I wonder whether the PIE word for five in fact meant "fist", in other words, when people counted, they closed their fingers and when they obtained the closed fist, it was "five"?

Similarly to how the word for right hand gave the PIE word for ten, decm (from dec- "right-hand-side", decsnea̯ "right hand"). In other words, people started to count from their left hand and when they completed the right hand as well, they would have ten.

  • 6
    Five being derived from fist or finger, while far from settled, is a lot less contentious than ten being derived from hand, much less the right hand specifically.
    – Cairnarvon
    Nov 28, 2020 at 14:29
  • 2
    See the chart, which lists only English cognates and descendants. There are lots more, like Punjab.
    – jlawler
    Nov 28, 2020 at 19:30
  • As wiktionary already mentions "full", consider further pan- "all", from Gk. pas, from *peh2-? Maybe assume a sense package, and cp. words for glove. I know I went wild once trying to derive shoe (or even hand!) from Handschuh "glove". Now cp. Ne-Pali panja "glove; claw, paw; (card games) five" versus pyjama from Persian "leg garments".
    – vectory
    Dec 6, 2020 at 6:09


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.