Shining «Moon», Sparkling «Thunder»



Knowledge of the past is always partial and shallow. The glottological research exposed in this article is an attempt to dust off the forgotten past and how languages evolved throughout the time. Any civilization idolizes the planets, especially the moon. On this occasion, Earth’s satellite name in the Greek language bears – at the end – a substrata word. Further, the «fire» concept of the Daghestani languages sparkled in the Aegean Sea. The article includes all the aspects, from the «fire» as a word root to the spatial-chronological application in a cross linguistic-cultural perspective, nevertheless, the ritual vision of the fire is also included.

General Information

Keywords: Greece, Kansas, religion, comparative linguistics

Journal rubric: General and Comparative Historical Linguistics

Article type: scientific article


Received: 01.03.2022


For citation: Tardivo G. Shining «Moon», Sparkling «Thunder» [Elektronnyi resurs]. Âzyk i tekst = Language and Text, 2022. Vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 18–34. DOI: 10.17759/langt.2022090102.

Full text

The synchronic aspect

One of the most intriguing words of the Greek language is σελήνη (Doric σελάνα, Æolic σελάννα) «moon», undoubtedly, a back formation.

It is well known that the σ- (in front of a vowel) > Ø- in Greek. The preservation of a σ- must be seen as irregular. According to Chantraine: «Dérivé de σέλας avec un suffix *-nā comme Latin lūna est tiré de lux, le terme; etant un substitut de μήνη [f.] issu du nom ancien du «mois», cf. s.u. On admet que cette subsitution est le fait d’un tabou linguistique qui a dù continuer à agir en grec moderne avec la création de φεγγάριον. La lune, astre nocturne, est liée à un monde dangereux et maléfique, cf. d’ailleurs σεληνιάζω; on observe aussi que le nom de la lune que s’oppose au soleil a tendu à devenir féminin dans diverses langues i.-e.: c’est une puissance femelle; voir Havers, Sprachtabu 79-85».

The same explanation is found in Beekes: «This etymon derives from *σελασ-νᾱ, a derivative in

-νᾱ from < σέλας ‘light, glow, beam’. The formation may be compared with the Proto- IndoEuropean word for ‘moon’, *l(o)uksneh²-, as attested in e.g. Latin lūna ‘moon’».

It is now assured that σελήνη < σέλας; and this aspect – from a synchronic perspective – is unproblematic.

The core subject for σέλας, once compared to other Indo-European languages, does not only violate the «regular sound change, exceptionless», but also makes it difficult to find a satisfactory explanation. A new chapter is fully open, and in all respect, σέλας is clearly a non-Indo-European word. The desperate attempt to find an alternative explanation is rejected by Chantraine and Beekes. Besides, Chantraine’s comment is remarkable: «Le mot σέλας entre dans una catégorie de formations archaïques en -ας qui comportent parfois une coloration religeuse, cf. le terme de sense opposé κνέφας, etc.». The rest of the Chantraine’s comment continues in Beekes: «Etymology unclear. Frisk s.v. states that a connection with Avestan xvarənah- ‘glory of fame’ is semantically attractive, but the interpretation of the latter word is debated (see Lubotsky 1998b for discussion). Moreover, the initial σ- of σέλας is incompatible with Avestan xv-. A different but unlikely proposal can be found in Pisani Rendimenti Accademia dei Lincei 6:7 (1931): 75.

The chapter on σέλας, -αος [n.] ‘light, glow, beam’ is still unclear; its phonological structure do not allow to go one step ahead; and the idea of a preserved substrata word seems more convincing; that’s include the details of:

  1. A taboo word;
  2. A lexical item of the religious sphere.

This particular aspect, such as the sacredness of the moon, like in so many cultures throughout the time and worldwide, does not sprung from a casual idea. Historically, only a restrict number of languages are used for religious purpose, and just to mention a few cases in the Bronze age period: the Sumerian religious lexicon was used in the Assyro-Babylonian time, and the same it went for the Hattic in the Hittite context.

