Devi Saraswati is the Goddess of knowledge, learning and creativity. But what is the etymological meaning of the name Saraswati? How does Nirukta explain the name Saraswati?

I guess it's related to 'सार' which means Essence and 'स्व' which means Self and thus related to Essence of Self. But am I correct? Do any scripture explain the meaning of 'Saraswati' ?

  • 1
    Found one while searching - सारो निरं ज्ञानं वा , तद्वत् ,रसो वा तस्य -But unfortunately didn't found the source. Will try. Jan 22, 2018 at 5:19
  • @SwiftPushkar Thank you!... Nice find... I wish this question gets answered today on the day of Saraswati Puja...
    – Tezz
    Jan 22, 2018 at 6:44
  • @Tezz.- Yes , me too ..Will try my best. :-) Jan 22, 2018 at 6:45
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    Etymologically speaking, then the word is made by सरस् + वत् + ङीप् = saras (flow, river) + vat (likelihood) + ngeep (it is suffix which makes male word into female words) = SarasWat (or saraswaan as it becomes) + ngeep = Saraswati - One who is like flow, or one who is like river.
    – user12826
    Jan 24, 2018 at 14:52

4 Answers 4


One derivation of the word "Saraswati" is given in the Devi Bhagavatam and which is as follows:

On the greatness of Kali:

1-110. Nârâyana said :-- A part of Sarasvatî descended in this Bhârata Punya Bhûmi (land of merits), owing to the curse of Gangâ; and She remained in full in Visnu's region, the abode of Vaikuntha. She is named Bhâratî, on account of Her coming to Bhârata; she is called Brâhmî because she is dear to Brahmâ; and She is called Vânî as She presides over Speech. Hari is seen everywhere, in tanks, in wells, in running streams (i.e., in Saras). Because He resides in Saras, therefore He is called Sarasvân. Vânî is the S'akti of that Sarasvân; therefore She is denominated Sarasvatî.

From the Devi Bhagavatam's Book 9, Chapter VIII (this chapter is called "The greatness of Kali).

So, here it's said to be derived like this: Saras (meaning streams of water)+wati or vati (a female who's endowed with that i.e streams).

  • Bharati for coming to Bharata is without any basis. Bharati means speech and Language according to Sanskrit dictionaries and it has nothing to do with Bharata.This is just a back-calculation made by this Purana which is most likely an interpolation.
    – user17294
    Apr 30, 2019 at 13:31

Saraswati is said to be a river in ancient india somewhere in north-western india , but dried later on. It is mentioned in rig veda

अम्बितमे नदीतमे देवितमे सरस्वति | – Rigveda 2.41.16 (Best Mother, best of Rivers, best of Goddesses, Sarasvatī, We are, as ’twere, of no repute and dear Mother, give thou us renown.)

Most likely, scholars and learned people sat on its banks to acquire knowledge and wisdom . Hence the river became synonymous with knowledge and gradually was deified as a goddess.

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    OP is asking here about Nirukti (etymology) of the word. So u have to say how the word is derived from the roots. BTW i am not the downvoter. For example, in this answer i have given few such similar derivations of the word Purusha.You have to do likewise.
    – Rickross
    Jan 22, 2018 at 6:35
  • aaha ok @Rickross , I ain't here for points. I am just here to learn about the ancient indian religion of sanathan dharma and how it relates to mine ;) Jan 22, 2018 at 8:15
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    It's ok.. i felt that i needed to clarify a bit because i thought that u've misunderstood the Q :)
    – Rickross
    Jan 22, 2018 at 8:49
  • ahh ok :D yes maybe my answer was not really relevant but felt like contributing nonetheless Jan 22, 2018 at 9:30

The root of the term Sarasvati is 'sar' which means a lake, a pond, a large water body(stagnant). The modern term 'sarovar' is derived from this root e.g. 'man sarovar', 'brahm sarovar' etc. In highland himalaya many lakes is known by 'sar' e.g. 'bharar sar'(between Rupin and Supin rivers of Uttarkashi dist.in Uttarakhand state, both conjoin to form the river Tons sanskrit name Tamasa. Some geologists describes that the river Tons was in fact the Vedic Sarasvati in its upper reaches, see ref.1. My observation is that in the past this river had many lakes in its way.) The term 'sar' as meaning lake or pond can be found in many scriptures as well e.g. Amritsar.

