Patrick C. Ryan proto-language at
Wed Aug 11 23:01:06 UTC 1999

Dear Paolo and IEists:

 ----- Original Message -----
From: Paolo Agostini <pagos at>
Sent: Sunday, August 08, 1999 2:46 PM

Paolo wrote:

> The Romans called _idus_  (from a former _*eidus_) the 15th day of the
> months of March, May, July, and October and the 13th day of the other
> months. If memory serves me well, it was the lexicographer Hesychius of
> Alexandria who wrote in the 5th century "the verb _iduo_ originates from the
> language of the Etruscans, from whom the Romans learned many religious rites
> and customs, and it means _to divide_ because the _ides_ divide the months
> in two halves". In the 5th century though Etruscan was a dead language since
> three centuries at least.

> At the end of last century there were some scholars who maintained that the
> word originated from IE _*idh_ "to be bright" (of the moon), yet the idea
> was soon abandoned. Among the IE languages, the base occurs in Latin only.

Pat comments:

Paolo, you may have another root in mind but IE *(a)i-dh- occurs in several
IE languages: Old Indian inddhe'; Greek ai'tho:; OHG eit, etal.

Paolo continued:

> The word is very likely a Semitic borrowing, from the base `WD
> ('ayin-waw-daleth) the meaning of which is "to return (every year or
> periodically); to repeat (cycle, period); to count, reckon", cfr. Aramaic
> _'yidb'_ "festival";  Syriac _'eyda'_ and _'eyada'_ "ceremony, usage";
> Hebrew _'yid_ "Idolatrous festival" and _'ed_ "monthly courses,
> menstruation";  Arabic _'id_ "festival" and _'iddah_ "period of time",
> _'adda_ "he counted/reckoned", _'adad, 'idad, 'idda_ "number", _`a:da_
> "custom, tradition". There is also a secondary form of the same verb, i.e.
> 'TD ('ayin-thaw-daleth) "he counted/reckoned" from which Latin forms like
> _ituo_ might derive.

Pat comments:

Yes, $-w-d is a little strange in producing so many derivatives with -i/y-;
and probably $(a)id- would have been heard by Romans as id- but is it not a
little complicated to assume that the medial -w-, which shows up in few of
the Arabic derivatives, somehow gets metathesized to final position to
produce I:du:s rather than *I:dus?

Paolo continued:

> According to the meaning of the Semitic base, the Latin word _*eidus_ simply
> meant "a period of time; a counted number of days; a day that returns every
> month".

Pat comments:

But what are the characteristics of this particular day/night: presumably,
it was the time of the full moon. Therefore, I believe it is probably a
denominative -wo' stem of *oid-, 'swell', producing the zero-grade *id- =
*idwo'-, 'swollen'.

Idus is a particular day first, and the period between full moons seems a
secondary usage.


As for Etruscan *itu-, 'divide', I believe it is only attested in a Latin
gloss; and we know these were not always reliable. For a Latin *ituare (does
it exist? my dictionary is not large {?} enough to include it), it would
seem to me that IE *ai-to-, 'portion', would provide a simpler source.


PATRICK C. RYAN (501) 227-9947; FAX/DATA (501)312-9947 9115 W. 34th St.
Little Rock, AR 72204-4441 USA WEBPAGES: and PROTO-RELIGION: "Veit
ek, at ek hekk, vindga meipi, nftr allar nmu, geiri undapr . . . a ~eim
meipi er mangi veit hvers hann af rstum renn." (Havamal 138)

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