in short : is the equation ὄφις Πύθων == अहि बुध्न्य ahi budʰnya widely accepted by scholars ?

Python and Ahi Budhnya/Ahirbudhnya are both a famous serpent, the first one in the Greek mythology, the second one in the Veda(b).

full details :

I have two questions about Watkins' How to kill a dragon, chapter 47 where I read the following statement, first equated by Vladimir Toporov in 1974(a) : the words Πύθων pȳ́tʰon and बुध्न्य budʰn-ya share the same IE origin, namely *bʰudʰ- with a "perfectly regular"(c) application of well-known phonological rules, including the "Grassmann's aspiration dissimilation"(c) law.

* bʰudʰ- → (Greek) pʰutʰ- → putʰ-
* bʰudʰ- → (Vedic) bʰudʰ- → budʰ- 

The vedic word बुध्न budʰna means "the bottom" (see e.g. the text (b)). Watkins considers that both words represent "a relic"(c) of an IE mythological monster, the "*ogʰi- bʰudʰ-"(d) one. Moreover, it's obviously true as Watking recalls it, that *ogʰi- (and similar forms) is the well-known root explaining at once ὄφις and अहि.

Up to this point there's nothing to say against these hypothesis. But I would like to discuss two details :

  • what about the IE root *bʰudʰn- ? Watkins describes it as a doublet, connected with another root *dʰubʰ- (Slavic dЪno, Russian dno, "bottom"). It's exactly what I read here, s.v. dheub. But except the Vedic word, is there any other relic of *bʰudʰn- ?

  • the upsilon being long in Πύθων but short in budʰnya, Watkins gives the following explanation : "The long ū in Πύ̄θων, not mentioned by Toporov, is doubtless due to expressive lenghtening, like the ū in Greek κλῦθι 'hear!' (Ved. śrudhi), West Germanic *hlūd ('loud') Greek (κλυτός)"(e).

    Why not ? But one page further I read the following statement about another Greek word with whom a parallel is established, Typhōn : "The quantity of the u varies: the etymological short in Typhaōn, Typhōeus, the expressively lengthened ū in Typhōn, Typhōs"(f). Is there any other example of such a variation of vowel length within the relics of an IE root ?

(a) Toporov, 1974, ΠYΘΩΝ, Ahi Budhnya, Badjak i dr. Etimologija

(b) RigVedia, 7.34.16 and 17 :

अब्जामुक्थैरहिं गृणीषे बुध्ने नदीनां रजस्सु षीदन् ॥१६॥
मा नोऽहिर्बुध्न्यो रिषे धान्मा यज्ञो अस्य स्रिधदृतायोः ॥१७॥

abjāmukthairahiṃ gṛṇīṣe budhne nadīnāṃ rajassu ṣīdan ॥16॥
mā no'hirbudhnyo riṣe dhānmā yajño asya sridhadṛtāyoḥ ॥17॥

Watkin's translations (How to kill a dragon, page 460) :

With songs I praise the water-born serpent
sitting in darkness in the depths of the rivers.
May the Serpent of the Deep not bring us to harm;
may the worship of this (singer) who seeks truth not go wrong.

(c) Waktins, How to kill a dragon, p.460

(d) Waktins, How to kill a dragon, p.460

(e) Waktins, How to kill a dragon, p.461

(f) Waktins, How to kill a dragon, p.462

  • 4
    I love that "doubtless" in Watkins explanation. Of course, "expressive lengthening" must be the explanation! I feel like it's more of a last resort when no other good explanation exists (or, in the words of Sihler, "a gong announcing the lack of a real explanation"). That said, these certainly seem to be related. Jan 19, 2017 at 18:40
  • 1
    IE *bʰudʰ-men- (based on Beekes and de Vaan): OE botem, bodan; ON botn; OHG bodam; OS bothme; Lat. fundus; Greek πυθμήν; MIr. bond, bonn 'sole, basis'; Av. būna; Skt. budhná- etc.
    – Alex B.
    Jan 20, 2017 at 20:22
  • 1
    @suizokukan Are you aware of Daniel Ogden research (U of Exeter)? For instance, Ogden 2013, Drakon (OUP).
    – Alex B.
    Jan 20, 2017 at 21:25
  • 3
    @AlexB: If I said something stupid, no need to respect it. If there is strong evidence for expressive lengthening in this word, I would be interested in knowing what it is. My impression is that it is very difficult to be certain about when and how expressive sound changes occur. Jan 20, 2017 at 21:28
  • 1
    It's an interesting equation, but it's not clear to me what exactly you're asking. For the first question, there are other cognate nouns, as other commenters have mentioned, but there's no "IE root *bʰudʰn-"; it's not clear there's any verbal root these nouns are derived from (since the obvious choice, *bʰeudʰ-, has completely different semantics, "be awake/attentive"). For the second question, are you asking whether there are other supposed examples of "expressive lengthening"? If so, yes, but as @sumelic says, it's a type of explanation that's inherently ad hoc and hard to prove.
    – TKR
    Jan 21, 2017 at 0:58

1 Answer 1


I do not have the patience to type out all the Greek, but if you look in Beekes s.v. πυθμήν you will see that *bʰudʰ-men- has reflexes all across IE, including English “bottom”.

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