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[mah-huh-yah-nuh] /ˌmɑ həˈyɑ nə/
the later of the two great schools of Buddhism, chiefly in China, Tibet, and Japan, characterized by eclecticism and a general belief in a common search for salvation, sometimes thought to be attainable through faith alone.
Compare Hinayana.
Origin of Mahayana
1865-70; < Sanskrit, equivalent to mahā- great + yāna vehicle
Related forms
[mah-huh-yah-nist] /ˌmɑ həˈyɑ nɪst/ (Show IPA),
noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for Mahayana


  1. a liberal Buddhist school of Tibet, China, and Japan, whose adherents aim to disseminate Buddhist doctrines, seeking enlightenment not for themselves alone, but for all sentient beings
  2. (as modifier): Mahayana Buddhism
Derived Forms
Mahayanist, noun
Word Origin
from Sanskrit, from mahā great + yāna vehicle
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for Mahayana

type of Buddhism practiced in northern Asia, 1868, from Sanskrit, from maha "great," from PIE root *meg- "great" (see magnate) + yana "vehicle," from PIE root *ei- "to go" (see ion).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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