There are some unique Indo-European words in Ossetian that do not exist in Avestan or Persian, but do exist in Tocharian, Germanic or BS.

Ossetian ӕвзист "silver", has BS cognates("star"), both in Lithuanian and Slavic.

Ossetian лӕсӕг "salmon", has BS, Tocharian and Germanic cognates.

Ultimately, I certainly don't think that Ossetian and BS are directly genetically related, nor that Ossetian's predecessor - Alanic would be a transition between BS and main Iranian (I'd rather consider Daco-Thracian or Cimmerian for this transitive position). I just wonder about the etymology of these two words and think that Ossetian borrowed them from other Indo-European languages.

  • Another word I recently encountered is cӕdӕ "a pair of bulls", a cognlate to Slavic četa en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Reconstruction:Proto-Slavic/%C4%8Deta
    – Anixx
    Aug 9, 2022 at 9:12
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    @Anixx The Osseto-Slavic isogloss can be explained by the Alanic migration to Central Europe (Alanic-Slavic borrowing). But Osseto-Baltic and Osseto-Tocharian isogloss could only be archaic IE/Early BS/Para BS-Ossetian borrowing, and this connection needs to be older. Aug 9, 2022 at 9:21
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    Did some Alans return to Ossetia after starting their migration? I always had the impression that they ended up in Northwestern Spain and were assimilated there by the local population. Aug 9, 2022 at 10:05
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    @jk - Reinstate Monica Ossetians were Alans who remained in North Caucasus, while the other part of Alans who migrated westward might eventually be absorbed by Slavs. Thus, Iranian loanwords in Slavic and even Germanic are well explained. However, Ossetian cognates with Tocharian and Baltic still remain a problem. Aug 9, 2022 at 10:12

1 Answer 1


First, "do not exist" in Avestan is probably a too strong statement. It is better to think of them as "are not attested" in the corpus of surviving Avastan text.

Second, Ossetian is not a direct descendant of Avestan or Old Persian, but descends from an unattested Old Eastern Iranian language. It is an Eastern Iranian language like Pashto and others, despite its geographical location in the West (for an Iranian language).

I think it is perfectly possible that the cognates are directly inherited from Proto-Indogermanic. To prove that they are loans an exception from the expected sound laws needs to be demonstrated (I'm not an expert in Iranian languages, I cannot judge if such an exception exists for the words in question).

  • Ӕвзист and лӕсӕг do not have any cognates in Iranian or Indo-Aryan, and the latter is in fact restricted to the Digor language/dialect. Both are, however, well attested in Balto-Slavic This speaks strongly against their being Iranian.
    – fdb
    Aug 9, 2022 at 16:57
  • @fdb In my opinion, Proto-Iranian was not very extensive and located in Andronovo in Central Asia, as well as Proto-Indo-Aryan. The Srubna languages further west are probably closer to BS, at least lexically. Eventually, Eastern Iranian (or Northern Iran) tribes that moved west absorbed the Srubna words, which finally survived to Ossetian. Other assumptions are not so good, because no Balto-Slavs migrated to steppe before Slavic expansion. Aug 9, 2022 at 17:26
  • @fdb: I think this is not really an argument because I am aware of a famous counter-example (a kinship term not attested in the Germanic languages but in a dialect somewhere in Scandinavia). Unfortunately I have forgotten the details, so I asked a question about it here: linguistics.stackexchange.com/q/44978/9781 Aug 10, 2022 at 8:31
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    @jk-reinstate-monica: Just now I studied the sound laws of Iranian and Ossetian, then found that both words match. The ḱs of PIE becomes š in Proto-Iranian, and depalatalizes to s in Ossetian. So PIE loḱs-os- may become Ossetian лӕсӕг. Aug 10, 2022 at 12:05
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    Meanwhile, PIE *ǵʰ corresponds to PBS *ź, Lithuanian ž and Eastern Iranian/Latvian z. Aug 10, 2022 at 12:24

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