PIE *spongh-
Gloss: ‘mushroom, sponge’ (item 117 in Bjørn 2017)

PIE (1) *sp(h)ong
Attestations: Lat. fungus; Gr. σπόγγος; Arm. sownk; (?)Ved. paṅgú ‘lame, crippled’

Notes: The formal problems in connecting the forms nonetheless fall short of dismantling the ultimate connection; only Vedic can rightfully be questioned within this context on semantic grounds.

PIE (2) *suómbh
Attestations: OHG swamp

PIE (3) *g(w)umb(h)
Attestations: OCS gǫba

External comparanda:
Uralic: *paŋka > e.g. Mari poŋgə̑ and possibly Nganasan fanka– ‘drunk’ (Joki 1973: 300f.)
Kartvelian *cumb ‘to become wet, soaked’

Discussion: The disparate yet somehow similar attestations support the consistent practice of identifying the item as non-native within IE in the standard etymological dictionaries (e.g. Beekes 2010: 1385, de Vaan 2008: 250), and there is ample reason to assume that the Uralic forms are somehow connected. A comparison with the spread of ‘orphan’ (item 62) from late PIE into FU could establish the relevant stratum for a transfer, while a loan from Uralic into IE is harder to substantiate given the initial cluster in IE. The Kartvelian form, suggested by Klimov (1998: 302), is less appealing, partly due to its semantic discontinuity, but an old Wanderwort could account for the spread as well as the internal IE inconsistencies, which may be corroborated by the exclusive distribution in European IE and Armenian; Kroonen thus suggests that the word stems from a substrate present in Europe before the arrival of the Indo-Europeans, which similarly makes a loan from (P)IE into Kartvelian implausible (2013: 495). [Add. See now also clover for a possible Kartvelianesque substrate in prehistoric Europe]


PIE *h2ebVl-
Gloss: ‘apple’ (item 42 in Bjørn 2017)

Attestations: (?)Osc. Abella (toponym); OIr. ubull; ON epli; Lith. obuolỹs; OCS (j)ablŭko; (?)Thr. dinopula, synopula; (?)Pashaei wālī, (?)Kashmiri ambari-trel ‘small kind of a.’, (?)Pashto maṇá

Notes: The Thracian forms may well be connected as literal ‘dog-apple’, a perfect cognate of Lithuanian šun-obuolỹs (Markey 1988: 51), but there is no evidence for a PIE term (ibid. passim.). An Indo-Iranian strain may be included, but requires some irregular developments to fit with the European stock (Mallory & Adams 1997: 25), especially if the more erratic Iranian strain continuing *marnā– (Morgenstierne 1927: 45) is heeded. Here, like elsewhere, the reconstruction of *h2e– rather than *a– is based on assumptions of PIE that were evidently resolved by the ultimate dispersal of the dialect continuum. [Note: See also Kroonen 2016 and Fenwick 2016 for the root *smh2l-]

External comparanda:
Uralic: Fenno-Volgaic *omɜrɜ or*omena 

Discussion: Apples were only domesticated in the 1st millennium BC (Zohary 1990:39), and the item is a clear Wanderwort and traces its entrance to a handful of IE languages long after the dissolution of PIE (Campbell 1990: 163f., cf. also S. Starostin 2009: 93f.).
[Add. See Vennemann 2003: 466-468 for an Atlantic (~Semitic) origin ultimately related to PSem. *ˀabal- ‘genitals’]
[Add: Disregarding the Iranian forms, Wodtko et al. al but rejects the wanderwort hypothesis with reference to a widespread hysterokinetic paradigm unlikely to have been adopted independently in three our four IE branches (2008: 264 fn.1)]


PIE *ieg
Gloss: ‘ice’ (item 64 in Bjørn 2017)

Attestations: Hit. eka; OIr. aig; ON jaki ‘piece of i.’; Lith. yže; (?)Wakhi yaz ‘glacier’

Notes: Mallory & Adams suggest the Iranian comparanda (1997:286), and Turner further connects Kati, a Kafir language, yūċ ‘cold’, possibly related to Vedic śyai– ‘to freeze’ (1966: 38, 601), which would require prefixation, and the Indo-Iranian branch remains unsecure. This does not change the fact that the strong evidence in Anatolian with sound cognates elsewhere establish the item for early PIE.

External comparanda:
Uralic: FU *jäŋe > e.g. Fin. jää, Hun. jég

Discussion: Formal and semantic identity makes this connection attractive. Although the comparison usually is included in the Indo-Uralic hypothesis (cf. Čop 1970: 158 and Collinder 1965: 124), the limited distribution of a geographically important item in Uralic suggests a later entry. Semantically this item may be compared with *wed-r ‘water’ (item 128) with pan-Uralic distribution.


