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This Proto-Slavic 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.



From Proto-Balto-Slavic *medu-ēdis, equivalent to *medъ (honey) +‎ *(j)ěsti (to eat), hence literally the epithet "honey-eater". Cognate with Sanskrit मध्वद् (madhv-ád-, eating sweetness) (RV I 164,22). Presumably came into use as taboo avoidance of an earlier word, possibly something like *rьstъ (compare Lithuanian irštvà (bear's den), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂ŕ̥tḱos). Similar proposed examples of linguistic taboo for 'bear' are Proto-Germanic *berô (the brown one), Latvian lācis (stomper, pounder), Old Irish math (the good one).

There is a folk etymology from *medъ and *věděti (to know, to manage), hence "one who knows honey" or "honey master".


*medvě̀dь m[1][2]

  1. bear


Reconstructed as a jo-stem in Derksen 2008, since no descendants reflect an i-stem. But may have originally been an i-stem based on the lack of iotation of the final *d.

Related terms[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Černyx, P. Ja. (1999) , “медве́дь”, in Istoriko-etimologičeskij slovarʹ russkovo jazyka [Historical-Etymological Dictionary of the Russian Language] (in Russian), volume 1, 3rd reprint edition, Moscow: Russkij jazyk, page 519
  • Vasmer, Max (1964–1973) , “медве́дь”, in Etimologičeskij slovarʹ russkovo jazyka [Etymological Dictionary of the Russian Language] (in Russian), translated from German and supplemented by Oleg Trubačóv, Moscow: Progress
  • Trubačóv, Oleg, editor (1992) , “*medvědь”, in Etimologičeskij slovarʹ slavjanskix jazykov [Etymological dictionary of Slavic languages] (in Russian), volume 18, Moscow: Nauka, page 65


  1. ^ Derksen, Rick (2008) , “*medvě̀dь”, in Etymological Dictionary of the Slavic Inherited Lexicon (Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series; 4), Leiden, Boston: Brill, →ISBN, page 306: “m. jo (a) ‘bear’”
  2. ^ Olander, Thomas (2001) , “medvědь”, in Common Slavic accentological word list, Copenhagen: Editiones Olander: “a (PR 132)”