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wankle

From Middle English wankel, from Old English wancol (“unstable, unsteady, tottering, vacillating, weak”), from Proto-Germanic *wankulaz (“unsteady, wavering”), from Proto-Indo-European *wank-, *wak-, *wek-, *weg- (“to be unsteady; crooked”). Cognate with Dutch wankel (“shaky, unstable”), Middle High German wankel (“unsteady”), German wanken (“to waver, totter”). See also wonky.

wonky

From English dialectal wanky, alteration of Middle English wankel (“unstable, shaky”), from Old English wancol (“unstable”), from Proto-Germanic *wankulaz (“swaying, shaky, unstable”), from Proto-Germanic *wankōnan (“to sway, be unsteady”), from Proto-Indo-European *wa(n)k-, *wek-, *wag-, *weg- (“to swing, be unsteady, slant, be crooked”). Cognate with Scots wankle (“wonky”), Dutch wankel (“shaky”), German Wankelmut (“fickleness, inconstancy, vacillation”), Danish vanke (“to wander”). See also wankle.

Or there may be a PIE root *wang-, which corresponds to the sound law PIE "G" becomes Gmc "K" in Grimm's law, rather than the PIE *wank-?

  • As is, the question can't be easily answered because you don't give us non-Germanic cognates. Although Kluge argues that German wanken is (could be?) related to Latin vacillare, de Vaan says that Latin vacillare has no good etymology; Ernout and Meillet are of the same opinion, cf. "d'origine obscure". – Alex B. Sep 9 '12 at 18:42
  • The origin of Latin vagus is also not entirely clear, cf. de Vaan PIE *Huogo?, Ernout and Meillet "sans etymologie precise". – Alex B. Sep 9 '12 at 18:56

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