Etymology of sanskrit roots miS and miil

Gunthard Mueller gm at ANTHOSIMPRINT.COM
Tue Apr 10 01:25:40 UTC 2001

(a) PIE had no word-initial variation of *m-/*v-.
(b) It is very hard to prove that Skt. vid- "know" ever fully lost
its linkage to "see". Grassmann and others list TWO vid- roots already
for Vedic, but cannot really separate the two. A very comparable
situation in Ancient Greek, where (*v-)oida (Grecists may forgive
my exotic spelling, but no HTML code for the u with the subscript...)
corresponds precisely to Skt. veda < *voida and also never really
lost its connection to the root (*v-)id- "see", as in eidon "I saw"
< *e-vid-om etc.
In German there has been a strong semantic shift towards "know",
e.g. Modern High German "ich weiß" (Dialects still have "woiß")
(originally a perfect, too!), "wissen" (root *vid-), but the old meaning
"see" is still there in semantic traces such as in "ge-wiss" ("certain",
i.e. clearly visible).
(I am skipping other IE branches.)

These parallels seem to point to an already PIE situation where "to see",
"to find", "to have seen/found" and "to know/be aware of"
are a semantic continuum covered by the single root *vid- and its
perfect formation *void-.
In other words: it seems the Skt. ambivalence was already there in PIE
and radiated out fairly similarly into other IE branches as well.


Gunthard Mueller
gm at

Periannan Chandrasekaran wrote:

> On Mon, 9 Apr 2001 07:17:08 -0700, Swaminathan Madhuresan
> <smadhuresan at YAHOO.COM> wrote:
> >Drav. m-/v- is common: maNNAn (malayalam) and vaNNAn (tamil) 'washerman'.
> >maNNAn < maNNutal 'to wash'
> >K. Zvelebil, Dravidian linguistics: An introduction, 1990, p.10
> >"Intervocalic and initial m and v are in contrast. However, they
> >also are in widespread alternation in the southern group of languages.
> >Doublets exist in many languages to a great degree; it is often
> ..
> >
> >Are the m-/v- word-initial changes common in IE?
> >For example, are European words like vision, video
> >related to miS,mIl? Or, they are independent??
> The answer to that question may be expected to have a bearing on the
> etymology of Skt. vid > veda.
> It is also worth drawing attention to similarity of  pairs of Skt. and
> Drav. roots related to vision, winking, protection and knowledge:
> Skt. miS                 Dr. vizi/mizi
> Skt. mIL                 Dr. vizi/miz/miL
> Skt. dRz                 Dr. teri
> Skt. pA (stem pAl)       Dr. pAr
> Skt. kSaN                Dr. kaN
> Skt. kaN                 Dr. kaN
>                          Dr. kA (to watch, protect)
> There is a systematic extension of the roots in both groups
> from vision to protection and knowledge.
> For example
> ------------
> vizi
> otl vizi vizi 02 1. eye; 2. eye-ball; 3. knowledge; wisdom
> vizi-ttal
> otl vizi-ttal vizi-ttal 01 1. to open the eyes; 2. to wake from sleep; 3.
> to watch; to be vigilant; to be wide awake; 4. to look at attentively; 5.
> to gaze, stare; 6. to shine; 7. to be clear; 8. to be alive
> -------
> teri-tal
> otl teri-tal teri-tal 01 1. to be seen, perceived, ascertained by the
> senses or mind; to become evident;2. to be understood, intelligible, clear;
> 3. to possess the power of sight; 4. to be conscious, as of one's guilt; 1.
> to investigate, test, ascertain, enquire; 2. to know, understand; 3. to
> select, choose; 4. to learn through lstening; 5. to sift
> ----------------
> Has the Skt. root vid "to know" has lost its original physiological sense
> of "to see"?
> Regards,
> P. Chandrasekaran.

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list