According to Wiktionary, the Greek word ναι comes from Ancient Greek ναί, which is a variation of νή, which comes from Proto-Indo-European ne, which means no.

Why can a word have the opposite meaning to its origin? Or was Wiktionary wrong here, and this word actually comes from another language?

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    If the etymology is true, perhaps, from something like, "isn't it"? In Slavic languages, you can add "ne?" for a confirmation of a statement you think is probably true. – Constantine Geist Apr 12 '17 at 14:23
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    Hoffman's etymological dictionary of Greek does derive it from *nē, and linkes to Latin nē "truly". – Constantine Geist Apr 12 '17 at 14:45
  • Wiktionary doesn't say all of that. The entry for νή says “From the same source as Latin nē, enim.” – J. Siebeneichler Apr 16 '17 at 23:03
  • @J.Siebeneichler Yes, that's right. But in the page of Latin , it is said that the word is from PIE *ne, so I reduce it for the sake of the briefness. – Huy Ngo Apr 17 '17 at 13:34
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    @huy-ngo There are two etymology sections in the Latin page; you are quoting the first one, but it is the second one that is related to Greek ναί. – J. Siebeneichler Apr 17 '17 at 16:26

Lat. nē 'really, true' and Tocharian B nai 'indeed, surely' seem to be the IE-parallels. The IE demonstrative *(h1e-)no- 'he there, that one' seems to be the root according to Beekes (with a questionmark though) and Babiniotis.

  • Actually, Beekes peppers it all with "?" and "could be". A hypothesis rather than a matter of agreement. – fdb Apr 12 '17 at 22:59
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    Several Slavic langues have ano "yes" < = contraction from a ono "and that", where demonstrative ono "that" is probably related to *h1e-no? the construction looks like a Slavic innovation and has nothing to do with the Latin/Greek ; what are their arguments for *(h1e-)no-, do they maybe cite Slavic constructions such ano? – Constantine Geist Apr 13 '17 at 2:06
  • Oh, and also, ano is further reduced to no, so nai could be a shortening from a longer form, too – Constantine Geist Apr 13 '17 at 2:20
  • @fdb: You're right. I made a note in the parenthesis. – Midas Apr 13 '17 at 6:05
  • @ConstantineGeist: Interesting. Babiniotis mentions the Slavic demonstrative na and Sanskrit na-na. – Midas Apr 13 '17 at 6:06

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