Proto-Indo-European/óm -

Etymology Perhaps from *ḱe.

Adverb *ḱóm

beside, near, by, with


kom Beside, near, by, with

Is the initial consonant a plain k or not?


Unfortunately the answer is: we aren't exactly sure.

The easy answer is that it had a *ḱ, as listed on Wiktionary. As sumelic points out, the AHD (and many other sources) don't mark *ḱ and *k separately for the most part: their PIE reconstructions are thus from a later stage, after the Centum-Satem Split.

However, the hard evidence either way is lacking.

The crucial difference between *ḱ and *k is that *ḱ turned into *s in the Satem languages, while *k did not. (In the Centum languages, the two merged together.) There is a reconstructed Proto-Slavic word *sъ(n) which could have come from *ḱom, but it could also have come from the well-attested root *sem "one, whole" (as seen in "simple")—and there's also a Proto-Slavic *kъ(n) "toward" which has no clear etymology.

Pokorny's dictionary lists *kom without the "palatal"; this work is fairly old (pre-laryngeal) but for the consonants generally quite solid. I don't have access to a more up-to-date resource yet but will check De Vaan and Beekes when possible.

For what it's worth, Pokorny also mentions Proto-Slavic *sǫdъ "judge" as an example, but this could be traced back to *sem just as easily. Ancient Greek ksyn "with" might be from either *kom or *sem also, but the ks is hard to explain either way, and I've never seen a convincing derivation of it; there might be an extra element prefixed on.

  1. Note that the AHD doesn't seem to use accents to mark the "palatovelars" in its head entries for PIE roots. For example, the entry for the root that is the ancestor of English he/his is given as

    Stem of demonstrative pronoun meaning "this. " Oldest form *k̑o‑, becoming *ko‑ in centum languages.

    So I don't think it's right to read the AHD's transcription "kom" as making a positive claim that the initial consonant in this root was "plain" rather than "palatal" k.

    Likewise, the AHD doesn't seem to transcribe PIE accent/stress, so the difference between "o" and "ó" doesn't seem like it necessarily represents a difference in reconstruction.

  2. I'm not an Indo-Europeanist, but based on the Wiktionary entry Reconstruction:Proto-Indo-European/ḱóm, it looks like the relevant data from the satem languages is Balto-Slavic:

    • Lithuanian: sù (with unexpected depalatalization of *ś)
    • Slavic: *sъ(n)

    (both of which apparently mean "with")

    As Draconis's answer says, it doesn't seem to be 100% clear that the Balto-Slavic "with" words come from the same source as Latin cum, etc. Using Google, I wasn't able to find any recent literature that presents arguments for or against this etymology (maybe someone else will know more). They do seem to be a close match semantically.

  3. As an additional complication, there seems to have been a Proto-Slavic preposition that Wiktionary gives as *kъ(n) with the meaning "to, towards". Wiktionary indicates that this would come from a PIE non-palatal velar or labiovelar stop ("From Proto-Indo-European *kom or *ku, *kʷom").

Greek (k)sun, which has a similar meaning, seems to have an unclear etymology.

  • Good answer, but the actual point isn't clearly stated anywhere—mind adding it at the top or bottom?
    – Draconis
    Aug 21 '18 at 5:18
  • @Draconis: I don’t know enough to be able to answer the question Aug 21 '18 at 5:19

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