[nah-muh-stey] or [nuhm-uh-stey]

What does namaste mean?


Namaste is a traditional Hindu greeting said with a hand gesture, in which the palms are pressed together at the chest or head accompanied by a slight bow or arm raise. It is commonly associated with yoga in the West.

Examples of namaste


Examples of namaste
Namaste @DeepakChopra! Look out for our interview later today on @YahooNews.
@katiecouric, April 2017
#yoga on the hill. #happyhumpday everyone! @CTVMelissaLamb #namaste
@sophiemoroz, July 2015
Breathe in breathe out sweet Zen Flavours. Namaste until tomorrow
@DarylGauthier1, October 2018

Where does namaste come from?


Namaste comes from Sanskrit and literally means “I bow to you,” said with the accompanying pose at both greeting and parting. Forms of the word and depictions of the pose can be found in ancient Indian art and literature.

Evidence for namaste in English comes in the 1940s, around the time Westerners were learning about Indian culture surrounding the country’s new independence. A variant is namaskar, which can refer to the act of greeting someone with namaste.


In contemporary culture, namaste is closely associated with yoga, where a yogi may begin or end a session with namaste and its accompanying prayer-like gesture. In Western yoga practice, namaste usually has spiritual applications, a way of recognizing one’s inner divinity or peace.


As forms of yoga proliferated in the West in the 2000s, some Indians have criticized the use of namaste, whether chanted at the beginning of a hot yoga class or printed on a t-shirt, as cultural appropriation of Hindu culture.

Who uses namaste?

In Hindu communities in India and abroad, namaste is issued, in word and pose, as a respectful way of saying hello—and has no association with yoga. An example is the 2018 Bollywood film Namaste England, or Hello England.

In the West, however, namaste has become a shorthand for all things yoga, evoking senses of peace, divinity, or balance in one’s practice. It’s frequently used as a kind of blessing—when not being branded on yoga products. 

Sign up for our Newsletter!
Start your day with new words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.