Is "Shiva" just a name of a God or does the word actually denote something?

In other words, what is the real meaning of the word "Shiva" (also spelled as Śiva or शिव)?

  • I recommend that you focus your question just on what the meaning of Shiva's name is. Save all the other gods for other questions.
    – senshin
    Jul 8, 2014 at 13:06
  • 1
    Shiva means sum of 3 things -> auspicious + pure + beneficer(Kalyankari) to all. Shiva is GOD, allah, bhagwan, Parmeshwara, Parmatman, Khuda, Maheshwara. Om Namah Shivaya.
    – prem30488
    Aug 15, 2014 at 18:19

7 Answers 7


The meaning of the name Shiva is "Auspicious, Pure"

Shiva is a male Sanskrit name that refers to the third aspect of god, called in the Vedas.

If pronounced with a long final vowel "a", Shiva is a female name; a name of the goddess Parvati, Uma and Lakshmi.

It can also be described as "The god staying in a state blissful, enjoying in its own self eternally, without any flaws."

  • Does all other GOD names have meanings too?
    – user304
    Jul 8, 2014 at 13:08
  • 4
    @Kiran If possible, try to add some more detail to your answer, e.g. etymology and whatnot.
    – senshin
    Jul 8, 2014 at 13:08
  • @MaxTechnoware - yes , every name has its meaning...
    – Kiran RS
    Jul 8, 2014 at 13:10
  • @kiran please add some more interesting details about the meaning.
    – user304
    Jul 8, 2014 at 13:11

'Shiva' denotes the nature of the self or the transcendental aspect. It represents Turiya which is beyond three Gunas of nature ie. Satva, Rajas and Tamas.

30th verse of Shiva Mahimna Stotra composed by Pushpadanta states:

बहुल-रजसे विश्वोत्पत्तौ भवाय नमो नमः
प्रबल-तमसे तत्‌ संहारे हराय नमो नमः।
जन-सुखकृते सत्त्वोद्रिक्तौ मृडाय नमो नमः
प्रमहसि पदे निस्त्रैगुण्ये शिवाय नमो नमः॥ ३०॥

Salutations to you in the name of Bhava in as much as you create the world by taking the Rajas as the dominant quality; salutations to you in the name of Hara in as much as you destroy the world by taking the Tamas as the dominant quality; salutations to you in the name of Mrida in as much as you maintain and protect the world by taking Satva as the dominant quality . Again salutations to you in the name of Shiva in as much as you are beyond the above-mentioned three qualities and are the seat of the supreme bliss.

Thus 'Shiva' represents that which is beyond three Gunas (NisTraigunya).

Madhusudana Saraswati has written a commentary on Shiva Mahimna Stotram and for the phrase "  निस्त्रैगुण्ये शिवाय नमो नमः॥" he has commented upon as:

प्रमहसिपदे निस्त्रैगुण्ये शिवाय नमो नमः – निर्गतं त्रैगुण्यं यस्मात्न्निस्त्रैगुण्यं तस्मिन्पदे पदनीये तत्पदप्राप्तििमित्तम् । कीदृशे ? प्रमहसि प्रकष्टं मायया अनभिभूतं महो ज्योिर्स्मिन्स्था । सर्वोत्तमप्रकाशरूपत्रिगुणशून्यमोक्षनिमित्तमित्यर्थः ।शिवाय – निस्त्रैगुण्यमङ्गलस्वरूपाय  ’शिवमद्वैतं चतुर्थं मन्यन्ते ’ इति श्रुतेः । प्रमहसि पदे सथिताय इति वा ।

Now the explanation of the phrase "NisTraigunya Shivaya Namo Namaha." Shiva transcends the three guṇas so he is called 'Nirgata Traigunya'. Why is Shiva to be prostrated? With a view to attain Him, His state.  What is His nature, state? The Supreme Consciousness, effulgence, unaffected, untouched  by Maya is what He is. That is the supreme state of mokṣa which is free of all three guṇas. Shiva is the Mangala swarupa beyond three Gunas. Shruti says ‘Shivam advaitam chaturtham manyante’  That pure auspicious essence that is free of the three guṇas which is non-dual, called the ‘fourth’ (Turiya). Thus the explanation of the phrase ends.

