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This Proto-Sino-Tibetan entry contains reconstructed words and roots. As such, the term(s) in this entry are not directly attested, but are hypothesized to have existed based on comparative evidence.



  • Proto-Sino-Tibetan: *ngwjəɣ (Coblin, 1986)
    • Proto-Tibeto-Burman: *ŋwa (Matisoff, STEDT; Benedict, 1972; Weidert, 1987; LaPolla, 1987); *ngwa(*B) (Coblin, 1986)

Some have noticed a similarity with Proto-Indo-European *gʷṓws (cattle) (whence English cow, Latin bōs) (Koenraad, 1999; Chang, 1988).

Compare Thai งัว (ngua) / วัว (wua, bullock, cow), Lao ງົວ (ngua, bullock, cow). Because of the restricted geographic distribution of this Tai etymon, Benedict (1972) suspects Chinese to be a loan from Tai: Li (1976) concludes the Tai item is not a loan from Chinese as it is not found in northern Tai dialects. The relationship between this PST root and the Tai comparanda remains unclear.

Bos taurus indicus (zebu).



  1. cattle, ox


  • Old Chinese: /*ŋʷə/ (B-S), /*ŋʷɯ/ (ZS) ("cattle")
    (in the oracle bone script) 牛-oracle.svg
    • Middle Chinese: /ŋɨu/

         Japanese:   (ぎゅう, ​gyū)
            Korean:   (, u)
            Vietnamese:  ngưu

         Sichuan Yi:   (nyu, cow, ox (for traditional calendar dates))

      • Modern Mandarin
        • Beijing: (niú, /ni̯oʊ̯³⁵/)
      • Cantonese
        • Guangzhou: /ŋɐu²¹/
      • Wu
        • Shanghai: (ȵiɜ²³)
    • Min
      • Min Nan
        • Taiwan: (gu²⁴ (colloquial), giu²⁴ (literary))
  • Lolo-Burmese-Naxi
    • Lolo-Burmese
      • Burmish
      • Loloish
        • Northern Loloish
          • Yi (Liangshan): ꆈꑌ (nuo nyi, beef cow), ꒈꑌ (yyx nyi, water buffalo), ꑍꃀ (nyip mop, cow)