Hindi उल्लू /ʊl.luː/ (derived from Sanskrit उलूक /uluːka/) appears superficially very similar to Latin ulula (both meaning "owl"). Are these words cognate?


One hypothesis is that these words are cognates, going back to an Indo-European word for "owl" (see also English "owl", German Eule, and so on).

Another hypothesis is that they're all onomatopoetic, imitating the sound of some species of owl, and weren't actually inherited from PIE. In this case it's "coincidence" rather than genetic relationship, in the same way that English "hoot" and Ancient Greek huhuzō ("to hoot") are a "coincidence": they're imitating the same sound in nature.

Most likely, in my opinion, it's a combination of the two: a word arose in PIE through onomatopoeia, and this onomatopoeia kept the form relatively consistent despite various sound changes (since the sound of an actual owl call would keep reinforcing the original form). If this is true, then yes, they are cognate.


Skt ulūka-, Latin ulula, Gothic ūla, English owl, and others, are Indo-European cognates.

  • Why the downvotes?
    – fdb
    Aug 26 '19 at 9:32
  • 1
    I would suspect that the downvotes are because you included no references to support your answer; a bare assertion, with no additional information that might allow the querent to do further research on xir own, is simply unhelpful. I dislike the answer by @Draconis for the same reason; links to references explaining the hypotheses would have improved the answer. Aug 26 '19 at 11:18
  • Perhaps @Draconis and I both assumed that this is common knowledge (among linguists). I did however check de Vaan's Latin etymological dictionary just to be sure that there is nothing new.
    – fdb
    Aug 26 '19 at 11:32
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    The very first sentence of the Tour says "Linguistics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional linguists and others with an interest in linguistic research and theory." (emphasis mine). That right there means that what may be "common knowledge" among linguists may not be (and likely isn't) "common knowledge" among all readers of this Stack. This is why references are (or should be) encouraged, and why an answer without references is likely to be downvoted. Aug 26 '19 at 11:53

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