The dvandva

Also known as: the coordinative compound

dvandva literally means “pair.” Any set of words that could be combined with the word ca (“and”) can be combined into a dvandva:

  • रामः सीता → रामसीते
    rāmaḥ sītā ca → rāmasīte
    Rama and Sita

  • रामः सीता लक्ष्मणः → रामसीतालक्ष्मणाः
    rāmaḥ sītā lakṣmaṇaḥ ca → rāmasītālakṣmaṇāḥ
    Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana

In the examples above, notice that the compound's number matches the combined numbers of its items. Thus rāma-sīte is in the dual and rāma-sītā-lakṣmaṇāḥ is in the plural.

Also, notice that the compound usees the gender of its last item. Thus rāma-sīte uses a feminine ending and rāma-sītā-lakṣmanāḥ uses a masculine ending.

Two types of dvandva

The dvandva is a simple compound, but it has some small subtleties that are worth knowing. In particular, it has two main subtypes.

The first is the type we saw above, where several different items are listed together. This is called the itaretara-dvandva (“one-and-another dvandva”):

  • रामः सीता लक्ष्मणः → रामसीतालक्ष्मणाः
    rāmaḥ sītā lakṣmaṇaḥ ca → rāmasītālakṣmaṇāḥ
    Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana

  • फलानि पुष्पाणि → फलपुष्पाणि
    phalāni puṣpāṇi ca → phalapuṣpāṇi
    fruits and flowers

But if all of the members imply some more complete collection of concepts, we have a second type called samāhāra-dvandva (“collection dvandva”). The samāhāra-dvandva is always in the neuter singular:

  • आहार-निद्रा-भयम्
    food, sleep, and fear

  • पाणि-पादम्
    hands and feet

Here, the compound āhāranidrābhayam refers not just to food, sleep, and fear, but to all of the characteristics of animal life more broadly. Likewise, the compound pāṇipādam refers not just to hands and feet but to all the limbs of the body.

Other small changes

For a few dvandvas, the individual words might undergo some small changes. Here are some common examples:

  • माता पिता च → मातापितरौ
    mātā pitā ca → mātāpitarau
    mother and father

  • मित्रो वरुणः च → मित्रावरुणौ
    mitro varuṇaḥ ca → mitrāvaruṇau
    Mitra and Varuna (names of Vedic gods)

  • द्यौः पृथिवी च → द्यावापृथिवी
    dyauḥ pṛthivī ca → dyāvāpṛthivī
    heaven and earth


The dvandva is a simple compound and easy to understand.

  1. What is the difference in meaning between an itaretara-dvandva and a samāhāra-dvandva?

  2. What gender and number does an itaretara-dvandva use?

  3. What gender and number does a samāhāra-dvandva use?