PIE *wed-r
Gloss: ‘water’ (item 128 in Bjørn 2017)

Attestation: Hit. wātar; Toch. A wär, Toch. B war; Lat. unda ‘wave’; OIr. uisce; Goth. watō; Lith. vanduó; OCS voda; Alb. ujë; Gr. ὓδωρ; Phr. βεδυ; Arm. get ‘river’; Ved. udan-, Av. vaiδi ‘watercourse’.

Notes: Attested in all branches of IE, this item indubitably constituted the common PIE word for ‘water’. The various Ablaut grades required to connect all the forms are unproblematically explained from analogy of the inherited heterocliticon, still very much alive in Hittite, and necessarily also so in Proto-Germanic where the Western branch has generalized the casus rectus, hence German Wasser and English water, while the Northern branch opted for the oblique *-n-desinence, cf. ON vatn.

External comparanda:
Uralic *wetä
Semitic: e.g. Arabic wādin ‘river, valley’

Discussion: Along with ‘name’ (item 61), this item represents the central lexical material in favor of the Indo-Uralic theory (cf. Kortlandt 1989: 81), but has similarly been sought explained as a loanword by, e.g., Koivulehto (1993: 184), and even Collinder (1960: 81), although Joki concedes the possibility of greater antiquity for the item (1973: 344). Unlike ‘name’, however, the formal correspondences are more favorable to a direct loan from PIE to Uralic, namely in corresponding vocalism and consonantal sequence. Salminen (1989 and 2001:394) provides the best defence of the loan hypothesis by drawing attention to the fact the the two branches of Uralic that do not brand the PIE comparandum, i.e. Saami čáhci and Khanty seč, continue the ostensibly inherited Uralic root for water, *śäčä-, albeit in the latter with a slight semantic drift to ‘flood’; this scenario may be compared with the proposed comparanda for *ieg– ‘ice’ (item 64). The Semitic comparandum, suggested by Brunner (1969:131-132), is certainly not as attractive and may only gain weight in light of Nostratic, albeit a lack of clear Afro-Asiatic cognates obstructs this path. Alternatively, and rather unlikely, a relatively late borrowing from an Iranian language could provide both formal and semantic circumstances for the connection.


Note: Marijn van Putten (p.c.) suggests, contrary to the conclusion in Bjørn 2017, that the connection to Semitic is of continued interest. The phonetic matchup is certainly worth entertaining, and I rely heavily on Diakonoff to dismiss the connection on semantic grounds. I hope to return to this etymology again and invite the reader to share arguments for and against in the comment section below.

PIE *h2ster
Gloss: ‘star’ (item 55 in Bjørn 2017)

Attestations: Hit. ḫaster-; Toch. A śreñ (pl.), Toch. B ścirye; Lat. stēlla; OIr. ser; Goth. staírno; Gr. ἀστῆρ; Arm. astl; Ved. stár-, Av. star-.

Notes: Latin requires an *-l- derivation that seems to be resonated in Celtic (de Vaan 2008: 585). The term is widespread and retains its meaning in all branches of attestation, making a reconstruction for the earliest strata of PIE unavoidable. Bomhard suggests that the noun is internally derived from the verb *h2eh1-s– ‘to burn, dry’ (1986).

External comparanda:
Semitic: *ʕaθar(-at)– ‘Venus, deified star’

Apparently a religious symbol in the Proto-Semitic world, the formation is not included by Orel & Stolbova (1995), which necessarily has consequences for the evaluation of possible provenance. Since the word is attested in IE to warrant reconstruction of an old and concrete meaning ‘star’, it is significantly more attractive to posit PIE as the potential provider vis-a-vis from the specialized and culturally dependent meaning in Semitic as propounded by Dolgopolsky (1987: 15f., 1993: 244). Moreover, the connotations in Semitic conducive for the comparison are demonstrably secondary cultural attributes to the deity (Diakonov 1985: 122f.), so this comparison can safely be ascribed to chance.


PIE *semh1r-
Gloss: ‘clover’ (not in Bjørn 2017)

?Gaul. ui-sumarus, OIr. seamar; Icel. smæra

Notes: The data is taken directly from Guus Kroonen’s presentation on the agricultural substrate in Europe, available here (PDF). Not reconstructable to PIE proper, and the forms are not completely compatible either, thus Proto-Celtic *semmar and Proto-Germanic *smēr-; with extensive contact between early speakers of Celtic and Germanic the item may have entered one and passed on to the other.

External comparanda:
Kartvelian: *s-m-q-r > Georg. samqura 

The argument is best explored through Kroonen’s slides (see link under Notes above). Most salient is the proposed Kartvelian etymology from sam ‘three’ and qur ‘ear’, and thus comparable to Latin trifolium. For geographical and distributional reasons, the transfer is highly unlikely to have been  directly from Kartvelian to Germanic/Celtic. Rather, a transfer may have occurred along with some of the goat words that also appear to have unique ties between European languages and the Caucasus. The connection seems plausible, probably in the semantic sphere of agriculture rather than a natural term.


