For other uses, see Swami (disambiguation).

A swami (Sanskrit: स्वामी svāmī [sʋaːmiː]) sometimes abbreviated “sw.” is an ascetic or yogi who has been initiated into the religious monastic order founded by some religious teacher.[1] It is believed to be originally used for the ones who were initiated into to the Advaita Vedanta movement started by Adi Shankara.[2] The usage of this word is not just for a yogi but also used for a religious guru, with or without disciples.

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] Swami also means husband in the Khmer language and in the Odiya language.


  1. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. London: Chambers Harrap, 2009. s.v. "Swami," OL 2527037W.
  2. Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Religion, page 958.
  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.

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