Of uncertain origin.
The central Indo-European word for "fish" *dʰǵʰu- (“fish”) (yielding Ancient Greek ἰχθύς (ikhthús), Lithuanian žuvìs, Old Armenian ձուկն (jukn)) would have given Proto-Slavic v-stem **zy (genitive **zъve, accusative **zъvь), and was, as the theory goes, avoided by fishermen due to taboo, or because it would've sounded too similar to the verb *zъvati (“to call”).
Some of the proposed etymologies include:
- From Early Proto-Slavic *rų̄bā, which is then comparable to *rębъ (“speckled, motley, variegated”), with fish scales being the semantic connection. For a similar development compare *pьstry (“salmonid fish”), originally "the colorful/variegated one" < *pьstrъ (“variegated”).
- From the Early Proto-Slavic root *ūr- (“water, swamp, pond”) which is attested in Baltic languages, with a rare metathesis and the suffix *-ba for forming abstract nouns.
** The second form occurs in languages that contract early across /j/ (e.g. Czech), while the first form occurs in languages that do not (e.g. Russian).
- East Slavic:
- South Slavic:
- West Slavic:
- Gluhak, Alemko (1993) Hrvatski etimološki rječnik (in Serbo-Croatian), Zagreb: August Cesarec, page 526
- Vasmer, Max (1964–1973), “рыба”, in Etimologičeskij slovarʹ russkovo jazyka [Etymological Dictionary of the Russian Language] (in Russian), translated from German and supplemented by Trubačóv O. N., Moscow: Progress