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Type: lexical
Meaning: 'elk' (?)
Language: Celtic
Phonemic analysis: /alk/-
Attestation: alkouesi, alkouinos


Attested twice in Cisalpine Celtic as the first part of compound personal names; /k/ is shown by the Gaulish comparandum alcovindus (see alkouinos, cf. AcS: I 89, Lejeune 1971: 55 f.). Lejeune also compares kariialco (?) in an inscription from Var (Gonfaron); cf. also alca, alcanus, alciognus (Delamarre 2007: 210 et passim).

The element is connected with the elk-word by Dottin 1920: 225, KGP: 121, DLG: 38 (with further attestations in Gaulish and Celtiberian personal names and toponyms). Though a Celtic *alk- could not be inherited from PIE (*h₁élk̑o-, *h₁olk̑í- or *h₁l̥k̑o-), it may be a loan from a pre-consonant shift Germanic dialect *alkís. While the latter is notably the preform of PG *algiz as continued in North Germ. (ON elgr etc.), while West Germ. continues the barytone e-grade *élχa(n)-, it is assumed to also be the source of Lat. alcēs and Gk ἄλκη.

An alternative is PIE *h₂elk- 'ward off, defend', either inherited (though the root is not otherwise attested in Celtic) or again via Germanic (*alχ- 'temple', connected with the root in LIV2 s.v. *h₂elk-; but cf. Kroonen 2013 s.v. *alh-, who considers it a loan from a non-IE language). See also Rhŷs 1913: 20 ('shield'), Lejeune 1971: 56, n. 151 ('grey').

If the word is a loan from Germanic, it is unlikely to be inherited in Lepontic, but was rather passed on from Gaulish (see alkouinos).

David Stifter, Corinna Salomon


AcS Alfred Holder, Alt-celtischer Sprachschatz, Leipzig: Teubner 1896–1907.
Delamarre 2007 Xavier Delamarre, Noms de personnes celtiques dans l'épigraphie classique. Nomina Celtica Antiqua Selecta Inscriptionum, Paris: Errance 2007.
DLG Xavier Delamarre, Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise. Une approche linguistique du vieux-celtique continental, 2nd, revised edition, Paris: Errance 2003.
Dottin 1920 Georges Dottin, La langue gauloise. grammaire, textes et glossaire [= Collection pour l’étude des antiquités nationales 2], Paris: Klincksieck 1920.