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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 Tai loan, also Li (1976) concludes the Tai item is not a Chinese loan 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)