The RigVedic language has its own way to make a noun plural i.e. by adding 's' to the term. Just as the descendants of the sage Angira were called Angiras so many 'sar' was termed as 'saras'.

Thus the meaningful sandhi of Sarasvati would be 'saras'+ 'vati' whereas 'vati' means feminine holder. Thereby Sarasvati means according to this etymology -' holder of many lakes'.

Ref. 1 -Puri,V.M.K. and Verma,B.C., 1998 Glaciological and Geological source of Vedic Sarasvati in the Himalayasin Itihas Darpan 4(2) p. 16


The word 'Saraswati' has several meanings:

सरस्वती 1 N. of the goddess of speech and learning, and represented as the wife of Brahman and often of Vishnu; परस्पर- विरोधिन्योरेकसंश्रयदुर्लभम् । संगतं श्रीसरस्वत्योर्भूतये$स्तु सदा सताम् ॥ V.5.24. -2 Speech, voice, words; इति देहविमुक्तये स्थितां रतिमाकाशभवा सरस्वती ... अन्वकम्पयत् Ku.4.39,43; R. 15.46. -3 N. of a river (which is lost in the sands of the great desert). -4 A river in general. -5 A cow; ŚB. on MS.1.3.49; Vāj.8.43. -6 An excellent woman. -7 N. of Durgā. -8 N. of a female divinity peculiar to the Buddhists. -9 The Soma plant. -1 The plant called ज्योतिष्मती-10 speech or the power of speech, eloquence, learning wisdom

The Rig-Veda describes Sarasvati as Devi :

Paavakaa Nah Sarasvatii Vaajebhir-Vaajiniivatii | Yajnyam Vassttu Dhiyaavasuh ||1.3.10||

Meaning : O Saraswati, You are the purifier (of our Intellect), and Your Strength (of Wisdom) grows within us with Sacrificial Offerings (inner and outer),May my offering in Yagnya strengthen Your Wisdom within me (i.e. May Your presence within me make me rich in Wisdom).

It also described Sarasvati as river :

Maho Arnnah Sarasvatii Pra Cetayati Ketunaa | Dhiyo Vishvaa Vi Raajati ||1.3.12||

Meaning : Saraswati, that Great Wave (of Universal Wisdom) (Who has flowed as a River) and Who is the awakener of our Intellect, is (now) shining as the embodiment of Universal Wisdom (in this Yagnya).

Regarding the SECOND meaning, the derivation is shown as : -/sri (सृ)+ asun (असुन्)= saras (सरस्) meaning 'watery substance' + vati (वती ie वतुप् स्त्री) meaning 'containing of' = sarasvati. Monier Williams mentions however that we have to take saras as 'Speech' to get the meaning of 'Sarasvati' as Devi as She is the Deity of Speech.

We must remember that the grammatical meaning involving 'saras' and therefore implying a river evolved much after than the word already used in the Rig-Veda.We therefore must accept both the meanings simultaneously, as the grammatical derivations result from Panini's works which are composed many hundred (if not thousands) years after the Rig-Veda was compiled.

Reference : https://www.sanskritdictionary.com/?iencoding=iast&q=%E0%A4%B8%E0%A4%B0%E0%A4%B8%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%B5%E0%A4%A4%E0%A5%80&lang=sans&action=Search and http://greenmesg.org/stotras/saraswati/saraswati_mantras.php

  • The question asks for etymological meaning on how is the word Saraswati is named. I see no etymology for goddess Saraswati name in the answer. Apr 30, 2019 at 11:31
  • @Sarvabhouma Its a vedic word.Where did you get that it must have etymological meaning?Your comment is really surprising!
    – user17294
    Apr 30, 2019 at 11:50
  • Answer according to the question please. Read the question and then answer. Your answer is also surprising to me. But what can I do?! Apr 30, 2019 at 11:53
  • @Sarvabhouma Most if not all of your comments are also surprising to me.What can I do?
    – user17294
    Apr 30, 2019 at 11:56

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