PIE *h3or-(n-)
Gloss: ‘eagle’ (item 63 in Bjørn 2017)

Hit. ḫāran-, Pal. ḫāran-, CLuw. ḫarran(i)– ‘bird’; (?)Middle Irish irar; Goth. ara; Lith. erẽlis; OCS orĭlŭ; Myc. o-ni-ti-ja-pi ‘of a bird’, Gr. ὂρνις ‘bird’; Arm. oror ‘gull’

Notes: Greek has inverted the inherited words for ‘eagle’ and ‘bird’ (*h2euei-) so that the former means ‘bird’ and the latter ‘eagle’ (Mallory & Adams 1997: 173), while the Luwian shift is without consequence thanks to semantically more conservative inner-Anatolian cognates. Different derivations are required to account for all of the branches, but especially the *-n-desinence appears widespread and old, while Balto-Slavic are alone to extend with the *-l-formant. The appurtenance of the Celtic stock is tentatively questioned by Matasović (2009: 117f.). The distribution suggests early PIE origins, but the lack of Indo-Iranian and Tocharian cognates may indicate a more regionally confined phenomenon, cf. PIE *woin– ‘wine’ (item 133).

External comparanda:
Semitic: *γVrVn > Akk. urinnu, Arab. γaran
Sumerian: erin, (ḫ)u11-rí-in ‘e., standard’

Discussion: The sporadic Semitic evidence could indicate a borrowing from an Anatolian language; Militarev & Kogan, who hesitantly propose this connection, also include Central Chadic ‘white-bellied stork’, that, however, more probably should be considered a later loan from Arabic (2005: 131); it may be added that the item is not included by Orel & Stolbova (1995), and that a connection between Akkadian and Sumerian seems solid (Sahala 2009: 6). Phonetically the value of PIE *h3 is in play and the evidence does seem to point in a direction of ancient affinities, the question, of course, is how old. [Add. According to Landsberger the meaning ‘standard’ is a coincidental homograph (1961: 15). For the identification of the bird in ancient Mesopotamia, see Salonen (1973: 185-187)].

Mead, sweet

PIE *médhu-
Gloss: ‘mead; sweet’ (item 92 in Bjørn 2017)

(?)Hit. mitgaimi- ‘sweetened’, Toch. B mit ‘honey’; OIr. mid; ON mjo̜ðr; Lith. medùs ‘honey’; OCS medŭ ‘honey, wine’; Gr. mέθυ ‘wine’; Ved. mádhu– ‘honey, wine’; Av. ma?u ‘berry wine’.

With comparison to the PIE word *mélit– ‘honey’, it seems clear that already in PIE times the current item had a distinct meaning, requiring that the semantic shifts to ‘honey’ in Tocharian, Lithuanian, Old Church Slavonic, and Vedic can be explained by synecdoche (Mallory & Adams 1997: 271). The suggested Hittite cognate is used to describe bread, but is not the primary word for ‘sweet’, perhaps borrowed from an unattested Luwian formation.

External comparanda:
Semitic: *mVtḳ– ‘sweet’ (Nichols 1997: 143)
NE Caucasian: *miʒʒV ‘sweet’ > e.g. Ingush merza
Uralic: *mete ‘honey’ (Thomsen 1869: 2, Wiklund 1906: 63)

Orel & Stolbova connects Semitic with the almost identical Central Chadic *mVtak- ‘sweet’ (1995: 393), sufficiently removed on the other side of the Sahara to substantiate Afro-Asiatic origins, which has consequences for the reconstruction in PIE, e.g., how a received *-tḳ– is organized into the native phonological system; in this Gamkrelidze & Ivanov’s analysis seems convincing (1995: 771), despite Diakonoff’s scepticism (1985: 129). The disputed Hittite form may be a secondary entry directly from a Semitic source. The NE Caucasian forms could alternatively represent an intermediate step; the prefixed version
*hwi-miʒʒV ‘honey’ certainly qualifies the semantic connection. The internal PIE connection to *mélit– ‘honey’ is thus likely to be ascribed to chance; cf. Bomhard & Kerns for a primordially Nostratic connection to Afro-Asiatic (1994:657). The Hittite form may even be an independent and later loan from Semitic (Tischler 1990:221), separating the IE stock and possibly granting a relative chronology of the term. The Uralic connection is obvious and has been proposed as a loan by, e.g., Koivulehto (1993:184), but the exact stratum for a transfer is disputed. Although a number of IE loanwords in Uralic can be diagnosed convincingly as Indo-Iranian (§, this cannot be extended to this stratum on linguistic grounds. Napolskikh’s invocation of a Proto-Tocharian or, alternatively, Proto-Balto-Slavic form to account for both semantics and vocalism (2001: 372) seems convincing, the former especially so when confronted with the seemingly strong cultural force it yielded, cf. thus similarly Old Chinese *mjit ‘honey’ (Lubotsky 1998). The only linguistic evidence directly against a loan from PIE proper is the lack of Samoyedic cognates to the root, which, too, may prove problematic for the Tocharian relation (cf. also items 52 and 109), although, on the other hand, it is conceivable that the term was simply lost in proto-Samoyedic (cf. Joki 1973: 283ff.) [See further in the comment by Juho below this post]. With the word seemingly also entering the NE Caucasian languages, the cultural dispersal hypothesis is attractive in light of the similarly shaped comparanda in many other languages (e.g. Japanese mitsu). The circumstances, including time and space, for such a spread need to be further interdisciplinarily investigated before conclusions can be drawn. A tentative hypothesis may be to consider PIE the recipient of a different strain of a, perhaps, ancient root parallelly passed down directly to PIE *mélit-.