The diachronic aspect

After the introduction and the synchronic analyses, a Semitic source could offer the solution. Mirroring the Akkadian šalummatu(m) ‘radiance’ (of deities, king, temple) < šalummu ‘radiant’ does not produce a better result; there are some phonological and semantic issues such as the presence of the ending in -ummu, -umma- and the doubtful correspondence with the Greek word.

The alternative of this proposal come from the indigenous languages of the Caspian Sea, the socalled Centre-Oriental Caucasian family.

In the ancient Chechen-Ingush pantheon, an interesting theonym bears the same phonological structure. The description of Lecha Ilyasov is the first segment of a more extensive digression: “The names of practically all Vainakh pagan gods and dæmons have parallel in ancient West Asian and Mediterranean cults, and Vainakh mythology echoes Greek and other myths — suffice it to mention the myth of Prometheus and the Chechen myth of Pkharmat, the Nart giant chained to the top of the Kazbek Mountain and sentenced to eternal torment for stealing heavenly fire from Sela the thunder god to bring it to humans”1.

Despite the similarity between σέλας and the thunder-god Sela, the Chechen theonym is a compound word. As Marielle Tsaroïeva explains in the synchronic analysis: “Son nom se compose de deux parties: tt s’i ou tt s’u «feu» et eli ou «dieu», c’est-à-dire «Dieu du Feu»”2. From the indications of tt s’i or tt s’u «fire» and eli «god», hence «fire god», the Aegean counterpart is still waiting for a more reliable response as Sela is a derivative form.

Looking at the Darghin languages is very promising; as the scheme shows:

Table 1.

Darghin languages word variants

Akusha, Urakhi, Khajdaghi


свет, заря / light, dawn

Meghebi, Itsari, Kubachi




Yet, according to Khaidakov, the Darghin form is related to the Chechen sɑː, serlö (3rd class), Ingush serdal ‘свет / light’. Even the Khinalug tt ʃʃːæ (4th class) ‘ib.’ appears to be doubtful. The main problem is the -la aspect, which is absent in the Central (Chechen-Ingush) and Khinalug forms.

Allegedly, σέλας (< σέλ-ας, as there are other words with the ending in -ας) is close enough to the Darghin ʃala, and to a lesser extent at the Chechen sɑː and the Khinalug tt ʃʃːæ, meaning is unchanged. From Nikolaev and Starostin’s point of view, the Darghin list, besides the Central group (Chechen- Ingush), include the Tsezi reʃa ‘sun ray’, the Adyghe qːja-psə-n and Kabardian te-psə-n ‘to shine’, but the Tsezi and Western Caucasian appears to be doubtful.

The Chechen case is not alone; in the Daghestani original folk traditions “The pre-Islamic Andis had a cultic center on the peak of the mountain of Bakhargan, which was associated with their chief deity, Ts’ob. The Bakhargan cult declined after the propagation of Islam but did not disappear entirely. Even now, in times of summer drought, men and women ascend the mountain to perform rain-making rites”.

A great contribution comes from M. R. Seferbekov and his painstaking work on the Daghestani (pre-Islamic) pantheon, good details emerging from the Tsezic cult of the «fire god». In his article there are several interesting points, and the parallel between the Ægean and the Daghestani is quite fruitful, as the Tsezic word tt sálu (2nd class) ‘кремень / flint, lit.: «белый камень / white stones» is involved, that’s including “В соотвестствии с Дидойской традицией отдельные камни отождествлялись с цIобом. Например, в окретностях села Асах имелся почитаемый

