From earlier *lākis via palatalization, from Proto-Baltic *talk-, *tlāk- (with reduction of the “difficult” cluster tl to l), from Proto-Indo-European *tel-k-, *tl-ek- (“to push, to hit, to kick, to trample”). The original meaning of this word was therefore “trampler,” “stomper,” “pounder,” showing that it was a descriptive term that replaced (probably for taboo reasons) an earlier word for “bear” (cf. Proto-Indo-European *h₂ŕ̥tḱos, whence Latin ursus, Ancient Greek ἄρκτος (árktos), Sanskrit ऋक्ष (ṛ́kṣa)), which left no traces in Baltic. (An earlier theory, which related lācis to the verb lakt “to drink,” i.e., the “(honey) drinker,” is not reconcilable with the Old Prussian cognate.) Cognates include Lithuanian lokỹs, Old Prussian clokis (klokis) (< *tlokis; cf. place names like Tlokumpelk (“bear swamp”)), Sudovian łukas.
lācis m (2nd declension)
- bear (mammal, especially Ursus arctos)
- lāča midzenis ― bear's lair
- baltais lācis ― white bear
- ledus lācis, leduslācis ― polar (lit. ice) bear
- medīt lāčus ― to hunt bears
- stiprs, liels kā lācis ― strong, big as a bear
- lāča miegs ― bear's sleep (= long and tight)
- guļ kā lācis ― s/he sleeps like a bear
- brūnā lāča svars var būt vairākus simtus kilogramu (parasti ap 250 kg) ― the weight of a brown bear can be several hundred kilograms (usually around 250 kg)
- (figuratively) bear (a clumsy, sluggish, heavy person; also, a very strong, heavily built person)
- pāris izbeidz deju, tikko sācis: dārgais, dejas laukumā jūs tomēr tikai lācis ― a couple stopped dancing after having just begun: darling, on the dance floor you are only (= simply) a bear
- Dāviene no sākuma pretojās visiem spēkiem, bet cik ilgi cilvēks pret tādu lāci noturēsies ― Dāviene at first resisted with all her might, but how long can one hold against such a bear?