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Usually regarded as a loanword from some other non-Semitic or Afro-Asiatic language. Has been compared to Middle Egyptian pꜣ-ꜣb(w) (with the Egyptian definite article prefixed) from Proto-Afro-Asiatic *leb- (elephant). Blažek 1998 postulates Proto-Semitic *pirl-, with assimilation r-l → r-r or r-l → l-l, yielding Akkadian forms 𒁉𒊒𒌝 (pīru) and 𒉿𒄿𒇻 (pīlu).

Compare Aramaic ܦܝܠܐ(pīlā), Old Armenian փիղ (pʿił), Persian پیل(pīl), Sanskrit पीलु (pīlu) and Arabic فِيل(fīl). From the same Afro-Asiatic root also possibly the first part of Ancient Greek ἐλ-έφας (el-éphas) (whence also English elephant) and Latin eb-ur (ivory).


IPA(key): /piːru/


𒄠𒋛 (pīru) [AM.SI]

  1. elephant
    • c. 2nd millennium BCE, Proverbs, Collection 5, Segment A, Proverb 5.1[1]:
      am-si /ni2-te\-a-ni /maš2\-[anše dšakkan2-ka]
      niĝ2 ĝe26-gin7-nam nu-ĝal2 na-[ab-be2-a]
      an-ti-ri2-gu7mušen-e mu-/na\-[ni-ib-gi4-gi4]
      u3 ĝe26-e igi-te-en-ĝu10-še3
      za-a-gin7-nam al-dim2-me-en-/e-še\
      The elephant spoke to himself: "Among all the creatures of Šakkan, the one that can defecate like me has yet to be created!" The wren answered him: "But I, in my own small way, can defecate just as much as you!"


  • Old Persian: pīruš "ivory"
  • Elamite pi-ri-um-na "from ivory"
  • Middle Persian: pyl (pīl)