I was wondering why Thai word for "snow" was sounding similar to Slavic word for "winter":

Thai: หิมะ [hì-má] "snow"
Ukrainian: зима [ˈzɪ-mə] "winter"
Polish: zima [ˈʑi-ma] "winter"

Also, "Himalaya" हिमालय [himā-laya] is commonly referred as "abode of the snow": हिम [himā] + आलय [ā-laya].

Looking in M.Vasmer's "Etymological dictionary of Russian language", I found that Proto-Slavic *zīmā is related to Ancient Greek χεῖμών. Also, the Latin word for "winter" is hiems.

Despite it seems evident that Slavic word is originated from PIE, I found no sources to cite. So my question is: is it true that Slavic "zima" derived from PIE words for "snow"?

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    In the USA there used to be a clear, sparkling alcoholic beverage named "Zima", meant to be drunk cold, that used ice and mountains in its advertising. As a Polish speaker this used to amuse me no end. Oct 19 '12 at 22:00
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    "Zima" means also "cold". E.g. "It's cold outside" is "Venku je zima" in Czech or "Vonku je zima" in Slovak.
    – Derfder
    Jul 10 '13 at 20:58
  • Zima is not derived from Greek! It is a native Slavic word.
    – Anixx
    Mar 26 '16 at 20:48
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    I'm sure I've heard the phrase zime piwo from an American of Polish ancestry.
    – OmarL
    Dec 15 '17 at 8:46

Pokorny Etymon 632 gives:

  • *g̑hei-/*g̑hi- 'snow; winter' > ON gamall 'old' L hiems 'winter', Gk χειμών kheimon 'storm, winter'

(Note that he implies but does not explicitly include the resultative suffix ****-(é)mn̥-** which leads to the complete forms shown.)

Pokorny does not list a Slavic reflex, but Derksen 2008 gives žiēmą ‘winter’ < *ǵheim

So per Pokorny this semantic field includes both snow and winter (and Derksen concurs) and so the meaning diverged in daughter languages.

(Note there there is also Pokorny Etymon *sneigu̯h- 'to snow; snow' > Eng snow L nivis 'snow' OCS снѣгѵ snĕgŭ 'snow' Gk νῐφάς niphas 'snow, flake' Pra 'siṇeha' 'snow' which is apparently unrelated, although I suppose it could be.)

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    Could you clarify what language Pkt means? That's an abbreviation I do not know.
    – OmarL
    Dec 15 '17 at 8:44
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    @Wilson I meant Prakrit, but I used the wrong abbreviation. Thanks for catching that. Dec 15 '17 at 12:52

Wiktionary gives Thai hima as having Sanskrit origin, which is directly cognate to the Slavic reflex. See this appendix for more reflexes. "Himalaya" also comes directly from Sanskrit (see that wiktionary entry). So yes, the Sanskrit reflex is squarely Indo-European.

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    Thank you 火星文. Yes, Thai word for "snow" has certainly derived from Sanskrit, but how do I prove that Proto-Slavic word for "winter" has the same origin? Formally, they are two different words.
    – bytebuster
    Oct 19 '12 at 19:01
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    Fascinating that 'zima' and 'Himalaya' actually have a common etymology! Oct 19 '12 at 21:57
  • @MarkBeadles Very this fact has inspired me to research.
    – bytebuster
    Oct 19 '12 at 22:03

I can't offer a proof, but for what it's worth, one of the standard Croatian dictionaries, Anić's Rječnik hrvatskoga jezika, gives the following etymology for Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian "zima":

prasl. i stsl. [proto-Slavic and Old Church Slavonic] zima (rus. [Russian] zimá, polj. [Polish] zima), lit. [Lithuanian] žiema ← ie. [Proto-Indo-European] *g'heym- (lat. [Latin] hiems, grč. [Classical Greek] kheȋma)"

I'm sure that any of the standard (etymological) dictionaries of any of the Slavic languages will give the same etymology.


As for the Thai, as Huoxingwen pointed out above, Wiktionary (insofar as it's to be believed) states that it's a Sanskrit loan, where the Sanskrit original is a reflex of our old friend *g'heym-. So, to cut a long story short, the Thai word for snow seems to be a loan from Sanskrit, and the Slavic word for winter and the Sanskrit word for snow both stem from the PIE root *g'heym-.

  • Thank you for your answer. It seems to be correct about "winter", but how is it connected to "snow"?
    – bytebuster
    Jan 1 '13 at 4:13
  • I guess it's only connected to "snow" insofar as PIE *g'heym- is connected to "snow" in some other Indo-European branch---the main Slavic root for "snow," which has already been mentioned above, comes from the PIE root *snoygwhos. Jan 1 '13 at 22:33
  • You've offered nothing regarding the most intriguing aspect of OP's question, which is about Thai. Jan 3 '13 at 4:20
  • @HStephenStraight I've added onto my answer, and it turns out to be nothing exciting---the Thai word is just a loan from Sanskrit, which is the very model of an Indo-European classical language... Jan 3 '13 at 8:10
  • And now I realise this is precisely the content of Huoxingwen's answer above. Jan 3 '13 at 8:32

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