Modern Icelandic maður is from Old Icelandic maðr.

To relate the latter to the former, I would say "Old Icelandic maðr is the ___ of Modern Icelandic maður." What linguistic term goes in the blank?

Is there another term for a meaning the other way round, i.e., that fits the blank in this sentence: "Modern Icelandic maður is the ___ of maðr."

I thought about ancestor for the first blank and descendant for the second, but I am not sure if this is correct linguistic terminology.

2 Answers 2


"Ancestor" and "descendant" are indeed the correct terms if there is a direct line of descent. Otherwise you would say that they are cognates.


For ancestor, "reflex" is also used, i.e. Icelandic madur is the reflex of Old Norse madr. Also, derivative works: madur derives from madr.

Source or origin and the prefix proto- as in proto-form, proto-sound might work for the madr is the source of madur or the proto-form.

  • Reflex = descendant, not ancestor (as your example correctly shows).
    – TKR
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 0:29

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