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Spoken in Central Asia Minor
Language extinction Fifth century
Language family Indo-European
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 ine
ISO 639-3 xpg

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Indo-European studies

The Phrygian language was the Indo-European language of the Phrygians, a people from Thrace who later migrated to Asia Minor.



Phrygian is attested by two corpora, one from around 800 BC and later (Paleo-Phrygian), and then after a period of several centuries from around the beginning of the Common Era (Neo-Phrygian). The Paleo-Phrygian corpus is further divided (geographically) into inscriptions of Midas (city) (M, W), Gordion, Central (C), Bithynia (B), Pteria (P), Tyana (T), Daskyleion (Dask), Bayindir (Bay), and "various" (Dd, documents divers). The Mysian inscriptions seem to be in a separate dialect (in an alphabet with an additional letter, "Mysian-s").

Part of ( about 70%) of Phrygian inscription in 'Midas City'.

The last mentions of the language date to the 5th century AD and it was likely extinct by the 7th century AD.[1] Some words can be reconstructed with the aid of inscriptions written in a script similar to the one used for Greek.


The Phrygian language was most likely close to Greek[2][3]. In most cases the Phrygian language used an alphabet originating with the Phoenicians.


Its structure, what can be recovered from it, was typically Indo-European, with nouns declined for case (at least four), gender (three) and number (singular and plural), while the verbs are conjugated for tense, voice, mood, person and number. No single word is attested in all its inflectional forms.

Many words in Phrygian are very similar to the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language (PIE). Phrygian seems to exhibit an augment, like Greek and Armenian, c.f. eberet, probably corresponding to PIE *e-bher-e-t (Greek ephere with loss of the final t).


A sizable body of Phrygian words are theoretically known; however, the meaning and etymologies and even correct forms of many Phrygian words (mostly extracted from inscriptions) are still being debated.

A famous Phrygian word is bekos, meaning "bread". According to Herodotus (Histories 2.2) Pharaoh Psammetichus I wanted to establish the original language. For this purpose, he ordered two children to be reared by a shepherd, forbidding him to let them hear a single word, and charging him to report the children's first utterance. After two years, the shepherd reported that on entering their chamber, the children came up to him, extending their hands, calling bekos. Upon enquiry, the pharaoh discovered that this was the Phrygian word for "wheat bread", after which the Egyptians conceded that the Phrygian nation was older than theirs. The word bekos is also attested several times in Palaeo-Phrygian inscriptions on funerary stelae. Many modern scholars suggest that it is cognate to Albanian bukë meaning "bread" and to English bake(PIE *bheHg-).[4] Serb pekar means baker.

Hittite, Luwian (both also had an impact on Phrygian morphology), Galatian and Greek (which also exhibits a high amount of isoglosses with Phrygian) all had an impact on Phrygian vocabulary.[5][6]

According to Clement of Alexandria, the Phrygian word bedu (βέδυ) meaning "water" (PIE *wed) appeared in Orphic ritual.[7]

Other Phrygian words include:

