I was wondering whether anyone knows the Proto-Indo-European equivalent of the Greek suffixes -ina (-ίνα) or -issa (-ισσα), or whether PIE has any different feminising suffixes that work similarly?

2 Answers 2


The main PIE feminine derivational suffix was -ih2: compare *deiu-o- 'god' with *deiu-ih2 'goddess' (Skt. devī).

Incidentally, this suffix is actually the indirect source of the Greek suffix -ssa: when added to a stem ending in -t or -k, you get e.g. *melit - *melit-ih2, which becomes in Greek *melitya and then melissa (Attic melitta). From cases like these the suffix was reinterpreted as being -ssa and extended to other types of stems (e.g. basilissa 'queen').


The feminine suffix in PIE is believed to be -i̯ea̯, though the ablaut grade in nominative is not certain. Traditionally reconstructed as -i̯ea̯ (because of long vowels in Latin), but Beekes hypothesizes that the Nominative form was -ia̯, while in other cases it could become -i̯ea̯. A form -a̯/-ea̯ also can be seen in some words.

The suffix is believed to originate from the suffix -ia̯ for collective number.

Some reconstructed PIE words with the suffix include

a̯oldhia̯ a dugout boat

a̯eua̯ia̯ grandmother

bhrea̯tria̯ brotherhood

colia̯ hiding place, dug-out

e̯rudhia̯ rust

deiu̯ia̯ goddess

e̯sntia̯ being

ma̯eghu̯ia̯ young woman

neptia̯ nephew (fem)

pie̯u̯eria̯ fat woman

preu̯ia̯ lady, mistress

potnia̯ lady

u̯eĝhia̯ track, road

  • Most animals had feminine form

a̯ena̯tia̯ duck

e̯ele̯nia̯ female elk

cu̯nmusia̯ dog-fly

melitia̯ honey-bee

plusia̯ flea

u̯lq̆ia̯ she-wolf

The suffix could be combined with other suffixes as well, to form constructs like -ikea̯/-ika̯/-ikia̯, -tria̯/-tra̯/-teria̯, -nia̯, -u̯ia̯ etc.

  • Zero grade is the nominative seems pretty clear, given Greek -ia and Skt. -i:.
    – TKR
    Aug 25, 2014 at 23:07
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    (In case it isn't clear to the OP, this is the same suffix I mentioned in my answer -- just a different transcription.)
    – TKR
    Aug 25, 2014 at 23:08
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    @Anixx: I've seen your PIE reconstructions in a bunch of threads and I'm always puzzled by what your notation represents. What are the 'inverted under-breves' meant to be? Semivowels? Do you not reconstruct laryngeals?
    – jogloran
    Aug 26, 2014 at 7:03
  • @TKR actually tha ablaut grade could be different per word, like the ablaut case in -os/-s, don't you think so?
    – Anixx
    Aug 26, 2014 at 11:34
  • Also, at of general curiosity, do you use a single source for your PIE facts or do they stem from multiple sources?
    – Olivier
    Aug 26, 2014 at 12:15

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