शब्द means a sound or a word. In this context it means a declinable word, a noun. Grammarians call a declinable word सुबन्त. Here let us not go into the details of why it is called so. सुबन्त includes nouns, pronouns, participles and adjectives.
Whereas in English and many other languages the case of a noun in a sentence is determined by the position it occupies in the sentence or by prepositions, in Sanskrit the word itself gets inflected according to the case. There are eight cases in general in Sanskrit which are given in this Table:
|Equivalent in English|
|First case (for addressing)||Vocative case|
|द्वितीया विभक्तिः||Second case||Accusative case|
|तृतीया विभक्तिः||Third case||Instrumental case|
|चतुर्थी विभक्तिः||Fourth case||Dative case|
|पञ्चमी विभक्तिः||Fifth case||Ablative case|
|षष्ठी विभक्तिः||Sixth case||Genitive case|
|सप्तमी विभक्तिः||Seventh case||Locative case|
In English, there are only two numbers: singular and plural. But in Sanskrit there are three. एकवचन (singular), द्विवचन (dual) and बहुवचन (plural). In each of the eight cases, a noun could be declined in any of the three numbers. There are thus 24 types of inflexions for a noun. Normally these declensions are written out in a table of 8 rows and 3 columns, each row for a case and each column for a number. Students memorise these tables like multiplication tables. Often these tables are referred to as शब्दs. If a student is asked to recite रामशब्द, the student is expected to recite this table specific to the word राम.
A noun could be masculine, feminine or neuter in gender. It is not easy to know the gender of an abstract noun, a collective noun or a noun referring to an inanimate object. Besides, adjectives and participles which take the gender, number and case of the noun they qualify could be declined in all the three genders.
The pattern of declension for a noun ( When we say noun, we include other declinable words like pronoun, adjective and participle) depends on its gender and its last syllable. For example, राम is a masculine noun and ends in syllable अ. The pattern of declension applicable to राम is applicable to other masculine words which have the last syllable अ. Once you have learnt रामशब्द you can decline other nouns such as कूप, कृष्ण etc in a similar manner. Grammarians call राम and similar model words whose declensions provide a standard template "paradigms".
As an example, in the Table below is रामशब्द with meaning in English::
अकारान्तः पुल्लिङ्गः रामशब्दः
(Thus goes) declension of word "raama" which ends in syllable "a" and is in masculine gender.
|Nominative case(subject)||Raama||two Raamaas||many (more than two) raamaas|
|सम्बोधनप्रथमा विभक्तिः||हे राम||हे रामौ||हे रामाः|
|Vocative case||O raama,||O (two) Raamas||O (many) raamaas|
|Accusative case(object)||Raama||two Raamas||many raamaas|
|Instrumental case||by Raama||by two Raamas||by many Raamas|
|Dative case||for Raama||for two Raamaas||for many Raamas|
|Ablative vase||from Raama||from two Raamas||from many Raamas|
|Genitive case||of Raama||of two Raamaas||of many Raamas|
|Locative case||in Raama||in two Raamas||in many Raamas|
Although the meanings given in the table are generally applicable, they may differ depending on the context and accepted usage , somewhat similar to idiomatic usage of prepositions in English.
I have called this compilation शब्दमञ्जूषा, a casket of शब्दs. You can access any शब्द either from Index of शब्दs or the alphabetical index .
For those who want to know more, a list of reference books is provided.
If you find any typographical or substantive errors in this compilation or if you have any suggestions for improving what has been presented here, you may communicate to me at firstname.lastname@example.org .