This Proto-Indo-European entry contains reconstructed terms and roots. As such, the term(s) in this entry are not directly attested, but are hypothesized to have existed based on comparative evidence.



Alternative reconstructions




The word *wĺ̥kʷos is a thematic accented zero-grade noun perhaps derived from the adjective *wl̥kʷós (dangerous); compare Hittite 𒉿𒀠𒆪𒉿𒀸 (walkuwa-, something negative), Old Irish olc (evil), Sanskrit अवृक (avṛká, safe, literally not wild), वृकतात् (vṛká-tāt, savagery).[1] Stress shift onto the zero-grade is consistent with nominalized adjectives: compare Sanskrit कृष्ण (kṛ́ṣṇa, black antelope) from कृष्ण (kṛṣṇá, black). Alternatively, the word may be a derivative of the verbal root *welh₂- (to tear up).[2] In either case, the word's formation closely resembles that of *h₂ŕ̥tḱos (bear), another thematic accented zero-grade noun whose referent is an animal subject to cultural taboos.[3]

The Latin and Greek reflexes are unexpected (vs. expected Lat. *vulquus, Gk. *álpos, according to the regular progression PIE * > Lat. ol (later o changes to u in some places) , Gk. al). The Latin reflex is a borrowing from Osco-Umbrian (where PIE */kʷ/ regularly gave /p/), and both the Italic and Greek reflexes underwent metathesis pointing to an alternative reconstruction *lúkʷos, possibly as a taboo deformation meant to offset the fear usually associated with the animal. A deformation would explain the metathesis of */w/ and */l/, which also occurred in Greek (*wĺ̥kʷos*lúkʷosλύκος (lúkos)), and also explains the presence of delabialized /k/ per the boukólos rule (regardless of whether it is Proto-Indo-European already or only Proto-Greek). In both cases, the expected forms are so close to the word for “fox” – compare Latin vulpēs, ἀλώπηξ (alṓpēx) – that avoiding conflation of the two words for “wolf” and “fox” may have motivated either alteration or borrowing.

Most of the Germanic reflexes, with */kʷ/ > */g(ʷ)/ > */b/ > */p/ > /f/, also underwent unusual sound changes, as seen in Old English wylf, Middle High German wülpe < *wulbi < *wulgʷī́ < *wl̥kʷíh₂s. But the velar was retained in at least one form, i. e. Old Norse ylgr (she-wolf).

Armenian and Celtic have replaced the word with Proto-Indo-European *waylos (howler) due to taboo; compare Old Armenian գայլ (gayl), Middle Irish fáel.[4] In Celtic, *kū (hound, dog) is also used to designate the wolf.



*wĺ̥kʷos (non-ablauting)

  1. wolf


nominative *wĺ̥kʷos
genitive *wĺ̥kʷosyo
singular dual plural
nominative *wĺ̥kʷos *wĺ̥kʷoh₁ *wĺ̥kʷoes
vocative *wĺ̥kʷe *wĺ̥kʷoh₁ *wĺ̥kʷoes
accusative *wĺ̥kʷom *wĺ̥kʷoh₁ *wĺ̥kʷoms
genitive *wĺ̥kʷosyo *? *wĺ̥kʷoHom
ablative *wĺ̥kʷead *? *wĺ̥kʷomos
dative *wĺ̥kʷoey *? *wĺ̥kʷomos
locative *wĺ̥kʷey, *wĺ̥kʷoy *? *wĺ̥kʷoysu
instrumental *wĺ̥kʷoh₁ *? *wĺ̥kʷōys

Derived terms



  • Proto-Albanian: *ulka (see there for further descendants)
  • Proto-Anatolian:
  • Proto-Balto-Slavic: *wilkás (see there for further descendants)
  • >? Proto-Celtic: *ulkos (see there for further descendants)
  • Proto-Germanic: *wulfaz (see there for further descendants)
  • Proto-Hellenic: *lúkos (see there for further descendants)
  • Proto-Indo-Iranian: *wŕ̥kas (see there for further descendants)
  • Proto-Italic: *lukʷos (see there for further descendants)
  • Paeonian: Λυκκ- (Lukk-), Λυκπ- (Lukp-) (< *lukʷos)
  • Proto-Tocharian: *wä́lkʷë


  1. ^ A. Lehrman, “Anatolian Cognates of the PIE Word for ‘Wolf’”, Die Sprache 33 (1987), 13–18.
  2. ^ Tamaz Gamkrelidze and Vjačeslav Ivanov, Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans (Tbilisi: Tbilisi UP, 1984), 492.
  3. ^ Mallory, J. P., Adams, D. Q., editors (1997), “*wolf”, in Encyclopedia of Indo-European culture, London, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, page 646
  4. ^ Martirosyan, Hrach (2010) Etymological Dictionary of the Armenian Inherited Lexicon (Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series; 8), Leiden and Boston: Brill, page 196.
  5. ^ Lehrman, Alexander (1978) “Essays in Anatolian Onomastics”, in Names: A Journal of Onomastics[1], volume 26, number 3, →DOI, pages 220-230
  6. ^ Dale, Alexander (2015) “WALWET and KUKALIM: Lydian coin legends, dynastic succession, and the chronology of Mermnad kings”, in Kadmos[2], volume 54, →DOI, retrieved 10 November 2021, pages 151-166