Etymological Dictionaries: Latin & Sabellic.

It’s been over a year since Matthew Scarborough of Consulting Philologist did one of those wonderful posts where he lays out all the resources available for a branch of Indo-European (see this LH post for an introduction, and Matthew’s roundup page is here); he explains the hiatus thus:

My progress on this series of blog posts aimed at introducing the main etymological resources for the various branches of Indo-European got somewhat halted due to my full-time teaching commitments, writing up four lecture courses that I’d never taught before at MacEwan University over course of the last academic year. As the last academic year wrapped up this spring, the additional complication of the pandemic has resulted in my summer teaching contract also being cancelled, which on the one hand gives me time to pursue some of my other unfinished projects such as my book on the Aeolic dialects of Ancient Greek and this blog series, but on the other hand, albeit without a current source of income.

(If you feel like making a contribution to his online tip-jar, he’s got a link to his Ko-fi account.) This time he’s doing the Italic branch (he’ll follow up with a post on Romance), and it’s got the usual through discussion of the good and bad points of Walde & Hofmann, Ernout & Meillet, and de Vaan, inter alia, with plenty of images; he sums up his take on them in this paragraph:

So, you may be asking, what do I (me, the author of this blogpost) do when I need to find the etymology of a given Latin word? Well, generally when I consult these works, I usually go to de Vaan’s Etymological Dictionary of Latin first, since his work is up-to-date, and generally reliable in the vast majority of cases. I will usually then further check de Vaan’s dictionary against Ernout & Meillet’s work for a second opinion. I only really use Walde & Hofmann if I am doing serious work on the history of a particular word and need references to older literature. If you’re not a specialist in Indo-European, generally de Vaan’s Etymological Dictionary of Latin is reliable, but it is worth bearing in mind that there are occasional Leiden school oddities of reconstruction that do exist that affect etymological interpretations, and because of this it’s still worth checking against the others.

And of course there’s a whole section on Sabellic (mainly Oscan and Umbrian), which I know shamefully little about. I love these posts and look forward to more!


  1. Thanks Steve! I always appreciate your support!

  2. A shortcoming of de Vaan’s etymological dictionary is that it completely excludes loanwords, so that if you look up oliva, machina, histrio, or raeda you will find no entry at all. I think this is historically because it, along with the other Leiden dictionaries, was originally conceived as part of a single “IE etymological dictionary” project which only cared about PIE words and their direct reflexes in the daughter languages, but it’s an unfortunate omission.

  3. There are two resources for Latin and Greek that I often consult but that I was unable to find in the lists assembled at Consulting Philologist–these two resources are useful supplements to Ernout-Meillet and Chantraine.

    Ernout and Meillet’s Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine is supported by ongoing updates from the team of the Chronique d’étymologie latine, published at irregular intervals in the Revue de philologie, de littérature et d’histoire anciennes. Some of the instalments are occasionally available for free:

    Similarly, Chantraine’s Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque (DÉLG) is supported by updates from the team of the Chronique d’étymologie grecque:

    These are also published in the Revue de philologie, de littérature et d’histoire anciennes. The latest edition of DÉLG, from 2009, incorporates the first 10 instalments of this series, if I remember correctly:

    Some of the instalments of this series are available free online:

    Others are available at minimal cost:

  4. Thanks, those are very useful additions!

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