Wednesday, 8 February 2017

What remains

This is 7,000-year-old skeleton found during excavations in Molavi Street in the south of Tehran, Iran.

So 7000 years ago, there was a person living in the area of today's Tehran. Then he died and was buried, and the only thing that today remains of this person are his bones, his skeleton.

This is a carcass of a dead animal. Scavengers have almost stripped all the flesh and soft tissue and soon only bones will remain...

These skeletons are in English known as "remains". In Serbian they are known as "ostaci" meaning "remains".

In my previous post "The one who stayed" I talked about the etymology of the PIE root "*gʰóstis" which means at the same time foreigner, guest and enemy. I proposed that this root is actually a construct "ko, go" + "osta" = "who, which" + "stays, remains".

It just occurred to me. Is it possible that the Serbian word "kost" meaning "bone" comes from the same root "osta" meaning "stay, remain"? The word "kost" would then be a construct "ko,go" + (je) + "osta" = what + (is) + left (after the soft body tissue is stripped off by scavengers, worms, bacteria)...Just like skeletons (bones) on the above pictures. Kost (bone) is what stays, remains (ko, go + osta).

Also if you kill an animal, roast it and eat it, you will be able to eat everything but the bones. They will be the ones that stay, remain, "ko + je + osta" = kost...

If you put yourself in the shoes of our ancestors who developed the original language which we today call Proto Indo European. They would have seen bones remaining after meals, after wild animal kills, after burials...Wouldn't it have been logical for them to have started using the expression "that which remains" for that which remains from the dead animal or human: ko je osta = kost = bone?

If we look at the official etymology of the Serbian word "kost" we see that it comes from Proto-Slavic "*kostь", from Proto-Indo-European "h₃ost, h₃ésth₁".

The fact that we have two alternative PIE roots shows that we are not really sure about the root. The thing is that these two roots are actually both constructs. The first one "h₃ost" comes from ko, go + osta = what stays, remains. The second one "h₃ésth₁" comes from koje + osta = ko + je + osta = what + is + remaining, the remains

Here are all the cognates derived from these PIE roots. You can see that all of them can be built using root "osta" meaning "stay, remain".

Albanian: asht, ahstë -- osta = remain
Hittite: ḫastāi -- ko, go + osta + je = that which + remain + is 
Luwian: ḫāš -- ko, go + os(ta) = that which + remain
Old Armenian: ոսկր ‎(oskr) -- osta ko,ga = ost(k)ga = os(k)ga = remanin + that which
Armenian: ոսկոր ‎(oskor) -- osta ko,ga = ost(k)ga = os(k)ga = remanin + that which
Old Irish: asna (< *h₂estnijo) -- ko, go + ostane = that which + remani
Irish: easna -- ko, go + ostane = that which + remani
Scottish Gaelic: asna -- ko, go + ostane = that which + remani
Welsh: asgwrn (< *astkornu), ais (< *astū < *h₂estōn), asen (< *astonion) -- ostane + on = remain + he, it
Ancient Greek: ὀστέον ‎(ostéon) -- osta + je + ono = remain + is + it
Greek: οστό ‎(ostó) -- ostao = remains
Latin: os -- same like Luvian, shortened osta = remain
Sanskrit: अस्थि ‎(ásthi) -- ostaje = osta + je = remain + is
Hindi: अस्थि ‎(ásthi) -- ostaje = osta + je = remain + is
Telugu: అస్థి ‎(asthi) -- ostaje = osta + je = remain + is
Urdu: استھ ‎(ásthi) -- ostaje = osta + je = remain + is
Avestan: asti -- ostaje = osta + je = remains + is
Kurdish: hestî -- ko, go + ostaje = ko, go + osta + je = that which + remain + is
Persian: است ‎(ast), استخوان ‎(ostoxân) -- osta = remain
Kamviri: âṭi -- ostaje = osta + je = remain + is
Tocharian B: āy (plural āsta) -- osta =  remain

This PIE root etymology fits perfectly with the etymology of the PIE root "*gʰóstis". Actually these two etymologies support each other, by confirming the original proposed logic behind the development of the PIE root "*gʰóstis" actually makes a lot of sense, because it also explains the development of the PIE root(s) "h₃ost, h₃ésth₁"...

This is quite remarkable don't you think? 


  1. Wonder if this has anything to do with the root of the word "ghost"? As in, a spirit that remains after death? A visitor hanging around the house?

  2. Wonderful! Thank you! Trying to learn a few P.I.E. words today!