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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.


Etymology 1[edit]

Most likely related to Turkish aslan (lion); Witczak (2013) cites many parallel cases of semantic spread between different exotic animals in Indo-European.[1] Compare Abkhaz а́слан (áslan, elephant).[2] If not, perhaps a deverbative from *sloniti (to lean against), relating to the medieval story of an elephant sleeping leaning on a tree.

Vovin (2011) proposes that Slavic slonъ reflects Old Chinese (/*slaŋ/, elephant), an etymology previously suggested by Ivanov (1977: 156–57) albeit with an incorrect Old Chinese reconstruction *sðaŋ. As Vovin notes, contact between Slavic and Old Chinese is out of the question, so the solution might arise from an intermediary source. Ivanov (1977:154) believes that the Chuvash forms слон (slon), сӑлан (sălan, elephant) are Russian loans, with the latter being called into question by Vovin on phonetic grounds. According to him, Russian /o/ (phonetically a diphthong [uo] with a mid-high syllabic element [o]) is unlikely to be borrowed as Chuvash low vowel /a/. The reverse, namely the borrowing of Bulgar slightly labialised /a/ as Slavic /o/ is more than likely. Chuvash сӑлан (sălan, elephant) is exactly the expected outcome of the Old Chinese *slaŋ with the insertion of ⟨ă⟩ break-ing the OC initial cluster /sl-/ and typical Bulghar shift of PT *ŋ to /n/. The presence of this word in Chuvash places proto-Bulghar speakers in the vicinity of Northern China no later than the first century BCE, because approximately after that date the initial clusters in Old Chinese underwent the process of simplification.[3]


*slȍnъ m[4][5]

  1. elephant
Further reading[edit]
  • Verweij, Arno (1994), “Quantity Patterns of Substantives in Czech and Slovak”, in Dutch Contributions to the Eleventh International Congress of Slavists, Bratislava (Studies in Slavic and General Linguistics), volume 22, Editions Rodopi B.V., page 526, 530

Etymology 2[edit]

According to Bulgarian Etymological Dictionary, the form is a doublet of *klonъ (offset, branch), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *(s)ḱel- (to crook, to bend).


*slonъ m

  1. offset, cornice
  2. shed, shelter
  3. screen
Derived terms[edit]
Further reading[edit]
  • Todorov T., editor (2010), “слон”, in Български етимологичен речник [Bulgarian Etymological Dictionary] (in Bulgarian), volume 7, Sofia: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, page 113


  1. ^ Krzysztof Tomasz Witczak. Two Tocharian borrowings of Oriental origin. Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hung. Volume 66 (4), 411–416 (2013). DOI: 10.1556/AOrient.66.2013.4.3
  2. ^ Ḳaslandzia, V. A. (2005), “а́слан”, in Аԥсуа–аурыс жәар / Абхазско–русский словарь [Abkhaz–Russian Dictionary] (in Abkhaz / Russian), volume 1: А–Н, Sukhum: Olma-press, →ISBN, page 168 of 713
  3. ^ Vovin, Alexander (2011) First and second person singular pronouns: a pillar or a pillory of the ‘Altaic’ hypothesis?[1], pages 271–272
  4. ^ Olander, Thomas (2001), “slonъ”, in Common Slavic accentological word list, Copenhagen: Editiones Olander: “b/c elefant (PR 137)”
  5. ^ Snoj, Marko (2016), “slȍn”, in Slovenski etimološki slovar, Ljubljana: Inštitut za slovenski jezik Frana Ramovša ZRC SAZU, →ISBN: “*slonъ̏”