  • anar, 'husband', from PIE *ner- 'man';
cf. Gk: anḗr (ἀνήρ) "man, husband", Kur: nēr (nêr) "male", Arm: aner "brides father", Alb: njeri "man, person", Per nær "male animal"
cf. Arm: tik "leather skin",aytig "goat", Ger: Ziege "she-goat", Alb: dhi "she-goat", Wakhi tiγ "goat call", Ishkashmi dec "goatskin bag",Rom: Zeghe "leather skin", tzap"he-goat".
  • Bagaios, "Zeus", from PIE *bheh2gos "apportioner";
cf. Doric Greek: bagos (βάγος) "leader", Alb: bekoj "bless", Avestan: baga "good fortune, share", Skt: bhága "the apportioner", Toch A: pāk "share, part", Toch B: pāke "share, part".
  • balaios, 'large, fast', from PIE *bel- 'strong';
cognate to Gk: bélteros (βέλτερος) "better", Rus: bol'šój "large, great", Welsh: balch "proud", Kur: balaz (belez) "fast", Fr: bélier "ram"
  • belte, 'swamp', from PIE *bhel-, 'to gleam';
Gk: bálte (βάλτη), Alb. baltë "mud", Rom: baltă, Bulg: блато (blato) /'blatɔ/ (Old Bulg: балто (balto) /'balta/) "swamp",Rus: болото (boloto) /bə'lotɔ/ "swamp", Lith: baltas "white", Rus: бледный (bledny) /'blednəj/ and Bulg бледен (bleden) /bledən/ "pale".
  • brater, 'brother', from PIE *bhrater-, 'brother';
cognate to: Serb: 'brat', Gk: phrātḗr (φρᾱτήρ) "clansman, kin", Per: bratar, 'brother',Rus and Bulg: brat "brother", Kur: bra/bradar (bbra/brader) "brother","Rom: Frate "brother", Ger: Bruder "brother", Lat: frater "brother"
  • daket, 'does, causes', PIE *dhe-k-, 'to set, put';
cognate to Serb: 'dakle', Lat: facere "to do, make",Alb: ndjek "to follow" Gk: tithénai (τιθέναι) "to put, place, set" Kur: dakat (dekat/dikit) "does, causes", ",Rom: Aduce "cause"
  • germe, 'warm', PIE *gwher-, 'warm';
cognate to Gk: thermós (θερμός) "warm", Kur: germ "warm" , Per: gærm "warm", Arm: ĵerm "warm", Alb: zjarm "warm", "Rom: Jar "warm"
  • kakon, 'harm, ill', PIE *kaka-, 'harm';
cf. Gk: kakós (κακός) "bad", Alb: keq "bad", Lith: keñti "to be evil", Arm: qaq "excretion".
  • knoumane, 'grave', maybe from PIE *knu-, 'to scratch';
cognate to Gk: knáō (κνάω) "to scratch", OHG: hnuo "notch, groove", nuoen "to smooth out with a scraper", Lith: knisti "to dig", Arm: qnel,qnum "to sleep",Rom: scormoni "to dig, to scrtach"
  • manka, 'stela', Arm: manuk, mankakan "child, childish".
  • mater, 'mother', from PIE *mater-, 'mother';
cf. Gk: mḗtēr (μήτηρ) "mother", Serb: 'mater', Per: madar "mother", Alb: motër "sister" Kur: ma/mê "mother/female" ",Rom: Mama / Muma "mother", Lat: mater "mother"
  • meka, 'great', from PIE *meg-, 'great';
Gk: mégas (μέγας) "great"; , Arm: metz "great"; , Kur: mezn (mezin) "great" , Alb: i/e madh "big, great",Rom: Mare "great"
  • zamelon, 'slave', PIE *dhghom-, 'earth';
Gk: chamēlós (χαμηλός) adj. "on the ground, low", Srb/Cro: zèmlja and Bulg: zèmya/zèmlishte "earth/land", Lat: humilis "low".
  • tas, 'those'
Gk: tas "those"
  • ypsodan, 'above'
Gk: hypsóthen (ὑψόθεν) "above"
  • ke, 'and'
Myc. Gk: qe "and", Gk: te (τε)/kai (και) "and"
  • gelaros, 'sister in law'
Gk (Doric): gallaros "sister in law"
  • tios, 'god'
Gk: theós (θεός) "god" or thios (θείος) "celestial, divine",Rom: Zeu "god", Lat: deus "god"


  1. ^ Swain, Simon; Adams, J. Maxwell; Janse, Mark (2002). Bilingualism in ancient society: language contact and the written word. Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press. pp. 246–266. ISBN 0-19-924506-1. 
  2. ^ Brixhe, Cl. "Le Phrygien". In Fr. Bader (ed.), Langues indo-europeennes, pp. 165-178, Paris: CNRS Editions.
  3. ^ Roger D. Woodard - 'The ancient languages of Asia Minor', Cambridge University Press, 2008,ISBN-10: 052168496X,page 72,"Unquestionably, however, Phrygian is most closely linked with Greek"
  4. ^ The etymology is defended in O. Panagl & B. Kowal, "Zur etymologischen Darstellung von Restsprachen", in: A. Bammesberger (ed.), Das etymologische Wörterbuch, Regensburg 1983, pp. 186-7. It is contested in Benjamin W. Fortson, Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction. Blackwell, 2004. ISBN 1405103167, p. 409.
  5. ^ Brixhe, Cl. "Le Phrygien". In Fr. Bader (ed.), Langues indo-europeennes, pp. 165-178, Paris: CNRS Editions.
  6. ^ Woodard, Roger D. The Ancient Languages of Asia Minor. Cambridge University Press, 2008, ISBN 052168496X, pp. 69-81.
  7. ^ Clement. Stromata, 5.8.46-47.

See also

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