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indo-european bear arktos icon

Arktos is Ancient Greek for a "bear". It is also related to an English word "Arctic", which derives from Ancient Greek "ἄρκτος (árktos)" meaning "having to do with the Great Bear (Ursa Major)" or "Northern lands (lands near Ursa Major)". That is why for an icon for this article I chose a polar bear.

The star name "Arcturus" means "guardian of the bear". The Celtic name "Arthur" means "Bear-like".

The name of a bear in Lithuanian is "lokys", "lacis" in Latvian, and "clokis" in Old Prussian, all those words mean "hairy, shaggy" and refer to the texture of bear's coat. In Polish that word is "kłaki" meaning "uncombed hair".

Old Church Slavonic name "медвѣдь (medvědĭ)" and all other Slavic names are showing the connection of a bear with honey. Polabian Drevani "graswuy" name for a bear could come from the verb "grasowat" meaning "to plunder".

Bulgarian "ме́чка (méčka)" and Serbo-Croatian "ме̏чка, mȅčka" is very similar to Lithuanian "meška", not only that but non Indo-European languages of Caucasus mountains like Abaza "мшвы́ (mš°ə́)", Adyghe "мышъэ (məŝă)" and Kabardian "мыщэ (məŝă)" show the same similarity of a word for a bear. Itelmen language of Kamchatka Peninsula "массу (massu)", Native American Munsee "mahkw", Unami "màhkw", Massachusett "mosq", Montagnais "mashkᵘ", Eastern Mari "маска (maska)", Western Mari "мӧскӓ (möskä)", Udihe "мафа (mafa)" and finally Russian "ми́шка (míška)" but this single language could not influence all those other languages and there is also Polish "miś". The origin of this word must lay in Eastern Hunter Gatherer or rather Ancient North Eurasian tribes that contributed to the Yamnaya DNA. This theory would make "meska" or "misa" the most certain original "Indo-European" word for a bear without any taboo behind it.


---> Basque: hartz

Hittite: ḫar-tág-ga-aš /ḫartakkaš/


Cornish: arth

Middle Welsh: arth

Welsh: arth

Old Breton: arth, ard

Old Irish: art ("bear, hero, warrior")

Gaulish: artos

Gaulish: Artio ("Celtic bear goddess")

Noric: 𐌀𐌓𐌕𐌄(𐌁𐌖𐌈𐌆) (Arte(budz))


Ancient Greek: ἄρκτος (árktos)

Greek: άρκτος (árktos), αρκούδα (arkoúda)


---> Estonian: karu

---> Livonian: karū

---> Votic: karu

---> Finnish: karhu

---> Ingrian: karhu

---> Karelian: karhu

---> Võro: karh, kahr


Sanskrit: ऋक्ष (ṛ́kṣa) ("a bear; a species of ape; Oroxylum indicum; bald; bare; hurting; pernicious; star; constellation; lunar mansion; cut, pierced")


Old Albanian: ar

Albanian: ari

Albanian: arushë ("female bear")

Khotanese: arrä


Avestan: arṣ̌a

Belarusian: Аршыца (Aršyca), Рша (Rša) ("name of a river; the other river next to that one is called Выдрыца "Vydryca" which means "Otter's river" suggesting that "Aršyca" means "Bear's river")

Belarusian: Арша (Arša), Орша (Orša) ("name of a city next to the river above")

Ossetian: арс (ars)

Mazanderani: ارش‎‎ (arš)


Old Armenian: արջ (arǰ)

Armenian: արջ (arǰ)

Breton: arzh


Latin: ursus

Anglo-Norman: urs

Aromanian: ursu, ursã

Romanian: urs

Romansch: urs, uors

Sardinian: ursu

Portuguese: urso, usso

Sicilian: ursu


Friulian: ors

Italian: orso

Occitan: ors

Venetian: ors, orso


Asturian: osu

Catalan: ós

Old Portuguese: osso, usso

Galician: oso

Old Spanish: osso

Walloon: oûsse

Spanish: oso


Gurani: ھەشە‎ (haša), حەشە‎ (ḥaša)

Zazaki: heş (ḥaš)


---> Komi-Zyrian: ош (oš) (from Scythian?)

---> Komi-Permyak: ош (oš) (from Scythian?)

---> Sumerian: az (?)

---> Akkadian: asu (?)

Sogdian: ašša

Mazanderani: اش‎ (aš)


Maharastri Prakrit: riccha

Old Marathi: रिहस (rihasa)

Garhwali: रिख (rikh)

Pali: accha

Gujarati: રીંછ (rīn̄ch, rīn̄č)

Hindi: रीछ (rīch, rīč)

Punjabi: ਰਿਛ (rich, rič)

Romani: rish

Baluchi: riš


Usüt: itr’ū

Kativiri: ic, īc

Ashkun: īc

Kalasha: ič̣

Phalura: iṇc̣

Torwali: ايݜ‎ (īṣ)

Pashto: يږ‎ (yëģ), يګ‎ (yëg), هيږ‎ (hiģ)


Waigali: oc

Kegal: ōc

Nishey: oc

Tregami: woc

Aragonese: onso

French: ours


Middle Persian: hls /hirs/

Northern Kurdish: hirç

Tajik: хирс (hirs)

Classical Persian: خرس‎ (hirs)


Wakhi: hers

Bakhtiari: خرس‎ (hers)

Persian: خرس‎ (hers)


Central Kurdish: ورچ‎ (wirç)

Säiċi, Ṣupū: ütr’ū̆³

Article published on the 30th of October 2018. Last updated on the 21st of January 2019.

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