earlier of the two great schools of Buddhism, still prevalent in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia, emphasizing personal salvation through one's own efforts.

Compare Mahayana.

Origin of Hinayana

1865–70; < Sanskrit, equivalent to hīna lesser, inferior + yāna vehicle

Also called Theravada.

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for hinayana



  1. any of various early forms of Buddhism
  2. (as modifier)Hinayana Buddhism
Derived FormsHinayanist, nounHinayanistic, adjective

Word Origin for Hinayana

from Sanskrit hīnayāna, from hīna lesser + 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