1. 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 formsMa·ha·ya·nist [mah-huh-yah-nist] /ˌmɑ həˈyɑ nɪst/, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for mahayana

Historical Examples of mahayana

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 FormsMahayanist, noun

Word Origin for Mahayana

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

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