I understand how Grimm's law has resulted in pairs such as duo / two, tri / three, penta / five. But how do we get "four"? I looked it up in the dictionary and the IE root is ‌‌kwetwer- Why doesn't our number four start with /h/ ?

  • What about the second f in the OE fif '5' < PG *fimfe < PIE *penkwe-? OE f < PIE *kw.
    – Yellow Sky
    Feb 7, 2015 at 2:26
  • Sanskrit derived it as chatwaar and further Hindi as chaar Latin derived it as Quad.
    – ARi
    Oct 1, 2015 at 15:30

2 Answers 2


There is no straightforward explanation for Germanic, but influence from "5" is suspected. There is an article (Patrick Stiles, 1986, NOWELE 8: 3-25) which addresses this but it's not available to me.

  • 4
    Slavic neviat (from PIE newn) > deviat "9" due to the following desiat "10" (from PIE dekmt). Latin sex "6" instead of suex due to the following septem. There are many more examples like this. So what you cite is more than likely.
    – carsten
    Feb 9, 2015 at 16:39

Frederik Kortlandt in Labials, velars and labiovelars in Germanic. North-Western European Language Evolution 30 (1997), 45-50. addresses how in many cases PIE *kw > p > Germanic f in words such as 'wolf', 'eleven', 'twelve', 'leave', 'liver' and a similar change (gw > b > p) in 'warp'. However he still thinks 'four' gains it's first consonant from similarity to 'five'

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