1 Ilyasov, p. 52; op. cit.; see Bibliography                  

2 Tsaroïeva, p. 190; op. cit.; see Bibliography

местными жителями «белый камень» – идол бога цIоб. Информацию о нем приводит Д. М. Магомедов. [According to the Tsezi traditions, individual stones were identified with tt s’ob. For example, close to the village of Asah, there was a «white stone» revered by the locals – a fetish of the god tt s’ob 3 (Information is given by D. M. Magomedov)”4. The association of a special stones («белый камень / white stone») with a theonym leads to a synchronical survey of the Tsezic language; starting from the identification of the lexeme with the words for «stone», and only tt sero (3rd class) ‘камешек / small stone, pebble’ if it is taken in consideration that it might share the same origin of tt sálu; therefore, (ʕ)alúk’a means «white». In order to validate the meaning of tt sálu as «white stone», the word formation should be analyzed as tt sero + (ʕ)alúk’a > *tt se(ro)+ (ʕ)alúk’a > *tt se(ro)+ (ʕ)alú(k’a) > *tt se(ro)+ (ʕ)alú > *tt s- + ʕalú- > *tt s’álu > tt sálu, hence, the phonological spectrum appears to be very odd, as it does not explain several factors, such as the double contraction (*-ero – and – *-k’a), accent metathesis and the de-pharyngalized affricate sound.

An alternative explanation could be a back formation of tt sálu < *tt s’á-l(u) (with the deglottalization of the affricate), a derivative form of *tt sá- directly connected at the word for

«fire», very common in all Nakh-Daghestanian languages; as shown in the following scheme:

Table 2.

Form of the word in Nakh-Daghestanian languages.

Chechen and Bats

tt s’e




tt s’ɪ





огонь, костёр / fire,bonfire


tt ʃ’a ~ tt s’a

3rd class


tt s’a

4th class


tt ʃ’a, tt ʃ’ári

2nd class


Karata and


tt s’aj

3rd class


tt s’ají

3rd class


tt s’aː(j)

3rd class


tt s’aː

4th class


tt s’i

4th class

Bezhta and Khwarshi

tt s’o

4th class


tt s’ə

4th class


tt ʃ’e

4th class


tt s’u

4th class

3Luguev-Magomedov, p. 179; op. cit.; see Bibliography.

4 Mudrak, vol. I – p. 588; op. cit.; see Bibliography

Darghin (Chirag)

tt s’a

3rd class



tt s’aj


–       Among the Chechen-Ingush, except for Kistian tt s’ɪ, the tt s’e form in all dialects.

–       In the Avar (Batlukh) tt ʃ’a ‘ib.’.

–       Chamalal (Gigatl) tt s’aj.

–       In Tsezic also tt s’i ‘spark’, as for tt s’átt s’a ‘spark’ < *tt s’á-tt s’a < tt s’á ‘star’, doubtful.

The variations within the Nakh-Daghestanian languages are very slight, that it means it is an archaic and well preserved word; then, a reconstruction in *tt s’V is more likely, as the vowel ending for the protoform is unpredictable.

The reconstruction in *tt s’V is proposed here, it probably is not very accurate, as Starostin’s reconstruction is *tt s’ajɨɨ, and by J. Nichols as *tt s’ar(i), *tt s’ad(i) («fire»). The presence of *-jɨɨ-,

*-r(i), *-d(i) on those forms might be more precise.

The fire itself was also a part of the Daghestani pre-Islamic cult, its significance goes beyond the utility (heat and light).

Among the Tsezic people, fire also has the social connotation of “В обрядах Цези сохранились следы почитания огня. Сохранившееся выражение «sys tts’inis ee li» переводится как «мы люди одного огня» и говорит о том, что огонь был святыней родового коллектива“. [In the Tsezi rituals, there are some remnants of the fire veneration. The expression «sys tts’inis ee li», that’s mean «we are people of the same fire», it has survived]” 5.

In any form, the identification of the Tsezic tt sálu ‘flint’ is still ambiguous. Other languages have similar forms, like Avar with tt s’aʕel, and the Darghin (Chirag) ʃaʔħùl ‘flint’, they go along with the Akhwakh tt s’aba ‘stone monolith, big stone’. In all three cases, the word for a particular

«stone» begins with *tt s’a- / *ʃa-. Furthermore, the Tsezic tt sálu is probably the same as the Andi tt s’akt ɬi boso‘цвет огня / fire’s colour’ (lit.: «fire.OBL.» and «colour»), once again, the theonym (tt s’ob) is a part of the compound tt s’obortt s’iw (4th class) ‘блестящий черноватый камень / shiny blackish stone’. In this way there are good semantic reasons to pursue the concept of «fire» as a part of the root, which is well expressed in many Daghestani languages, like Aghul tt s’amħá

«flint» (< tt s’a «fire»). At this point, it is not possible to determine the real meaning of the Tsezic tt sálu, and from there, it cannot be associated with σέλας.

