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This Proto-Indo-European 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.



The word *wĺ̥kʷos is a thematic accented zero-grade noun perhaps derived from the adjective *wl̥kʷós (dangerous); compare Hittite 𒉿𒀠𒆪𒉿𒀸 (walkuwa-, something negative), Old Irish olc (evil), Sanskrit अवृक (avṛká, safe, literally not wild), वृकतात् (vṛká-tāt, savagery).[1] Stress shift onto the zero-grade is consistent with nominalized adjectives: compare Sanskrit कृष्ण (kṛ́ṣṇa, black antelope) from कृष्ण (kṛṣṇá, black). Alternatively, the word may be a derivative of the verbal root *welh₂- (to tear up).[2] In either case, the word's formation closely resembles that of *h₂ŕ̥tḱos (bear), another thematic accented zero-grade noun whose referent is an animal subject to cultural taboos.[3]

The Latin and Greek reflexes are unexpected (vs. expected Lat *volquus, Gk *álpos, according to the regular progression PIE * > Lat ol, Gk al). The Latin reflex is a borrowing from Osco-Umbrian (where PIE */kʷ/ regularly gave /p/), and both the Italic and Greek reflexes underwent metathesis, possibly as a taboo deformation meant to offset the fear usually associated with the animal. A deformation would explain the metathesis of */w/ and */l/, which also occurred in Greek (*wĺ̥kʷos*lúkʷosλύκος (lúkos)), and also explains the presence of delabialized /k/ per the boukólos rule (regardless of whether it is Proto-Indo-European already or only Proto-Greek). In both cases, the expected forms are so close to the word for “fox” – compare Latin volpēs, Ancient Greek ἀλωπός (alōpós), ἀλώπηξ (alṓpēx) – that avoiding conflation of the two words “wolf” and “fox” may have motivated either alteration or borrowing.

The Germanic reflex, with /f/ < */p/ < */kʷ/, underwent an unusual sound change, but the velar was retained in at least one form, i. e. Old Norse ylgr (she-wolf) (vs. Old English wylf, Middle High German wülpe < *wulbi) < *wulgʷī́ < *wl̥kʷíh₂s, which indicates neither taboo deformation nor derivation from some other root took place.

Armenian and Celtic have replaced the word with Proto-Indo-European *waylos (howler) due to taboo; compare Old Armenian գայլ (gayl), Middle Irish fáel.[4] (In Celtic, *kū (hound, dog) is also used to designate the wolf.)


*wĺ̥kʷos m

  1. wolf


nominative *wĺ̥kʷos
genitive *wĺ̥kʷosyo
singular dual plural
nominative *wĺ̥kʷos *wĺ̥kʷoh₁ *wĺ̥kʷoes
vocative *wĺ̥kʷe *wĺ̥kʷoh₁ *wĺ̥kʷoes
accusative *wĺ̥kʷom *wĺ̥kʷoh₁ *wĺ̥kʷoms
genitive *wĺ̥kʷosyo *? *wĺ̥kʷoHom
ablative *wĺ̥kʷead *? *wĺ̥kʷomos
dative *wĺ̥kʷoey *? *wĺ̥kʷomos
locative *wĺ̥kʷey, *wĺ̥kʷoy *? *wĺ̥kʷoysu
instrumental *wĺ̥kʷoh₁ *? *wĺ̥kʷōys

Derived terms[edit]


  • Proto-Albanian: *ulka-
  • Proto-Anatolian:
  • Proto-Balto-Slavic: *wilkás (see there for further descendants)
  • (possibly) Proto-Celtic: *ulkos (see there for further descendants)
  • Proto-Germanic: *wulfaz (see there for further descendants)
  • Proto-Hellenic: *lúkos
  • Proto-Indo-Iranian: *wŕ̥kas (see there for further descendants)
  • Proto-Italic: *lukʷos
    • Osco-Umbrian:
      • Latin: lupus (see there for further descendants)
  • Paeonian: Λυκκ- (Lukk-), Λυκπ- (Lukp-) (< *lukʷos)
  • Proto-Tocharian: *wä́lkʷë


  1. ^ A. Lehrman, “Anatolian Cognates of the PIE Word for ‘Wolf’”, Die Sprache 33 (1987), 13–18.
  2. ^ Tamaz Gamkrelidze & Vjačeslav Ivanov, Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans (Tbilisi: Tbilisi UP, 1984), 492.
  3. ^ Mallory, J. P.; Adams, D. Q., editors (1997), “*wolf”, in Encyclopedia of Indo-European culture, London, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, page 646
  4. ^ Martirosyan, Hrach (2010) Etymological Dictionary of the Armenian Inherited Lexicon (Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series; 8), Leiden, Boston: Brill, page 196.