The Awakened Lord The Name of Buddha in East Asia

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Thomas Pellard



The native Japanese name of the Buddha hotoke < poto2ke2 has no internal etymology and is likely to be a loanword introduced together with Buddhism. The hypothesis of a link with Korean pwuche < pwuthye ‘Buddha’ and of their ultimate origin as deriving from a Chinese rendering of Sanskrit Buddha makes sense from both a linguistic and historical point of view. Still, the last part of the Japanese and Korean forms has no correspondent in Chinese and has remained unaccounted for hitherto. From the comparison with the pattern ‘Buddha-lord’ for the name of Buddha in several Asian languages, it is hypothesized that the enigmatic final element was originally a word for ‘lord, ruler, king’. This hypothesis is confirmed by the attestation of such a word in toponyms and in nobility titles recorded in ancient Chinese, Korean, and Japanese chronicles.

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