The Darghin form seems to be not affected from the Ossetian language, as “с незафиксированной нигде Иранской корневой этимологией от «тереть»” 6 [with unrecorded Iranian etymology]. However, the Ossetian word sela -- ‘round flat stone’ (used in children’s play), as well as the Armenian սալ (/ sal) ‘slab, paving or flat stone’, and all the other Indo-European languages, despite the extensive explanation by Abaev 7, do not corroborate the Tsezic form.

The «white stones» were a part of the cult, and the description reveals some interesting facts, like “Наряду с горой Хилотл-Oстло у Дидойцев обществ Асах и Шуратль особой популярностью пользовалась вершина горы Кидилишан («Гора фигурок»). «Здесь Дидойцы проводили

5 Abaev, vol. III – pp. 98-99; op. cit.; see Bibliography

6 Seferbekov, p. 71; op. cit.; see Bibliography.

7 Seferbekov, p. 71; op. cit.; see Bibliography.

моления о дожде и приносили в жертву животных. На этой горе в разное время люди находили антропоморфные (главным образом) и зооморфные статуэтки, характерные для культур и других народов Кавказа»”8[Along with the mount Khilotl-Ostlo, the top of Mount Kidilishan («the figurines’ Mount») was very popular among the Tsezi villages of Asah and Shuratl. Here the Tsezi prayed for the rain and they sacrificed animals. On this mountain, anthropomorphic (mainly) and zoomorphic figurines were set in. Such ritual was very widespread among the people of the Caucasus.].

The cult of the «thunder» was not limited to the Daghestani side, it was very popular all over the region. The Western Caucasian people also celebrate the natural phenomenon, whom theonyms were Afy [afɨ] for the Akhaz, and Shyble [ɕəbla] for the Adyghe; both of them are well recorded names by several authors.

The digression continues with the use of the mountain peaks and its ritual in order to evoke the rain; then, a scrutiny at the figurines dedicated to a deity. From this detail, the oronym itself was strictly connected to the religious aspect, such as “Как сообщает И. В. Мегрелидзе, найденные на горе Кидилишан бронзовые куклы кидилa (букв. «девушка», «кукла») и ужила (букв.«мальчишка») Дидойцы с места их обнаружения никуда не уносили, так как сущетвовало поверье, что если взять оттуда какой-нибудь бронзовый предмет, то этим можно рассердить бога погоды, который мог наслать град и уничтожить все селение” 9 [According to I.V. Megrelidze, the bronze dolls were set there, and nobody was allowed to remove or stolen it; otherwise the weather-god could send hail and destroy the entire village]; also “По нашим полевым материалам, бронзовые статуэтки втыкались у подножья горы Кидилишани, на поверхности которого наблюдаются выходы «белого камня». 10 [According to our field materials, bronze statuettes were stuck at the foot of the Kidilishani Mountain, on the surface of which there are outcrops of the «white stones»]”.

First, it is very clear that the Kidilishan mountain bears the name from the religious custom, as Kidilishan < kidil ‘кукла / doll’ < kid ‘девочка, девушка / girl, maiden’, with the masculine counterpart of uʒíl(a) ‘мальчишка, кукла / young boy, doll’ < úʒ(a) ‘сын, мальчик / son, little boy’; then, the bronze figurines were given to the storm-god as a gift.

Further “по мнению М.Д.Сагитовой, «статуэтки c горы Кидилишавни, по всей видимости, изображали не самих богов, а людей, которые им поклонялись.» 11[11] [According to M.D. Sagitova, “the figurines, most likely, did not depict the god itself, but the people who worshiped him”].

It is not a coincidence that the archaeological remnants that have been found in the island of Crete reveal – more or less – the same picture, that it consists of «peak sanctuaries» and «divinatory statuettes»; as Stylianos Alexiou and others wrote about the Minoan religion: “As a result of the excavations, the holy places and cult practices are better known to us than the forms taken by the Minoan deity, which are still wrapped in obscurity”.

