I discovered something interesting recently. It turns out that sleep and ހުވަފެން are the same thing.

Wait, what?

How can they be the same thing? you ask. Sleep means “sleep” and ހުވަފެން means “dream”. Just because they often occur at the same time, it does not mean that they are the same thing.

As it turns out, our ancestors may have had a different understanding of “sleeping” and “dreaming” which becomes apparent when we look at the etymologies of both words.

An Etymological Explanation

ހުވަފެން ultimately has its roots in the Sanskrit word स्वप्न (svapna) which is also the origin of the modern Hindi word सपना (sapna). Also derived from this are the Pali words supina and soppa. All of these words mean “dream” except for soppa which can also mean “sleep”.

स्वप्न (svapna) comes from the Proto-Indo-European word *swep-no. (The asterisk indicates that the word was reconstructed. See here for more details)

From *swep-no, we get the Latin somnus and the Greek ύπνος (hypnos) – both of which mean “sleep” – and the Old English word swefn, which means “dream” OR “sleep” (The OED says it originally meant “sleep”, but doesn’t say when/how the meaning changed).

The exact links become a bit unclear here, but swefn is related to the German word schlafen which comes from the Proto-Germanic word *slepaz. From this same word we get the Old English slæp (it’s æ, for some reason it looks like œ in italics) and finally the Modern English word sleep.

In short:

ހުވަފެން <– स्वप्न (svapna) <– *swep-no –> swefn/slæp –> sleep

Here’s a chart which includes other languages:



Blue highlighting indicates a word meaning “a periodic suspension of consciousness”. Yellow highlighting indicates a word meaning “a sequence of visions/sensations experienced during said suspension of consciousness”. Green highlighting indicates a word which can have both meanings.

You’ll notice that many languages have two words with different meanings which both have the same root. It shows how people have separated the phenomenon of “sleep” from that of “dreaming”. Of course, in all these languages there are other words (with different roots) to describe the phenomena, for example, ނިދުން in Dhivehi and traum in German. The French words shown in the chart aren’t even the most common words for “sleep” or “dream”. So the reason the original root word diverged to mean two things, while other words existed which meant the same thing, is beyond me.

New Dhivehi Words

Knowing the relationship between the two words, it is possible to come up with new Dhivehi words for terms like hypnosis and insomnia based on the word ހުވަފެން.

I won’t attempt to do that here, but I will leave you with this:

Swefn is the equivalent of the ހުވަފެން, but it is no longer used and there is no Modern English word derived from it. Suppose there was a Dhivehi equivalent for the word sleep, what would it be? Based on the sound changes we have seen so far, my guess is that it would be “ހުލީފު”.

Or, if instead we follow the Hindi path (based on sapna-sona), we might get the verb ހޯފުން and its derivatives ހޯފަނީ، ހޯފަން، ހޯފާނެ، ހޯފިއްޖެ، ހޯފައިގެން, etc.