Sanskrit is a standardized dialect of Old Indo-Aryan, originating as Vedic Sanskrit as early as 1700-1200 BCE. One of the oldest Indo-European languages for which substantial documentation exists, Sanskrit is believed to have been the general language of the greater Indian Subcontinent in ancient times.

Sanskrit ; attributively संस्कृत-, saṃskṛta-; nominaly संस्कृतम्, saṃskṛtam, is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. It arose in South Asia after its predecessor languages had diffused there from the northwest in the late Bronze Age. Sanskrit is the sacred language of Hinduism, the language of classical Hindu philosophy, and of historical texts of Buddhism and Jainism. It was a link language in ancient and medieval South Asia, and upon transmission of Hindu and Buddhist culture to Southeast Asia, East Asia and Central Asia in the early medieval era, it became a language of religion and high culture, and of the political elites in some of these regions. As a result, Sanskrit had a lasting impact on the languages of South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia, especially in their formal and learned vocabularies.

Sanskrit generally connotes several Old Indo-Aryan varieties. The most archaic of these is Vedic Sanskrit found in the Rig Veda, a collection of 1,028 hymns composed between 1500 BCE and 1200 BCE by Indo-Aryan tribes migrating east from what today is Afghanistan across northern Pakistan and into northern India. Vedic Sanskrit interacted with the preexisting ancient languages of the subcontinent, absorbing names of newly encountered plants and animals; in addition, the ancient Dravidian languages influenced Sanskrit’s phonology and syntax. “Sanskrit” can also more narrowly refer to Classical Sanskrit, a refined and standardized grammatical form that emerged in the mid-1st millennium BCE and was codified in the most comprehensive of ancient grammars, the Aṣṭādhyāyī (“Eight chapters”) of Pāṇini.The greatest dramatist in Sanskrit, Kālidāsa, wrote in classical Sanskrit, and the foundations of modern arithmetic were first described in classical Sanskrit. The two major Sanskrit epics, the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇa, however, were composed in a range of oral storytelling registers called Epic Sanskrit which was used in northern India between 400 BCE and 300 CE, and roughly contemporary with classical Sanskrit. In the following centuries, Sanskrit became tradition-bound, stopped being learned as a first language, and ultimately stopped developing as a living language.