4 Jun 2008

On the origin of the Etruscan word lautun

Just a quick note on this puzzling Etruscan word, lautun, translated as 'family' by Larissa Bonfante[1]. I notice that Douglas Kilday has beat me to the punch on the etymology of the word which I'm currently obsessed with at the moment. He has more or less made the same observations on the sci.lang forum that I also have: that it's a borrowed term, that it's not from Italic, and that it's nonetheless surely derived from a word based on the root *h₁leudʰ- from an Indo-European language[2].

So far, unless anyone can think of anything better, I'm convinced that Proto-Germanic is the likeliest the source. Proto-Germanic already contains the word *leudiz 'people' so it would be nice if I could find a word that looks like **leudōn lying around. So far, I haven't found anything and yet I can't help but think there's got to be a clue here somewhere.

[1] Bonfante/Bonfante, The Etruscan Language: An Introduction (2002), 2d ed., originally published in 1983, p.217 (see link).
[2] Douglas G. Kilday, sci.lang: "Some non-italic IE loanwords in Etruscan" (Dec 06 2002 10:46).


  1. The first thing i thought when i saw this was: Hey, have a look on the different noun forms in Proto-Germanic, so i did.
    **leudōn may be the plural genitive form of *leudiz according to the list here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proto-Germanic#Nouns

  2. Clever! However, if this is so, then it would be *leudijōn instead based on the example of *gastiz and it would literally mean "of the peoples". I'm not sure why "people" here would need to be pluralized (although in English slang, we do have a similar development: peeps "friends" < people + plural -s). All in all, I like the idea! I'll have to ponder on this. Good job!

  3. Ah! I read wrong in the list, but it's possible the correct word anyway (somehow).

  4. I wonder whether lautn has anything to do with Indo-European *h1leudh- at all. The o-grade supposed by au is irritating as we seem to have no clear o-grade nouns for this root and the n-suffix remains unaccounted for as well. As long as nobody demonstrates a clear, reliable reflex of *h1loudh-en- or *h1loudh-no-, lautn remains a chance resemblance to me.