Etymology of Bali, PiNDa

George Thompson gthomgt at COMCAST.NET
Thu Jul 17 01:32:59 UTC 2008

Dear George,

As I am sure that you know, these are much-discussed, controversial 
words.  The link between Skt bali and Skt bala is very tentative, for 
semantic reasons. Skt bali has no clear links with any IE words, and the 
IE connections of bala with Grk beltion/beltistos [better,best] or Latin 
de-bilis [powerless] are dubious.  Possible connections with Iranian 
words of similar phonic shape and meaning are also very dubious.  There 
is  much discussion of this in Mayrhofer's KEWA.  I do not have access 
to the relevant portion of Mayrhofer's EWA at the moment, but I doubt 
that there has been any significant change of view in EWA. 

Since both bali and piNDa appear to lack any Indo-European or 
Indo-Iranian cognates, it is reasonable to assume with Kuiper [Aryans in 
the Rigveda, 1991] that they both are loan-words from some known or 
unknown specifically Indic source, whether Dravidian or otherwise.  
Kuiper has shown that there are roughly 380 words in the Rgveda 
[already!] which appear to have no etymological kinship either in IE or 
in Indo-Iranian languages!  And the vast majority of these words cannot 
be linked to Dravidian as well!

It is certain in my view that the early Vedic Aryans did take some 
important elements of their religion from non-Aryans, but it also seems 
clear from Kuiper's evidence that much of this non-Aryan influence is 
also non-Dravidian.

Best wishes,

George Thompson

George Hart wrote:

> Two words that occur fairly commonly in early Tamil are pali (Skt.  
> bali) and piNTam (Skt. piNDa).  Both of these seem associated with  
> local practices -- not the sort of Vedic or Hindu religion mostly  
> borrowed from the North.  Neither seems to have an IE origin.  Turner  
> thinks bali might be connected with the word for "strength" and he  
> says piNDa, because of its many forms, is apparently a borrowing.   
> Neither of these words is in the DED, and apparently Emeneau and  
> Burrouw didn't think they were Dravidian.  I don't have Mayrhofer at  
> hand.  Is there anything further to be said about these words?  If  
> they are borrowed (from Dravidian?), it would indicate that the Vedic  
> Aryans took some of the important elements of their religion from non- 
> Aryans.  I would note that, unlike bali, piNTa does have a plausible  
> Dravidian etymology (DED 4183 -- piRi, squeeze; piNTi, oilcake; the  
> root is even in Brahui).  George Hart

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