riṇos vā́riṇām
Locative agnāú agnyóḥ agníṣu gátāu, gátyām gátyoḥ gátiṣu vā́riṇi vā́riṇos vā́riṣu
Vocative ágne agnī́ agnáyaḥ gáte gátī gátayaḥ vā́ri, vā́re vā́riṇī vā́rīṇi
Masculine (śátru- 'enemy') Feminine (dhenú- 'cow') Neuter (mádhu- 'honey')
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative śátruḥ śátrū śátravaḥ dhenús dhenū́ dhenávaḥ mádhu mádhunī mádhūni
Accusative śátrum śátrū śátrūn dhenúm dhenū́ dhenū́s mádhu mádhunī mádhūni
Instrumental śátruṇā śátrubhyām śátrubhiḥ dhenvā́ dhenúbhyām dhenúbhiḥ mádhunā mádhubhyām mádhubhiḥ
Dative śátrave śátrubhyām śátrubhyaḥ dhenáve, dhenvāí dhenúbhyām dhenúbhyaḥ mádhune mádhubhyām mádhubhyaḥ
Ablative śátroḥ śátrubhyām śátrubhyaḥ dhenós, dhenvā́s dhenúbhyām dhenúbhyaḥ mádhunaḥ mádhubhyām mádhubhyaḥ
Genitive śátroḥ śátrvoḥ śátrūṇām dhenós, dhenvā́s dhenvóḥ dhenūnā́m mádhunaḥ mádhunoḥ mádhūnām
Locative śátrāu śátrvoḥ śátruṣu dhenāú, dhenvā́m dhenvóḥ dhenúṣu mádhuni mádhunoḥ mádhuṣu
Vocative śátro śátrū śátravaḥ dhéno dhenū́ dhenávaḥ mádhu mádhunī mádhūni

Long-vowel stems[edit]

These nouns, mostly feminine, have stems in -ā, -ī, -ū and genitive singular in ās. The -ī and -ū classes decline identically, while the class have different dual and vocative forms, as well as inserts either -āy- or -ay- before oblique case endings beginning with vowels.

ā-stems (kāntā 'beloved') ī-stems (patnī 'hostess, wife') ū-stems (vadhū 'bride')
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative kāntā kānte kāntās patnī patnyau patnyas vadhūs vadhvau vadhvas
Accusative kāntām kānte kāntās patnīm patnyau patnīs vadhūm vadhvau vadhūs
Instrumental kāntayā kāntābhyām kāntābhis patnyā patnībhyām patnībhis vadhvā vadhūbhyām vadhūbhis
Dative kāntāyai kāntābhyām kāntābhyas patnyai patnībhyām patnībhyas vadhvai vadhūbhyām vadhūbhyas
Ablative kāntāyās kāntābhyām kāntābhyas patnyās patnībhyām patnībhyas vadhvās vadhūbhyām vadhūbhyas
Genitive kāntāyās kāntayos kāntānām patnyās patnyos patnīnām vadhvās vadhvos vadhūnām
Locative kāntāyām kāntayos kāntāsu patnyām patnyos patnīṣu vadhvām vadhvos vadhūṣu
Vocative kānte kānte kāntās patni patnyau patnyas vadhu vadhvau vadhvas

Many one-syllable root nouns in long vowels are inflected in principle as consonant stems, but the feminine ones may also use the longer singular endings of the class proper, in a similar way short -i and -u stem feminines do.

ā-stems (jā- 'progeny') ī-stems (dhī- 'thought') ū-stems (bhū- 'earth')
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative jā́s jāú jā́s dhī́s dhíyāu dhíyas bhū́s bhúvāu bhúvas
Accusative jā́m jāú jā́s, jás dhíyam dhíyāu dhíyas bhúvam bhúvāu bhúvas
Instrumental jā́ jā́bhyām jā́bhis dhiyā́ dhībhyā́m dhībhís bhuvā́ bhūbhyā́m bhūbhís
Dative jā́bhyām jā́bhyas dhiyé, dhiyāí dhībhyā́m dhībhyás bhuvé, bhuvāí bhūbhyā́m bhūbhyás
Ablative jás jā́bhyām jā́bhyas dhiyás, dhiyā́s dhībhyā́m dhībhyás bhuvás, bhuvā́s bhūbhyā́m bhūbhyás
Genitive jás jós jā́nām, jā́m dhiyás, dhiyā́s dhiyós dhiyā́m, dhīnā́m bhuvás, bhuvā́s bhuvós bhuvā́m, bhūnā́m
Locative jós jā́su dhiyí, dhiyā́m dhiyós dhīṣú bhuví, bhuvā́m bhuvós bhūṣú
Vocative jā́s jāú jā́s dhī́s dhiyāu dhíyas bhū́s bhuvāu bhúvas


