In the wikipedia page for Proto-Indo-European, it said that Proto-Indo-Europeans had "oral heroic poetry or song lyrics that used stock phrases such as imperishable fame and wine-dark sea". What are stock phrases that were very likely used by the Proto-Indo-Europeans that were used by Romans, Greeks, Nordics, Anatolians, etc.? This is an interesting thought because we can reconstruct not only the words, but also what they talked about.

3 Answers 3


I doubt there's much that can be reconstructed with any certainty

FWIW, wikipedia (on the pages for PIE society and mythology) gives the following:

  • *ḱléwos wéru "wide fame" [1] [2] [3] *
  • *ḱléwos meǵhₐ "great fame" [1] [2] [3] *
  • *ḱléuesh₂ h₂nróm "the famous deeds of men" [1] [2] [3] *
  • *dus-ḱlewes "having bad repute" [1] [2] [3] *
  • *ḱléwos ń̥dʰgʷʰitom "imperishable fame" [2] [3]
  • *h₁ōḱéwes h₁éḱwōs "swift horses" [4]
  • *h₂iu-gʷih₃ "eternal life" [4]
  • *sh₂uens kʷekʷlos "the wheel of the sun" [3]
  • *hₐnr̥-gʷʰen "man-killer" [5]
  • *(h₁e) gʷʰent h₁ógʷʰim "(he) slew the serpent" [1]


  1. Fortson, Benjamin W. (2004). Indo-European Language and Culture
  2. Mallory, J. P.; Adams, D. Q. (2006). The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World
  3. Beekes, Robert S. P. (2011). Comparative Indo-European Linguistics: An Introduction
  4. Watkins, Calvert (1995). How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics
  5. Mallory, J. P. (2006). "Indo-European Warfare". Journal of Conflict Archaeology

the four phrases marked with an asterisk after the citations here appear in a single sentence which is given those three citations, as such it's unclear which phrases are sourced from which work

Given the structure of these phrases though, it'd be hard to distinguish them from pure coincidence so I'd suggest a healthy dose of salt ("the wheel of the sun" seems to least likely to be a coincidence to me, as the metaphor is not trivial, unlike fame being "wide" or "great")


The best reference for that kind of issue is Calvert Watkins - How to kill a dragon.

  • 13
    And what does he say about stock phrases?
    – b a
    Oct 17, 2019 at 13:32
  • 4
    The book is quite thick and stacked with examples and comments. It's hard to summarize in a few lines. He compares plenty of formulas (which he calls merisms) across Indo-European languages, from Old Irish to Anatolian. The book is clearly a masterpiece of competence.
    – user23769
    Oct 17, 2019 at 21:12
  • 3
    I'm sure it is, but the question asked for stock phrases, not for a reference
    – b a
    Oct 17, 2019 at 22:17
  • 1
    Books are banned from internet chat rooms.
    – fdb
    Oct 18, 2019 at 13:29
  • 6
    References are fine and desired, but in order to source and substantiate an answer, in my opinion, not to replace one.
    – LjL
    Oct 20, 2019 at 15:30

I would add to the other answer the following phrases:

dhĝhi̯esterom dheĝhr - yesterday

dus menes - enemy (lit. bad mind)

dus dius - bad weather (lit. bad sky)

dems potis - household master

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