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A swami (Sanskrit: स्वामी Svāmī [sʋɑːmiː]) sometimes abbreviated "Sw." is an ascetic or yogi who has been initiated into the religious monastic order founded by Adi Shankara,[1] or to a religious teacher.[2]

The Oxford English Dictionary gives the etymology as

Hindi svāmī master, lord, prince, used by Hindus as a term of respectful address, < Sanskrit svāmin in same senses, also the idol or temple of a god.[3]

In the Bengali language, the word (pronounced [ˈʃami]), while carrying its original meaning, has a dual meaning of 'husband'. The word also means 'husband' in the Malay language, where it is spelled 'Suami'.[4]


  1. ^ Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Religion, page 958.
  2. ^ Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. London: Chambers Harrap, 2009. s.v. "Swami," http://www.credoreference.com/entry/brewerphrase/swami (accessed May 14, 2011).
  3. ^ "swami, n.". OED Online. June 2011. Oxford University Press. (accessed August 31, 2011).
  4. ^ "Istilah Malaysia". Pusat Rujukan Persuratan Melayu. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Malaysia. Retrieved 31 May 2013.