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).