Q: 'khukuree', 'kukri' (Nepali)

Benjamin Slade slade at vonneumann.cog.jhu.edu
Sat Mar 9 12:23:08 UTC 2002

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Trying to determine the etymology of the Nepalese word 'khukuree' (the
distinctive curved knife carried by Gorkha soldiers, see
http://khukuri.netfirms.com for example photos).

One problem is pinning down what the spelling actually is. KUKRI seems to
the standard English way of writing it, but I've seen it written in
Devanagari as /khukuri:/ and written by Nepalese companies also as KHUKHRI
(in Roman letters).

The closest I could come in Sanskrit is /khura/ which has a primary
meaning of 'hoof', but can also mean 'razor' (it can also mean 'a kind of
perfume' and 'the foot of a bedstead'). There's a related word
/khurali:/ which means 'military exercise or practice of arms'.  

The /khura/ words in Sanskrit seem like a plausible start, but I'm not
sure what the root of these is. Partial reduplication also seems like a
possibility; as does the identification of the last element
(-kuri/-kri/-khri) as original /kr/ (with vocalic R), as the general verb
of action in Sanskrit.

I was guessing it would ultimately derive from some PIE root meaning 'to
cut'.  But it could also be a 'meaningless' adaption/loan-word in Nepali
(there's a story it evolved from the Greek 'kopis').  Anyone have any
thoughts on this?

Best regards,
            Benjamin Slade

            Department of Cognitive Science
            Johns Hopkins University
            eMail: slade at cogsci.jhu.edu

  NA YAM VAJANTI SAMARE'ATAMAANAAH   |        *Beowulf* (454)
                *Rg-Veda* VI.1.9(2)  |
'I understand not the warp,          |'Fate goes always as She must.'
 nor the woof, nor the web that      |
 they weave; moving to and fro       |
 in the field of motion & labour.'   |

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