The above citation " शिवमद्वैतं चतुर्थं मन्यन्ते ’" ie."That Non-Dual Shiva is called the fourth" is from the 7th verse of the Mandukya Upanishad which describes Turiya state:

नान्तःप्रज्ञं न बहिष्प्रज्ञं नोभयतःप्रज्ञं न प्रज्ञानघनं
न प्रज्ञं नाप्रज्ञम् । अदृष्टमव्यवहार्यमग्राह्यमलक्षणं
अचिन्त्यमव्यपदेश्यमेकात्मप्रत्ययसारं प्रपञ्चोपशमं
शान्तं शिवमद्वैतं चतुर्थं मन्यन्ते स आत्मा स विज्ञेयः

The Fourth is thought of as that which is not conscious of the internal world, nor conscious of the external world, nor conscious of both the worlds, nor dense with consciousness, nor simple consciousness, nor unconsciousness, which is unseen, actionless, incomprehensible, uninferable, unthinkable, indescribable, whose proof consists in the identity of the Self (in all states), in which all phenomena come to a cessation, and which is unchanging, auspicious, and non-dual. That is the Self; that is to be known.

Shiva Purana Koti Rudra Samhita chapter 42 also states:

शिवे त्रिगुणसम्भिन्ने रुद्रे तु गुणधामनि ।
वस्तुतो न हि भेदोऽस्ति स्वर्णे तद्भूषणो यथा ।।

There is absolutely no difference between Shiva who is beyond the three gunas (satva, rajas and tamas) and Rudra, possessing all the gunas, in the same way as there is no difference between the gold and the gold ornaments.

Thus, Shiva means the transcendental state, the nature of Atman, which is untouched by Trigunas and which is ever unchanging.


Definition of Shiva is directly given in chapter 4 of Shiv Rahasya while Lord Shiva explaining himself.

I am Shiva, the Stillness (Shi) Whereof all Movement (Va) is born. As Water, Fire and the Sun at once move and are still, so I, the Great Life both Move and Stand Still. Verse 8.

Also, from the same scripture in chapter 7, we find.

Lord Shiva said: For this reason, the Wise Ones have called Him Shiva which means, That in Whom everything rests (Shi) and by Whose Power everything moves (Va). I Am that Shiva, the Original Ever-Living One; the Unseen and Uncreated Who Ever Is before everything that is seen and created is born or dies. verse 3.

Therefore Siva word is a combination of two syllables - Shi + Va.

  1. Shi denotes seed, primordial cause, stillness etc.
  2. Va denoted creation from seed, effect of primordial cause, creation etc.

Thus, Shiva word represents the one who has created the world (movement) yet not have become two (stillness). i.e Oneness has been being maintained even after creation. So, Shiva can also mean who is never changed.


Its a bit hard to understand the exact term shiva for us ! in sanskrit shiva means "the one who dosent exist". Or who is not physical or bounded. Shih vah the pronunciation means becoming null or the term black hole is what has been till date invented to describe shiva. In universe what u can see and touch and reason is created but the space between them or the non- substance between them that hold all planets or stars or other substance existing in universe together that space is shiva. The 2nd word used to describe shiva is shankar where "sam" means equal "kar" means to do. What equates everything nature, planets, stars, their position, existance and space between them is shiva. Its a bit more than what can be described with the vocabulary of any other languages of world. This is best I can do to tell you what shiva is its not refering to lord but such thing is no less than a god.

From Shaivam.org

shiva the name of the Lord is a mantra. It is a part of the very holy mantra of shaivam The Holy Five Letters. mantra means powerful word. The mantras are revealed to and through the sages in their matured spiritual state to the entire world. These mantras may or may not be associated directly to one particular language. At times they get interpreted in the languages. The name shiva and The Holy Five Letters are accepted as they are in different languages.

