The following explanations are intended to facilitate the use of the Old Tibetan Dictionary.


Lexemes are represented by their own lemma. If a lexeme is attested as representing two or more word classes these are given a common entry, if etymologically related. Derivatives by means of nominal particles, compounds, compound honorifics, and reduplications are explained in separate lemmata.

The Dictionary contains also proper names in order to enable identification of two or more syllables as a proper name. If the proper name is attested in OT texts that have not been examined for the purpose of the Dictionary its form(s) and source(s) are likewise provided.


The screenshot of the lemma bčad presented below contains an image map. When hovered over, additional information on the respective section of the lemma will be displayed.

Lemma map Lemma Etymological notes Related lexemes Cognate lexemes Word class Grammatical categories Documented OT forms and/or variants CT forms and/or variants Meaning Argument structure Example(s) Phrase(s)

The lemma window consists of six main sections. The first one, lemma section, contains the lexeme (here bčad).

Directly below, the second section provides etymological and historical information. In the first line, etymological details [E] are supplied, containing the reconstructed root (marked with √ for verbs and with * for other word classes) and, if known, its meaning. Further notes (added after the lozenge symbol: ◊) may include information on the morphology, the origins of the root, or its cognates in other TH languages. The symbol [R] marks information on related lexemes that are likewise glossed in the Dictionary. These may include both derivatives by means of nominal particles and other formations like compounds that contain the said lexeme. The section [C] lists derivatives by means of non-syllabic affixes and etymological cognates. For proper names persons from the same family and included in the Dictionary are listed under [C].

The third section contains grammatical information. First of all, it provides the word class of the lexeme. The following word classes have been distinguished:

  • Verb
  • Noun
  • Adjective
  • Adverb
  • Numeral
  • Pronoun
  • Postposition
  • Relator noun
  • Numeral
  • Classifier
  • Interjection

If the lexeme is a verb, its grammatical categories are provided next to the word class: transitivity (tr or intr) / controllability (c or nc). The information on controllability is added only if confirmed by lexicological studies of OT sources. Proper names (formally nouns) are additionally marked as PN. Immediately below (marked as [OT]), OT stems of the verb (v1, v2, v3, v4) or orthographic variants of other word classes [V] are presented. Orthographic variants comprise only those documented in the corpus. The corresponding data from Classical Tibetan follows in the next line.

The fourth section provides semantic information. The meaning of the lexeme is marked in bold. It can be preceded by information on speech register (hon or hml). In case the word is a verb, its argument structure is supplied following the meaning. Semantic roles are enclosed in square brackets followed by case marking. If a word has more than one meaning, each meaning is listed separately.

The fifth section provides examples for the respective meaning of the lexeme. For hapax legomena and less known words all attestations have been included. Otherwise selected attestations are quoted that are deemed representative of the textual contexts in which the lexeme is used. The examples are taken exclusively from the corpus. Each example consists of three parts: the quotation (in italics), the source (bracketed siglum of the manuscript and the line number), and the translation in a separate line. No examples are provided for proper names.

The last section presents collocations and idioms together with their examples separately for each meaning of the lexeme. A phrase is glossed under every lexeme that occurs in it but detailed information and quotations are provided only under its first element. For instance, mǰug bčad is explained under mǰug and bčad but quotations are supplied only s.v. mǰug.

Editorial policy – Transliteration systems

The Dictionary uses transliteration system put forward in Bialek (2020 Forthcoming c). The following tables provide the transliteration (2nd column) together with the ABEC system (3rd column) and the IPA-transcription (in square brackets). The ABEC (ASCII-Based Equivalent for Convenience) system has been developed following the pattern of the Harvard-Kyoto Convention for transliterating the Devan{"\u0101"}gari script. The shadowed cells mark the differences between the transliteration and the ABEC.


