Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Buddhism A conservative branch of Buddhism that adheres to Pali scriptures and the nontheistic ideal of self-purification to nirvana and is dominant in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • proper n. A school of Buddhism widely practised in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. one of two great schools of Buddhist doctrine emphasizing personal salvation through your own efforts; a conservative form of Buddhism that adheres to Pali scriptures and the non-theistic ideal of self purification to nirvana; the dominant religion of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand and Laos and Cambodia

Etymologies

Pali theravāda : thera, an elder (from Sanskrit sthaviraḥ, old man, from sthavira-, old, venerable) + vāda, doctrine (from Sanskrit vādaḥ, statement, doctrine).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Pali थेरवाद (theravāda), from Sanskrit स्थविरवाद (sthaviravāda); cf. वाद (vāda). (Wiktionary)

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