In samskritam, the word shiva means auspicious, prosperous (mangalam). The Lord who is called pashupati, Asutosha being the Supreme that can not be measured by the thoughts, appears to the one who worships as the God graceful, blissful and nurturing. Its auspicious and graceful forms and names are invoked by the worshiper for the upliftment of oneself.

In Tamil, it refers to shiva - civappu - chemporul, meaning the Perfect Being. The God staying in a state blissful, enjoying in Its Own Self eternally, without any flaws is the Supreme Lord shiva. The Perfection is the completeness - there is nothing external that is required to make the Self blissful. In this context it would be worthwhile to contemplate on the mantra shivatarAya.

The other sources also supports the above explanation.


Meditation is not a kind of activity it is a quality.

Prayer means you are talking to god, and meditation means you are willing to listen to GOD.

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Shiva : Means yogi

Third Eye: shiva always been referred to as TRIAMBAKA because of 3rd eye. It means another dimension of perception has opened up. Your energy evolve and enhance itself in such a way that your perception is enhanced and 3rd eye opens.

Nandi: Nandi is a symbolism of eternal waiting. Nandi in a temple simply sitting and waiting to come out shiva. He will wait forever.

Trishul: 3 fundamental aspects of life : Ida,pingala and sushumna

Moon : Moon means SOMA and somasundara means inebriation or intoxication. He is intoxicated all the time with great alertness. these intoxication is due to internal body produces and can define in word ANANDA or BLISS.

Snake : snake is not just symbolic out of 114 chakra one is VISHUDDHI chakra is located in your throat. vishudhdhi is about stopping poison (NEELKANTHA) and snake carries poison. All these things are connected.

  • 2
    Welcome to Hinduism.SE! You should cite sources. Sep 21, 2015 at 14:59
  • Soma sundara means intoxication? Where did you get that meaning? May 31, 2017 at 10:26

Apart from it being the name of the Lord Shiva, the word itself has following meanings:

auspicious, propitious, lucky

in good health or condition, happy, prosperous, fortunate

Reference used: The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary by Vaman Shivaram Apte.

Also, this is an insightful explanation of the word by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:

...In the same way, nothing is significant when you see the macrosm. This earth is invisible. Even the sun is like a small dot. It’s like a semi-seed, a mustard seed.

Where is this galaxy floating?

The latest scientific evidence says the galaxy is floating in dark energy and dark matter.

Dark, not because of religious connotations, but because you don’t see them. The Rig Veda (an ancient Indian text) speaks of this many thousands of years ago. In the beginning, the dark substance was enveloped by dark energy. From that the Milky Way came out. This substance by which everything is made up of – is what you are made up off too.

It’s like so many bulbs - and they are all linked because of one electricity. This one thing that is underneath the whole creation is called Shiva. In meditation, drop all the dualities and relax and repose in that Shiva principle.

That silent and potent principle is called Shiva. You know where the word Shiva came from?

When you want people to be quiet, you say – shhhhh. When something is wonderful, you say ‘wow’. That’s Shiva.

So, the wonder of silence is Shiva

The most beautiful and wonderful silence is deep within your hearts and minds.

Reference used: http://wisdomfromsrisriravishankar.blogspot.in/2009/04/what-sri-sri-said_05.html


शिवश्च मङ्गले मोक्षे संहर्ता न च दृश्यते ।। शिवशब्दस्य चान्योऽर्थो न हि वेदे निरूपितः ।। ५३ ।।

The word Shiva means Auspiciousness, Salvation (Moksha) and the destroyer. Besides that no other meaning for the word 'Shiva' is seen even in the Vedas.

~ ब्रह्मवैवर्तपुराणम्/खण्डः ४ (श्रीकृष्णजन्मखण्डः)/अध्यायः ०४०

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