The Latin word for "finger" is digitus. In Italian, I assume the "gi" was lost, perhaps via some lenition of the "g" to *dijitus and then j was lost, giving *dītus, or perhaps accusative *dītum, whence Italian "dito". What happened in Sicilian though? THe corresponding term is ìritu. Could it be that there was a metathesis giving *giritus (as happened with parabola>*paraola>*paraula>*parola>palora, where palora is found on the Wiktionary), and then the "g" was lost? Or is ìritu completely unrelated to digitus?

In short, what are the detailed etymologies of Italian dito and Sicilian ìritu, and are they etymological cognates?

1 Answer 1


Meyer-Luebke, Romanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (1911):

  1. digitus „Finger".

Rum. deget, vegl. detco, ital. dito, log. didu, obwald. det, engad. daint, bergell. dant, friaul. det, frz. doigt, prov. det, katal. did, span., portg. dedo; mazed. dzeadit, maram. ǧedet, siz., kalabr. yiditu, yiritu, neap. yirȩtȩ; mazed. dzeadzit, megl. zezit, zest, istr.-rum. žežet. —

Plur. DIGITA: rum. degete, ital. dita, obwald. deta, afrz. doye, lyon. daya „Fingerbreite", prov. deda, vgl. astur. deda „Zehe" neben diu „Finger". —

Ablt.: röm., abruzz. ditone, lomb. didon „Daumen" RomF. XIV, 453; gen. dieta „Fingerschwamm" GStLLig. IV, 272; engad. dancler „Fingerhut" ; frz. doigtier „Däumling".

So yes, there was a metathesis of digitus > *giditus > yiditu > (y)iritu

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    Out of curiosity, the languages listed are: Romanian, ?? (vegl.), Italian, ?? (log.), ?? (obwald.), Engadina dialect (right?), ?? (bergell.), Friulano, French (right?), Provençal, Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese, Macedonian (right?), ?? (maram.), Sicilian&Calabrian, Neapolitan, Macedonian again, ?? (megl.), Istriot.
    – MickG
    Aug 7, 2017 at 15:35
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    obwald, Engadina and bergell. are dialects of Rhaeto-Romance languages (obwald. is Surselvian in more modern terminology, i could not identify bergell.) Aug 8, 2017 at 10:40
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    @MickG Vegl. is Vegliot, a dialect of Dalmatian (Veglia = Krk). Megl. is Megleno-Romanian, a Romance language spoken on the border of Greece and FYRO Macedonia. Mazed. is likely Macedo-Romanian, which is more commonly known as Aromanian, a Romance language spoken throughout the Balkans. Jul 11, 2018 at 15:15
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    archive.org/stream/romanischesetymo00meyeuoft#page/n23/mode/2up/… : Log = en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logudorese_dialect (Sardinian). Bergell = en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Val_Bregaglia in Switzerland. Maram is not in the index of abbreviations. Jul 11, 2018 at 15:20
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    Maram is probably Maramureșean, a northern Transylvanian variety of Eastern Romance. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maramure%C8%99_dialect Jul 11, 2018 at 17:53

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