ṛ-stems are predominantly agental derivatives like dātṛ 'giver', though also include kinship terms like pitṛ 'father', mātṛ 'mother', and svasṛ 'sister'. The neuter equivalents of derivative agental nouns once again form secondary stems in -n, as in the -i and -u classes.

Masculine (pitṛ 'father') Feminine (mātṛ 'mother') Neuter (dātṛ 'giver')
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative pitā pitarau pitaras mātā mātārau mātāras dātṛ dātṛṇī dātṝṇi
Accusative pitaram pitarau pitṝn mātāram mātārau mātṝs dātṛ dātṛṇī dātṝṇi
Instrumental pitrā pitṛbhyām pitṛbhis mātārā, mātrā mātṛbhyām mātṛbhis dātṛṇā dātṛbhyām dātṛbhis
Dative pitre pitṛbhyām pitṛbhyas mātāre, mātre mātṛbhyām mātṛbhyas dātṛṇe dātṛbhyām dātṛbhyas
Ablative pitur, pitras pitṛbhyām pitṛbhyas mātāras, mātur mātṛbhyām mātṛbhyas dātṛṇas dātṛbhyām dātṛbhyas
Genitive pitur, pitras pitros pitṝṇām mātāras, mātur mātaros, mātros mātṝṇām dātṛṇas dātṛṇos dātṝṇām
Locative pitari pitros pitṛṣu mātārām, mātari mātaros, mātros mātṛṣu dātṛṇi dātṛṇos dātṛṣu
Vocative pítar pitarau pitaras mātār mātārau mātāras dātṛ dātṛṇī dātṝṇi

A single irregular noun, sakhi 'friend', has a stem apparently in -i but declines similarly to this class:

Singular Dual Plural
Nominative sakhā sakhāyau sakhāyas
Accusative sakhāyam sakhāyau sakhīn
Instrumental sakhyā sakhibhyām sakhibhis
Dative sakhye sakhibhyām sakhibhyas
Ablative sakhyur sakhibhyām sakhibhyas
Genitive sakhyur sakhyos sakhīnām
Locative sakhyau, sakhayi sakhyos sakhiṣu
Vocative sakhe sakhāyau sakhāyas

Consonant stems[edit]

Consonant stem nouns may have up to 3 different stems, as well as two special forms.

  1. A special lengthened form for the masculine/feminine nominative singular
  2. A special lengthened and/or nasalized form for the neuter nom/acc. plural
  3. A strong stem, referred to by traditional grammars as aṅga, used for mas/fem. sing. acc, dual nom/acc and plur. nom.
  4. A medium stem pada, used with oblique cases with consonant endings, as well as the neuter nom/acc. sing.
  5. A weak stem bha, used everywhere else.

One or more of these stems may be identical for some words, but this is generally not regularly predictable from either the nominative singular or the citation form stem. The case endings themselves are the regular ones listed in the beginning of the page.

Inflection example of words with only one stem; note that the neuter plural still use the special form.

One-stem types Masculine (marut 'wind') Feminine (naus 'ship') Neuter (manas 'mind')
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative marut marutau marutas naus nāvau nāvas manas manasī manāṃsi
Accusative marutam marutau marutas nāvam nāvau nāvas manas manasī manāṃsi
Instrumental marutā marudbhyām marudbhis nāvā naubhyām naubhis manasā manobhyām manobhis
Dative marute marudbhyām marudbhyas nāve naubhyām naubhyas manase manobhyām manobhyas
Ablative marutas marudbhyām marudbhyas nāvas naubhyām naubhyas manasas manobhyām manobhyas
Genitive marutas marutos marutām nāvas nāvos nāvām manasas manasos manasām
Locative maruti marutos marutsu nāvi nāvos nauṣu manasi manasos manaḥsu
Vocative marut marutau marutas naus nāvau nāvas manas manasī manāṃsi

