title applied to an adept in Brahmanism, literally "great-souled," from Sanskrit mahatman, from maha "great" (from PIE root *meg- "great") + atman, "soul, principle of life," properly "breath" (see atman). In esoteric Buddhism, "a person of supernatural powers." In common use, as a title, a mark of love and respect. Said to have been applied to Gandhi (1869-1948) in 1915, perhaps by poet Rabrindranath Tagore. The earliest use of the word in English, however, is among the theosophists, who applied it to certain imaginary beings with preternatural powers (1884).
updated on November 02, 2018