k k [k] kh kh [kh] g g [g] G [ŋ]
č C [ʨ] čh Ch [ʨh] ǰ J [ʥ] ñ N [ɲ]
t t [t] th th [th] d d [d] n n [n]
p p [p] ph ph [ph] b b [b] m m [m]
c c [ʦ] ch ch [ʦh] ȷ j [ʣ] w w [w]
ź Z [ʑ] z z [z] ɣ H [ɣ]      
y y [j] r r [r] l l [l]      
ś S [ɕ] s s [s] h h [h] q q [ʔ]


i i [i] u u [u] e e [e] o o [o]

The OT orthography is strictly followed. The so-called gi gu sign () is transliterated with < {"\u012b"} > and with < {"\u1e43"} >. Regarding punctuation, no distinction is made between a single and a double cheg. Punctuation marks other than cheg and śad (transliterated as a space and a slash respectively {"< / >"}) are not accounted for.

How to search for a lexeme

Lexemes should be typed using either the transliteration put forward in Bialek (2020 Forthcoming c) or the ABEC system; typing bčad or bCad will bring the same results. The search function is case sensitive and only lower case should be used apart from the few pre-defined upper case letters of the ABEC system; e.g., dbyard but neither !dByard nor !Dbyard.

The user can search for simple lexemes (a lexical stem + a nominal clitic) or for compounds. Nominal and verbal phrases are not indexed for searching. Syllables of multi-syllabic words should be separated by space. Multi-syllabic words can be searched by any syllable. For instance, a query for čhen (ABEC: Chen) produces a list of all lexemes that contain the syllable at any position. Likewise entering the variant form čen (ABEC: Cen) outputs all lexemes attested with this variant of the syllable. In addition, if a sequence of letters forms part of two or more distinct syllables, both are put forward as possible results so that typing the sequence čen (ABEC: Cen) delivers čhen and gčen.

Regarding verbs, any of the forms attested in the corpus can be searched for. Thus, both byed (v1) and bya (v3) can be searched for if they are documented in the analysed texts. On the other hand, bya ba would be included only if attested as a noun. If more stems of a verb are attested, they are glossed under the v2-stem.

The dictionary also contains OT proper names that should be hyphened when searched for. Proper names can be searched for by any form that is attested in OT or CT sources as long as the latter have already been evaluated for the Dictionary. For instance, OT Khri-boms is attested in later texts as Khri-bom, Khri-goṅ, Khri-dgoṅs, Khri-goms, or Khri-som. Any of these names can be searched for.

abs absolutive
adv adversary
agt agent
all allative
aux auxiliary
ben beneficiary
c controllable
[C] cognate lexemes
caus cause
CDTD Bielmeier et al. 2013
Ch. Chinese
CT Classical Tibetan
com comitative
comp companion
del delative
dem demonstrative
dim diminutive
dir direction
dist distal
[E] etymological notes
econ. economy
el elative
erg ergative
Eng. English
etym. etymological(ly)
exp experiencer
F feminine
fun function
gen genitive
go goal
hml humble register
hon honorific register
HUM human
iness inessive
instr instrument
intr intransitive
J Jäschke 1881
Lčaṅ Lčaṅ-bu inscription
loc location
lw. loanword
M masculine
mal maleficiary
man manner
met. metaphorical(ly)
MI Middle Iranian
n. name
nc non-controllable
NEIA Northeast Indian Areal Group
Nep. Nepalese
orig origin
orig. original(ly)
OT Old Tibetan
OTurk. Old Turkic
pat patient
PN proper name
poss possessor
PP postpositional phrase
prox proximal
Pt Pelliot tibétain
pur purpose
quot quotation/quotative
[R] related lexeme(s)
rec recipient
res result
RP relator phrase
Sgd. Sogdian
Skt. Sanskrit
sour source
STEDT Sino-Tibetan Etymological Dictionary and Thesaurus
stim stimulus
term terminative
TH Trans-Himalayan
them theme
Tib. Tibetan
tim time
tr transitive
trscr. transcription
Turk. Turkic
[V] OT variants
Editorial signs
[-] paper damage or letters illegible
<e > text inserted by JB
{ma} text corrected to ma by JB
[b] text reconstructed by JB
[it] translation added
?x? unknown meaning of x
gcal*d -d reconstructed from the assimilated form gcalto
([PUR]) optional PURPOSE argument