Connection with certain Indo-Iranian terms has been suggested:
- Pashayi wālī (perhaps < Proto-Indo-Aryan *abalikā-);
- Sogdian [script needed] (ʾmʾnk /āmang?/, “apple”), Munji [script needed] (āmenga), Yidgha [script needed] (amuno), Pashto مڼه (maná, “apple”), Shughni мӯн (mūn), му̊н (mū̊n, “apple”), all < Proto-Iranian *amarnaka- ~ *amarnā-, possibly reflecting earlier *abarna/ā- (via assimilation in nasality from *b..n to *m..n), ultimately from PIE *h₂ebe/olne/eh₂-.
There are several indications that the word for “apple” did not belong to the oldest layer of the Indo-European protolanguage:
- The word is limited to the West Indo-European languages
- It contains the phoneme */b/, which had marginal distribution in PIE
- It somewhat resembles the South European word for "apple" (PIE or pseudo-PIE *méh₂lom: Latin mālum, Ancient Greek μῆλον (mêlon)), which might suggest a substrate or wanderwort origin of both.
This all points that the word potentially entered the Indo-European speech continuum some time after the dissolution of the parent language.
- To be borrowed or at least connected to Semitic, with various propositions as to which term and root; the general mindset of these comparisons have been of a theoretical Atlantic language with Semitic affinities, or by marking overlapping mythological motifs surrounding apples suggesting some kind of cultural sharing. This is the viewpoint marked by Dozy, Vennemann, Blažek, and others, typically with connections to the root ʾ-b-l, often with Arabic or South Semitic/Ethiopian comparisons. See Arabic أُبُلَّة (ʾubulla, “figs pressed in a mass”, literally “a bulk or mass”) an obscure term, أُبُل (ʾubul, “dry herbage upon which camels fatten”). Alternatively, an extension of Orel and Stolbova's reconstructive work, connecting back to an Afro-Asiatic root for appendages, genitals, testicles, a mass, globe or round object, still found in Ethiopian languages, potentially later being extended to fruit by comparison. Separate from those featuring /ʔ/, potential suggestions with /ʕ/ are Arabic عَبْل (ʿabl, “a bulk or mass; applied to plant life, to be ripe for harvest or with full fruits, to be full of leaves and fruits”), Arabic عَبَال (ʿabāl, “Eglantine, Rosa rubiginosa, and similar plants; Rose Hip, bright red bulbous fruit, with a sweet or tart flavor like apples”), and Tigre ዖበል (ʿobäl, “Nile tamarisk, Tamarix nilotica”). To bolster this avenue and the distant relationship with Proto-Indo-European, the Laryngeal Theory reconstructs the /*h₂/ phoneme as a pharyngeal fricative consonant, basing comparison of /ħ/ and /ʕ/ as an a-coloring phonetic conditioner in contemporary languages, most notably Semitic languages.
- Gamkrelidze and Ivanov argue that the Hittite cognate is 𒊭𒈠𒇻 (ša-ma-lu /šam(a)lu-/, “apple”), which renders the original PIE form as *samlu (“apple”) or *(s)h₂eml (“apple”). The original cluster *-ml- remained as such in Anatolian, but yielded *-bl- in the other IE languages which otherwise typically finds the phoneme */b/ rare or non-existing. Such a reconstruction is not attested but in a few roots, such as the dubiously constructed root *bel-/*mel-. The initial /s/ would be an example of the Proto-Indo-European s-mobile, not being necessary to appear in other descendants. The Hittite word is however paired with the Hattic 𒊭𒀀𒊀𒀜 (ša-a-waₐ-at /šawat/, “apple, apple tree”) with the usual Hattic /t/ = Hittite /l/ correspondence, easily being a potential borrowing from Hattic or vice versa.
Germanic stem variants *apal- and *apla- point to the originally archaic ablauting paradigm.
- *méh₂lom (uncertain reconstruction and semantics)
- Proto-Balto-Slavic: *āˀbōl (see there for further descendants)
- Proto-Celtic: *abalom (see there for further descendants)
- Proto-Germanic: *aplaz (see there for further descendants)
- Proto-Italic: *abelnā
- Oscan: Abella (the name of a city in Campania which Vergil calls malifera, i.e. "apple-bearing", usually dismissed as a borrowing from a northern language though)
- Mallory, J. P.; Adams, D. Q., editors (1997) Encyclopedia of Indo-European culture, London, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, page 25f
- Kloekhorst, Alwin (2008) Etymological Dictionary of the Hittite Inherited Lexicon (Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series; 5), Leiden, Boston: Brill, →ISBN, page 712f
- Kroonen, Guus (2013) , “apla-”, in Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic (Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series; 11), Leiden, Boston: Brill, →ISBN, page 31f
- Dariusz R. Piwowarczyk (2014) , “The Proto-Indo-European root for ‘apple’ and the problem of comparative reconstruction”, in Studia Etymologica Cracoviensia, volume 19, issue 3, DOI:10.4467/20843836SE.14.009.1652, ISSN 2084-3836, page 161–167