A typical contrast between Crete and the Orient lies in the absence of temples. The temples, dwellings of the god and centers of an all-powerful priesthood, that have been found in Sumer and Egypt, do not exist[ed] in Crete. Here the worship was celebrated in natural sanctuaries: in caves,

8 Seferbekov, p. 71; op. cit.; see Bibliography

9 Seferbekov, p. 71; op. cit.; see Bibliography

10 Alexiou, pp. 78-79; op. cit.; see Bibliography

11 Alexiou, p. 79; op. cit.; see Bibliography

on mountain peaks; and in small domestic shrines, or in parts of the palace, which, outwardly at least, cannot be distinguished from the rest of the building.

Caves, in which religious rites were performed, have been mentioned already. Even during Pre- palatial times votive ivory figurines were deposited in the Trapeza cave, in Lasithi. On feast days in the Proto-palatial period, pilgrims from Phaestos climbed Mount Ida as high as the Kamares cave, where they dedicated vessels containing various offerings12.

To complete the description, other details enrich the interpretation, and I quote: “The holiness of the far more magnificent cave of Psykhro can surely be explained in the same way. This was probably the Dictaean cave of the Greeks, where the Mother Goddess Rhea was believed to have given birth to the Young God whom the Greeks called Zeus. Tables of offerings, figurines of votaries in characteristic attitudes, small animal models offered in lieu of living sacrifices, tools, weapons and double axes in bronze were dedicated around a built altar, or placed in crevices between the stalactites within the cave”13.

Then, “Other sacred caves are the large cave of Skoteino – probably the sacred cave of Knossos, within which Dr. K. Davaras has discovered bronze figurines and a quantity of pottery; and also the Patsos cave, where figurines of votaries and models of sacral horns were dedicated.

Religious rites were also celebrated at the peak sanctuaries. The nearness to the sky, the wide view, the utter solitude, broken by wild goats or birds, filled the Minoan with awe”14.

To add some peculiarity to the ritual manifestation, Hutchinson wrote that “The offerings from the Peak Sanctuaries, even from the Iuktas, have given us poor selection, but the sites were so exposed and the traces of sacrificial fires so evident that we cannot argue from the absence of more valuable offerings which might have been burnt, looted by treasure hunters, or simply weathered away.” 15.

To reshape the cultual parallel, after the figurines, the mountain top, the religious performance related to a deity; there is a key point to clarify, and that is the «thunder god», very well attested in the Anatolian plateau ancient civilizations, but absent or at least, not evident in the Aegean side, as reported by A. Stylianou with “At the earlier date, we encounter in Asia Minor the Hurrian and Hittite storm god Teshub, who is represented mounted on a bull and grasping a double axe and a thunderbolt. It has been suggested that in Crete too the double axe was a symbol of a similar sky- god. But this theory ignores the fact that Creto-Mycenaean art of the double axe is associated with a female divinity; seals from Kalkani and Knossos show a goddess flanked by lions and griffins, with a double axes overhead; a goddess is seen holding double axes on a stone mould from Seteia”16. However, a kind of combination for the celebration existed, as “At the summer and winter solstices, especially during the Proto-palatial period, it was a custom to light on these peak-sanctuaries great bonfires which could be seen from a long way off.” 17; then, some thought on the association the Cretan Peak sanctuaries as “The traces of exceedingly fierce fires can frequently be observed in Early Minoan tombs, and some think the lighting of these formed part of the funerary rites” 18.

