I have been struggling to find a single English word for "metta".Think I have failed. Once I read "what Buddha thought"by Walpola Rahula Thero mentioned as Universal Love which I don't agree as universe is man made theory. Also love is an attachment. so if someone mention a single word for "metta" please. So are there any single word? If there is not single word,what the reason?

  • Maximum I can reached is "endless love" are there any interpreter to suggest any better single word in English Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 11:46
  • Universal as an English word doesn’t depend on what your views about the universe are.
    – Gotamist
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 11:58
  • Whatever means "wish you happy".
    – Bonn
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 13:27
  • I like 'good-will' but 'universal love' is also good and does not imply attachment or the planets. Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 23:42

3 Answers 3


Mettā means Goodwill, goodwill (german: Wohlwollen, wish for wellbeing/aspiration for heal), wishing the best, is possible the best rendering for best path effects.

In such a way goodness is not binding but gives way and release, freedom.

Friend (mitta), german Freund, assosiated with Freud, joy, pleasure, heal: e.g. giving sukha, ease.

(Special Met[t]a-Note: Let my person add that the common used excuse "oh, it's difficult to translate" or "there is no similar word in engl.", people hear all to often, is also pointless in regard of metta. Metta in buddhist countries is a common used word and is used like the word love by people, right or wrong, depending on their understanding, context... And what sounds/signs/pixels/bits are used to try to express a certain experience, vision or idea: just one who knows, knows, by direct experians. Nothing can be really explained either by one or million words. Sometimes not even one word is required to understand. So watch out.

This just that one might be careful if hearing someone using the word love (generally: other words as used to), not to be preoccupied "wrong! He/she does not know". Listen further and try to see context and preoccupation in regard of a conventional level first. Wisdom is not found in forms of expression, whether in Pali, Sanskrit, English... signs, smells, taste, bodily touch, and again ideas.

Todays liberal and creative use of words might make it easier for wise but much more difficult for fools, not to speak about 'common sense' dictionaries and encyclopedias... Use "mojo" as translation if you wish (if you endless mojo is already killed), but don't lose it and take care of it "like a mother takes care of here only son". Worthy to read in regard of this: Methuna Sutta to find out where metta becomes really an attitude of Brahmacariya.)

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commercial purpose or other low wordily gains by means of trade and exchange.]



Commonly translated as Loving Kindness which is simply because a group at PTS chose that over a century ago and that just stuck. The problem with that is that sometimes people already have associations with the English words “loving” and “kindness”, put them together and think “well, now I know exactly what mettā means.”

Some other translations:






Friendliness can mean different things to different people in English. Here it doesn’t mean niceness but a sincere well-wishing for the other person. Like the goodwill a true friend has. Note that the corresponding Sanskrit word is maitri. Both words are derived from the word for ‘Friend’ which is mitta in Pāli and Mitra in Sanskrit.

To be distinguished from Friendship, which is mittatā / mitratā.

As to why there isn’t a single word, that’s a common problem in translation between any two languages. Some concepts are prominent in debate and discussion in some cultures, but are not in others. So while translating, one has to find ways to adapt them, often having to use multiple words. Consider zeitgeist and schadenfreude from German, for example. How many words would be needed to express them in English if we hadn’t adopted these words directly.

The fact that words like karma and mettā are kept intact in English is a sign that those who tried before us found it hard or impossible to find a single pre-existing good word in English for that idea.


There's a practice called "metta meditation" or "metta bhavana" (see also bhavana).

There's a text (or a chant) associated with that meditation, for example,

Aham sukhito homi (May I be happy),
Niddukkho homi (may I be from from suffering),
Avero homi (may I be free from enmity),
Aroko homi (may I be free from illness),
Abyapajjho homi (may I be free from malice),
Anigho homi (may I be free from suffering of body and mind),
Sukhi attanam pariharami (may I protect my own well-being).
Sabbe Satta (Whatever beings there are),
Sukita hontu (may they be happy),
Niddukkha hontu (may they be free from suffering),
Avera hontu (may they be free from enmity),
Aroka hontu (may they be free from illness),
Abyapajjha hontu (may they be free from malice),
Anigha hontu (may they be free from suffering of body and mind),
Sukhi attanam pariharantu (may they protect their own well-being).

Even if a few words (details) of that translation are debatable, the overall message seems to be clear -- metta seems to mean "wishing well" (e.g. "I wish you well"), also known as "good will" or "benevolence" ("good will" and "benevolence" are the same word, one with Germanic etymology and the other with Latin), especially in a negative sense ("absence of harm" and "absense of malice", and not e.g. "given wealth"), though it may be active (intentionally not causing harm).

I'm not sure why but there's some other version[s] of the text, for example:

Aham Avero homi
abyapajjho homi
anigho homi
sukhi‐attanam pariharami

May I be free from enmity and danger
May I be free from mental suffering
May I be free from physical suffering
May I be able to take care of myself happily  

Mama matapitu, acariya ca, natimitta ca ...
May my parents, teachers, relatives and friends ...

Imasmim arame sabbe yogina ...
May all yogis in this compound ...


The's a similar statement in a sutta called the metta sutta, which starts with:

May all beings be happy and safe. May they have happy minds ...

So are there any single word?

In summary I agree with "goodwill" or "benevolence" as the best single-word translation.

If there is not single word, what the reason?

I think there are two reasons:

  • There's a range of social activities or attitudes that metta applies to, ranging from (at the low end, i.e. at a minimum) non-violence and non-emnity, to (more positively) security and friendship.

  • Each English word might have a different range of meaning; for example "benevolent" (whose literal/original meaning is "intending good") often implies some kind of charity (e.g. donating wealth or services) in English ... that sense of money-related charity, which is present in the English word, might be absent in the original: so translators look for a different English word (like "friendship").

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