Example of words with different stems:

  1. rājā, rājñas ( or bha), rājānas ( or aṅga), rājabhis (inst. plur. or pada)
  2. dyaus, divas ( or bha), divas ( or aṅga), dyubhis (inst.plur. or pada)
  3. karma ( or pada), karmaṇas ( or bha), karmāṇi (special neuter nom.plur., here coinciding with the aṅga form of rājā above)
Multiple-stem types Masculine (rājā 'king') Feminine (dyaus 'heaven') Neuter (karma 'deed')
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative rājā rājānau rājānas dyaus divau divas karma karmaṇī karmāṇi
Accusative rājānam rājānau rājñas divam divau divas karma karmaṇī karmāṇi
Instrumental rājñā rājabhyām rājabhis divā dyubhyām dyubhis karmaṇā karmabhyām karmabhis
Dative rājñe rājabhyām rājabhyas dive dyubhyām dyubhyas karmaṇe karmabhyām karmabhyas
Ablative rājñas rājabhyām rājabhyas divas dyubhyām dyubhyas karmaṇas karmabhyām karmabhyas
Genitive rājñas rājños rājñām divas divos divām karmaṇas karmaṇos karmaṇam
Locative rājñi rājños rājasu divi divos dyuṣu karmaṇi karmaṇos karmasu
Vocative rājan rājānau rājānas dyaus divau divas karma karmaṇī karmāṇi

The masculine vocative can be a somewhat peculiar case. For the most part, if either the masc.nom.sing. or the aṅga stem ends with -n or some consonant cluster thereof, the vocative is this stem with a short vowel immediately before the -n; and in most other nouns it is identical to the nom.sing. As an example of exception, the word cited as pathin "path" has the forms panthās, pathas, panthānas, pathibhis but vocative panthās instead of the expected panthan; a different consonant ending in the nom.sing. has taken precedence when it is not a cluster starting with n.


a-stem adjectives[edit]

This large class uses the -as, -am inflection for the masculine and neuter, and either ā or ī for the feminine depending on the word.

Kāntas, -ā, -am mentioned above is one of such adjectives that use ā for feminine; others, such as sundaras, -ī, -am, use ī in its place.

Pure i- and u-stem adjectives[edit]

This class consists of a number of primary adjectives such as bahus, -us, -u "many" and śucis, -is, -i "pure", as well as ones adapted from nouns like bahuvrīhis. They are inflected like the i- and u-stem nouns described above; occasionally the feminine u may gain an additional ī and become .

Nouns originally in long -ī, -ū , when used as adjectives, tend to simply extend the feminine forms to masculine. In the neuter however, it is substituted with the same short -i(n), -u(n).

Pure consonant stem adjectives[edit]

The majority of this class is adapted from simple consonant stem nouns. Masculine and feminine genders share the same forms, and the neuter may take a strengthened plural form by analogy, or sometimes not use it. The oblique cases are the same for all genders.

vedhās, -ās, -as "virtuous" Mas/Fem (plural vedhasas ) Neuter (plural vedhāṃsi)
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative vedhās vedhasau vedhasas vedhas vedhasī vedhāṃsi
Accusative vedhasam vedhasau vedhasas vedhas vedhasī vedhāṃsi
Vocative vedhas vedhasau vedhasas vedhas vedhasī vedhāṃsi

The neuter noun āyus, -ṣas, -ūṃṣi "life, vitality" and the feminine verbal root-noun vṛt, vṛtas "turn, fold", when adopted as adjectives such as in the compounds dīrghāyus "longlived" and trivṛt "threefold", employ analogously the following adaptations:

Mas/Fem (plural āyuṣas ) Neuter (plural āyūṃṣi)
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative āyus āyuṣau āyuṣas āyus āyusī āyūṃṣi
Accusative āyuṣam āyuṣau āyuṣas āyus āyusī āyūṃṣi
Mas/Fem (plural vṛtas ) Neuter (plural vṛnti, vṛti)
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative vṛt vṛtau vṛtas vṛt vṛtī vṛnti, vṛti
Accusative vṛtam vṛtau vṛtas vṛt vṛtī vṛnti, vṛti

Consonant and ī-stem adjectives[edit]

These adjectives use consonant stem forms for the masculine and neuter genders, and a secondary ī-suffix for the feminine.

