“Dog” in European languages

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more.

The English word “dog” comes from Old English docga, the origin of which is uncertain. It eventually replaced Old English hund (cf. “hound” in modern English) as a general designation for the animal.

Surprisingly, the word “hound” shares a common origin with French chien, Italian cane, Welsh ci, Albanian qen, and even Latvian suns and Lithuanian šuo, as you can see from the following map:

dog in European languages

The words in Romance languages all come from Latin canis, the Germanic words from Proto-Germanic *hundaz, the Celtic words from Proto-Celtic *kū, and the Baltic words from Proto-Balto-Slavic *ś(w)ō. All these, in turn, come from Proto-Indo-European *ḱwṓ (the Proto-Germanic one via its derived form *ḱwn̥tós).

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The Hungarian word kutya and Bulgarian and Macedonian куче is of uncertain origin. The Slavic words may be borrowings from Hungarian (with a “tj → č” sound change) or vice versa, in which case they could be all related to the Proto-Indo-European expression mentioned above (but they probably aren’t).

Spanish perro, Greek σκύλος, and Irish madra are of uncertain origin and may be pre-Indo-European. Irish gadhar is a borrowing from Old Norse.

Pies, pes, etc., in Slavic languages come from Proto-Slavic pьsъ, which is itself of uncertain origin. Russian собака was borrowed from Middle Iranian.

The Sami, Nenets, and Võro words come from Proto-Finno-Permic *penä, while the Finnish, Karelian, Estonian, and Veps come from Proto-Uralic *kojra.

Corsican ghjacaru is likely related to Basque txakur (cf. Spanish cachorro).

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