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 [script needed] (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 entered the Indo-European speech continuum some time after the dissolution of the parent language.
- To be borrowed or at least connected to Semitic, comparing 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”), and Tigre ዖበል (ʿobäl, “Nile tamarisk, Tamarix nilotica”). Beyond Semitic attestation, these ultimately go back to Proto-Afro-Asiatic roots such as *ʕabal- (“to be thick or bulbous”) found as well in Chadic including with the meanings to be with big fruits and to be in plenty; *ʕabVl- (“to fall or drop, applied to leaves and fruits”) attested in Chadic and Cushitic. To bolster this distant relationship, 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)
- Balto-Slavic: *āˀbōl (see there for further descendants)
- Celtic: *abalom (see there for further descendants)
- Germanic: *aplaz (see there for further descendants)
- Italic: [Term?]
- 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, page 31f