The word â€˜namasteâ€™ is a Sanskrit word and is a compound word consisting of â€œnamas or namahâ€ plus â€œteâ€. The word â€œnamahâ€ means to â€˜bow down to someone in reverenceâ€™ and â€˜teâ€™ means â€˜to youâ€™. So, â€˜namasteâ€™ literally means that â€œI bow down to you out of respect or reverenceâ€. Namaste is the traditional greeting among the Hindus and is used both as "hello" and "good bye". When two people meet, they greet each other by joining their hands in front of the heart, bow down their head and say â€˜namasteâ€™. The extended meaning of â€˜namasteâ€™ is that â€˜the divinity in me salutes the divinity in youâ€™. We can only bow down to someone else when we recognize that the essence of the other person is divine. Also, in order to bow to someone else, we must be able to surrender our ego. When we do that we are ourselves closer to our own divinity. Hence the above extended meaning.
Grammatical note on Namaste
As mentioned above, Namaste is a compound of "namah" and "te". In Sanskrit, two adjacent words are joined together by using the rules called ‘sandhi rules’. When we apply the rules for these two words, the resulting word is "namaste". The word "namah" is what is called an indeclinable. That means the word does not go through any change when the gender or number of the person addressed is changed. It is derived from the root "nam" (pronounced like ‘numb’ with no ‘b’ sound) which means ‘to bow’, ‘to salute’ as a mark of respect or obeisance. The word "te" is the fourth conjugation of the word "yushmad" which means "you". It should be pointed out here that "namah" is always used with the fourth conjugation of the one being addressed. For example, in "om namah shivaaya" (salutations to Lord Shiva), ‘shivaaya’ is the fourth conjugation of ‘shiva’. The word "te" is singular and is the same for masculine and feminine genders. The first conjugation of ‘yushmad’ is ‘tvam’ and is used generally to address someone who is very close to you, like a close friend, or someone who is junior to you either in age or status. When addressing someone who is an elder or not a familiar person, a more formal form of address ‘bhavaan’ is used. Traditionally, "te" is also used when you are trying to communicate with the supreme being, God or your personal deity. This is to indicate that you have a sense of unity, or closeness with the divine.
Here is a link to an interesting video clip where Pastor Eddie Smith is explaining the meaning of â€˜namasteâ€™ to his church congregation.