That’s right, it is time once again to look at the origins of our language and see what connections we can make. This time we’ll start off with the delightful word suicide.

Suicide comes from the Latin word suicidium. It consists of two parts, sui and cide which mean “oneself” and “kill” respectively. If English didn’t have the annoying habit of constantly using Romance language words, the word for suicide would be selfmurder. Consider the words in these Germanic languages:

  • Danish: selvmord
  • Dutch: zelfmoord
  • German: selbstmord
  • Icelandic: sjálfsmorð
  • Norwegian: selvmord
  • Swedish: självmord

However, that’s kind of off topic.

In this post, we will be focusing on the sui part and seeing the connection it has to Dhivehi.

It’s Quite Simple

Sui comes from the Proto-Indo-European *s(u)wo, which comes from the root *s(w)e, which is a third person reflexive pronoun (meaning “oneself”). From *s(w)e we get the Sanskrit स्व (sva) which is the source of Dhivehi ހުވަ (huva). So now you can see the connection between suicide and Gaafu Atoll (Huvadhoo).


Why “Huvadhoo”?

If ހުވަ means “oneself” and ދޫ means “island”, then ހުވަދޫ literally translates to “oneself island”. But why?

The only explanation I can find is from the oh-so-reliable Wikipedia:

Historically the Huvadu atoll chief had a great measure of self-government. He even had the privilege, not granted to any other atoll chief of the Maldives, to fly his own flag in his vessels and at his residence.

If this is accurate, ހުވަދޫ means “The islands which govern themselves”. So was it just a coincidence that Huvadhoo Atoll (along with Fuvahmulah and Addu) tried to create an independent state?

Other Explanations

ހުވަ also means “ފަސޭހަ” (“easy”), and ސުވަ means “ތެދު” (“truth”). However, I don’t think either of these are likely because the equivalent Sanskrit words don’t match as well. I know that there are several cases where words that don’t seem to match are indeed etymologically related; I’m just applying Occam’s razor here.

The Sanskrit word for “easy” is सुलभ (sulabha) but सु (su) is used as an adverb. This may be where ހުވަ comes from.

The Sanskrit word for “truth” is तथ्य (tathya) or सत्य (satya). The former corresponds to ތެދު, but the latter doesn’t really sound like ސުވަ at all.

It is more likely that “Suvadiva” (the Sanskritised name of Huvadhoo, and the origin of the name of the secessionist Suvadive Republic) came from स्वद्वीप (svadvip) than सुलभद्वीप (sulabhadvip) or सत्यद्वीप (satyadvip).

Dhivehi Suicide

Back on topic. If the ހުވަ of ހުވަދޫ is indeed related to the sui of suicide, then what is the Dhivehi word for “suicide”?

The only “real” word I can find is ދަންޖެހުން which refers specifically to hanging. Otherwise you would have to go the long way and say something like އަމިއްލަ ނަފްސު މެރުން, if that even makes sense.

Based on everything we just talked about, a possible word could be ހުވަމެރުން. The equivalent Sanskrit term is स्वमारयति (svamarayati), but this technically isn’t a real word. Instead the Sanskrit word for “suicide” is आत्महत्या (atmahatya), which is used in Hindi and other Indian languages. Based on this, the Dhivehi word could be އާތުމަހަތިޔާ.

Alternatively, a word from another language could be borrowed. From Arabic we get އިންތިހާރު, and from Persian we get ޚުދުކުޝީ. The latter is used in Urdu and some other south/central Asian languages. The word ޚުދު is already used in Dhivehi to mean “(to) oneself”, so it would also make sense to say ޚުދުމެރުން.

Concluding Remarks

Don’t let all this talk of suicide give you any ideas. Here’s something that isn’t so morbid.