12 Alexiou, p. 80; op. cit.; see Bibliography

13 Hutchinson, pp. 220-221; op. cit.; see Bibliography

14 Alexiou, p. 92; op. cit.; see Bibliography 15 Alexiou, p. 80; op. cit.; see Bibliography. 16 Alexiou, p. 115; op. cit.; see Bibliography

17 Sagona-Zimansky, p. 277; op. cit.; see Bibliography

18 Klimov (Etym. Dict. of the Kartvelian lang.), p. 280; op. cit.; see Bibliography

Analyzing the theonym, the Hurrian and Urartian theonym cannot be associated to the Daghestani «storm god», unlikely M. Tsaroïeva (2008) wrote in her book. The phonological structure of the theonym tt s’ob is problematic, as Teʃub ~ Teʃːub ~ Teiʃeb contains a vowel or a diphthong; meanwhile the Caucasian form begins with a glottalized affricate sound. If the Hurrian form developed as Teʃːub / Teʃub > *Təʃub > *tt ʃub, it hardly explain a subsequent form in tt s’ob. Even the Khinalug tt ʃ’æ and the Akhwakh tt ʃ’ári («fire») forms still are doubtful.

From the representation of the rocks in the Anatolian plateau, it is well known that “The two largest figures, who face each other at the center of the composition, are the Hurrian god Teshub and the Hurrian goddess Hepatu. The Storm God, wearing a tall conical cap covered with horns, stands upon stylized mountain gods who bend forward as they support him” 19.

Another less problematic situation is with the Kartvelian family, where’s the Georgian tt sett sxl-

<*ʓett s¹xl- ‘fire’ also has anything to do with the Daghestani form20.

After the description of the Aegean area and the lack of evidence of a «Thunder god»; a word for the meteorological phenomena does exist: ἀστεροπή ‘lightning’ and it is arbitrarily etymologized as an Indo-European word. Once again, Beekes’ comment on two occasions describew the semantic incongruence with an IE explanation.

Mostly it is analyzed as a compound from ἀστήρ ‘star’ and ὀπ- ‘eye’, meaning ‘star-eye’. For the semantic of the formation, Armenian p‘ayl-akn ‘lightning’ is compared (p‘ayl ‘glow, splendour’ and akn ‘eye’), as well as Armenian areg-akn ‘sun’ (arew ‘sun’ and akn). However, ‘glow, splendour’ is not the same as ‘star’ and, more importantly, the variants στεροπή and ἀστραπη cannot be explained in this way (also note π / φ in στροφή). Also, if ἀστράπτω is not a very recent formation, one would expect *ἀστρασσω from the IE pre-form, as DELG points out. The word must therefore belong to the substrate layer, as Kuiper and Furnée already saw.

On top of the well-known form of ἀστεροπή, there are some variations:

–        στεροπή (Iliad)

–        ἀστραπή (Hesychius)

–        στροπά · ἀστραπή. Πάφιοι (island of Paphos)

–        στορπάν, στορτιάν (cod.)· τήν ἀστραπήν (Hesychius)

–        Στορπᾶος (Hesychius)

–        στροφαί

–        ἀστραπαί

Based on previous investigations (Tardivo&Kitselis 2020, Tardivo&Kitselis 2021), the ἀ- > Ø- in comparison to the Daghestani form.

Table 3.

A synchronic analysis of the Aegean lexemes reveals the same process, hence a root in

*στV-; as shown in the scheme:





19 Seferbekov (R. I); p. 167; op. cit.; see Bibliography

20 Bokarev, p. 27; op. cit.; see Bibliography











α-*στV- (α ~ ε)

*στV- (ε ~ ι || ο ~ υ)

A direct comparison with the Daghestanian languages, such as the Lak tt s’upar (lit.: fire + flash), and the Agul (Richag) tt s’arf, (Burkhun) tt s’arp ‘lightning’ seems very probable.

Table 4.

Therefore, even in metathized form (-r p ~ -p r), still is clear the fact that -par is not a suffix; conversely, a word itself for «thunder» et sim., as illustrated in this sample.



3rd class

молния / lightning

Akhwakh, Tindi

piri, hiri

3rd class


pir, pil

4th class



4th class



4th class



4th class

гром / thunder

The phonological structure of *pyr also manifests in the IE languages, and the direction is still disputed. It is not the case here to decide whether the IE and the Daghestani forms are a pure coincidence, or it is a borrowing, either direction (Cauc. → IE or IE → Cauc.).

This Daghestani word leads to another Pre-Greek word, such as φάρος ‘lighthouse’ (AP). