Definition of Tocharian in US English:



  • 1A member of a central Asian people who inhabited the Tarim Basin in the 1st millennium AD.

    • ‘Their being Tocharians does put them right into the Indo-European matrix alongside the Greeks, Norse, and others.’
    • ‘The wonderful second part of the book opens in the Tarim Basin circa 750 A.D. in a settlement of Tocharians.’
    • ‘It appears possible that eventually the Tocharians may be classified with the eastern Scythians.’
    • ‘The Soghdians, Tocharians and Khorezmians at the same time began to use to Turkish language.’
    • ‘The Tocharians originally came from the Roman Empire and had become Buddhists in Afghanistan and Tajikistan.’
  • 2Either of two extinct languages (Tocharian A and Tocharian B) spoken by the Tocharian people, the most easterly of known ancient Indo-European languages, surviving in a few documents and inscriptions and showing affinities to Celtic and Italic languages.

    • ‘I think this expression could be an example of Tocharian B that survived in isolation for 100 years or more.’
    • ‘Don Ringe, author of On the Chronology of Sound Changes in Tocharian, is professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania.’
    • ‘In a remote part of Western China archaeologists have found not only evidence of an extinct Indo-European language, Tocharian, but the mummified remains, up to 4,000 years old, of the Indo-Europeans themselves.’
    • ‘Some sources therefore refer to Tocharian A as East Tocharian or Turfanian, since Turfan is at the easternmost extent of the Tocharian sites.’
    • ‘Repeating the exercise, we analyze the related languages - Proto-Germanic, the ancestor of Latin, Celtic, Greek, Baltic, Slavic, Albanian, Armenian, Anatolian, Hittite, Indo-Iranian, and Tocharian.’


  • Relating to the Tocharian or their language.

    • ‘This periphery was ancestral to the historical Tocharian languages.’
    • ‘They even impinged on areas of Poland and the Ukraine and, if the amazing recent discoveries of mummies in China's province of Xinjiang are linked with the Tocharian texts, they even moved as far east as the area north of Tibet.’
    • ‘The fact that the real history of the ‘procurement’ of Tocharian documents by Aurel Stein from Central Asia forms an important clue in the detective story was a nice touch.’


From French tocharien, via Latin from Greek Tokharoi, the name of a Scythian tribe (almost certainly unrelated to the Tocharians).