The masculine exhibits the singular special form mahān and the aṅga form mahāntas; the feminine builds on the bha form mahatī; and the neuter cites the pada form mahat.

mahat "large, great" Masculine (mahān, mahāntas) Feminine (mahatī) Neuter (mahat)
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative mahān mahāntau mahāntas mahatī mahatyau mahatyas mahat mahatī mahānti
Accusative mahāntam mahāntau mahatas mahatīm mahatyau mahatīs mahat mahatī mahānti
Instrumental mahatā mahadbhyām mahadbhis mahatyā mahatībhyām mahatībhis mahatā mahadbhyām mahadbhis
Dative mahate mahadbhyām mahadbhyas mahatyai mahatībhyām mahatībhyas mahate mahadbhyām mahadbhyas
Ablative mahatas mahadbhyām mahadbhyas mahatyās mahatībhyām mahatībhyas mahatas mahadbhyām mahadbhyas
Genitive mahatas mahatos mahatām mahatyās mahatyos mahatīnām mahatas mahatos mahatām
Locative mahati mahatos mahatsu mahatyām mahatyos mahatīṣu mahati mahatos mahatsu
Vocative mahan, mahān mahāntau mahāntas mahati mahatyau mahatyas mahat mahatī mahānti

In present participles of the thematic verb classes, the feminine ī-suffix along with the homophonic neuter dual is attached to the aṅga stem in -nt. In the athematic classes, it may be attached to either; in the reduplicated athematic class no aṅga-based forms are used at all, so it is again attached to the -t stem.

Comparatives and superlatives[edit]

Primary derivation[edit]

A small closed class of comparatives and superlatives are directly formed on adjectival roots, after dropping the original stem suffix. The comparative takes the suffix -īyān(yāṃsas), yasī, yas, which declines as a consonant- and ī-stem adjective; the superlative takes -iṣṭhaḥ, ā, am. The root is strengthened to the guṇa grade.

  • from mahān, root mah-, is formed mahīyān, mahiṣṭhaḥ;
  • from sthiraḥ "stable", root sthi-, is formed stheyān, stheṣṭhaḥ.

In some adjectives the original form of the root has been obscured by internal sandhi, making the outcome somewhat irregular. Thus:

  • from gur-uḥ "heavy", originally g(w)ṛ-uḥ, comes garīyān, gariṣṭhaḥ;
  • from dīrgh-aḥ "long", originally dṝgh- < dṛHgh- (where H denotes a laryngeal), a guṇa placed in the second possible slot (saṃprasāraṇam) gives draHgh- > drāgh-, whence drāghīyān, drāghiṣṭhaḥ;

Secondary derivation[edit]

The secondary suffixes of comparison are -taraḥ, ā, am for comparative and -tamaḥ, ā, am for superlative. They are appended to the inflectional base, with no modification of the stem. Usually the pada stem is used for consonant-stem adjectives, but those in a simple -n sometimes retain it.

  • priyatara-, priyatama- from priya-;
  • vṛṣatara-, vṛṣatama- from vṛṣan-, but vṛṣantama- is also attested.


The numbers from one to ten are:

  1. éka (एक)
  2. dvá (द्व)
  3. trayas (त्रि)
  4. catúr (चतुर्)
  5. páñcha (पञ्च)
  6. ṣáṣ (षष्)
  7. saptá, sápta (सप्त)
  8. aṣṭá, áṣṭa (अष्ट)
  9. náva (नव)
  10. dáśa (दश)

The numbers one through four are declined. Éka is declined like a pronominal adjective, though the dual form does not occur. Dvá appears only in the dual. Trí and catúr are declined irregularly.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ W. D. Whitney, Sanskrit Grammar: Including both the Classical Language and the Older Dialects
  2. ^ W. D. Whitney, Sanskrit Grammar: Including both the Classical Language and the Older Dialects
  3. ^ "CSI: Man3". Retrieved 2008-11-06.
  4. ^ S.C. Vasu, The Astadhyayi of Pāṇini
  5. ^ MacDonell, III.71, p. 33.