PIE *moro
Gloss: ‘blackberry’ (item 95 in Bjørn 2017)

(?)Lat. mōrum; (?)Welsh merwydden ‘mulberry’; Gr. μόρον; Arm. mor

Welsh may, like the more secure cases of OHG mūrbeere ‘mulberry’ and Lithuanian mõras ‘id.’, be a loan from Latin, that again may have transferred from Greek (Schindler 1964: 172); Beekes even suggests that the Armenian cognate be borrowed from Greek, too (2010: 968), which would render it solitary in Greek, but this idea is rejected by Martirosyan (2010: 474ff.). Despite the resemblance of Hittite mūri(yan)– ‘grape’ (Tischler 1990: 233f.), there seems to be no reason to posit the noun for the oldest layers of PIE.

External comparanda:
NE Caucasian: *mer(ʔ)V ‘a kind of berry’
Uralic: *mura ‘cloudberry’

The Uralic stock is exceptionally consistent both formally and in terms of semantic scope, which suggests that the word entered (P)IE from Uralic. There is hardly a semantic gap between the cloudberry of Uralic and the black- and mulberries of IE that all resemble each other, and the fact that the cloudberry (also called arctic raspberry) is confined to very northern latitudes practically forces a shift. The item was also borrowed into Turkic and Tungusic languages, probably from Ob-Ugric, and later even Russian (UEW 287), so the directionality is certainly established. Campbell also posits the more general FU *marja ‘berry’ as related in a wider complex (1990: 165f.), but enough of a connection can be drawn from the more immediate resemblances. Nikolayev & Starostin have showed that a similar noun is of significant age in the Northern Caucasus (NCED s.v. ‘berry’), but the vowel quality seems better to have been affected by a desinential *-i– somewhere, possibly the derivation for the associated bush or plant (cf. Martirosyan 2010: 474ff.). Friedrich similarly suggests that Burushaski biranč may be connected (1970:150) and thus substantiates a widespread root. A transfer likely happened into a very late stage of PIE, if not purely dialectal; the geographic distance between the Uralic languages and the attested Greek and
Armenian is obviously insurmountable, as noted by Joki (1973:287f.).


PIE *ĝherd
Gloss: ‘pear’ (item 25 in Bjørn 2017)

(?)Alb. dardhë; Gr. ἂχεδρος ‘wild p.’, ἀχράς ‘id.’; Mac. ἀγέρδα ‘id.’

Limited distribution to a very compact geographical region, the Balkan, has very weak bearings on PIE etymology, even more so if Orel’s reservations on Albanian are heeded (1998: 56). Furnée considers it a particular pre-Greek substrate word (1972 :127).

External comparanda:
NW Caucasian: *q(w)a
NE Caucasian: *qcör (Dolgopolsky 1989: 15)
Kartvelian: *msxal– (Fähnrich 2007: 296f.)

Nikolayev & Starostin, scrutinizing the North Caucasian connections, further compare the Kartvelian forms, although they concede the formal difficulties the inclusion entails (NCED s.v. ‘pear’). The linguistic travels of the fruit may be compared to that of the apple (item 42) that nonetheless appear to have wider distribution within IE. If connected, Dolgopolsky’s suggestion of a loan from North Caucasian *qcōrV (NCED *qHǖre, s.v.) or one of its descendants into a dialectically diversifying PIE (1989: 15) best fit the picture (cf. also S. Starostin 2009: 88f.), although the geographic discontinuity poses a serious obstacle (cf. Matasović 2012: 290). Caucasian connections for the Balkan languages are also pertinent in the discussion of *ĝhor-io- ‘pig’ (item 18).

Note: See now also Fenwick (2017) “An Indo-European origin of Kartvelian names for two maloid fruits”. Iran and the Caucasus, vol. 21: 310-323. []