One of the Proto-Indo-European words for "son" appears to have been *suHnús (Skt. sūnú-, Goth. sunus, etc.). The word for "daughter-in-law" is reconstructed as *snusós (Lat. nurus, Gk. νυός, etc.). Could the latter be derived from the former?

Semantically, deriving "daughter-in-law" from "son" seems plausible enough. Formally, the two words are similar enough to make such a derivation tempting, but I don't see any straightforward way that it would work. Has anyone suggested such a derivation?

  • 7
    To the close-voter(s): I really don't see how this is a language-specific grammar and usage question. It's a question about Proto-Indo-European reconstructions, which surely are a matter of (historical/comparative) linguistics?
    – Draconis
    Dec 13, 2020 at 17:21
  • 1
    What exactly is the question? is it "are they?", is it "has anyone?", or is it "is there any evidence?".
    – user6726
    Dec 13, 2020 at 18:08
  • 1
    @user6726 Any or all of those, though I doubt the first is answerable.
    – TKR
    Dec 13, 2020 at 19:17
  • 3
    @Draconis this site is really plagued by inappropriate and gratuitous use of that particular closing reason.
    – LjL
    Dec 13, 2020 at 19:17

1 Answer 1


Re: "Has anyone suggested such a derivation"

Yes. Just a brief comment so far.

Looking at the relevant entries in NIL (Nomina im indogermanischen Lexicon), I can see they mention such a possible connection (etymology 2 out of 4 mentioned there), citing Kretschmer 1909 (p. 36, ft. 1) and Szemerényi 1977 (68ff).

The relevant passage from Kretschmer 1909:

enter image description here

As you can see, he mentions Pedersen 1893 (ff. 297), who - in his turn - disagrees with Bartholomae 1890 (v.2, p. 31, footnote 5), because Bartholomae 1890 wrote that "wie man *snusā auf *sunu-sā zurückfüren kann, verstehe ich nicht", mentioning in his turn J. Schmidt etc. etc. cf. Pedersen "die alte Etymologie"

The relevant passage from Szemerényi 1977:

enter image description here

enter image description here

Bartholomae, Christian. 1890. Studien zur indogermanischen Sprachgeschichte. Halle: Max Niemeyer.

Kretschmer, Paul. "Zur Geschichte Der Griechischen Dialekte." Glotta 1, no. 1 (1909): 9-59.

Pedersen, Holger. 1893. Die idg. Form des Wortes für “Schwiegertochter”. Beiträger zur Kunde der indogermanischen Sprachen, 18, 293-298.

Szemerényi 1977. Studies in the kinship terminology ... in Acta Iranica 16 (pp. 1-240), also available online dlib.nyu.edu/ancientworld/books/brill_awdl000004/1

Your Answer

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

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.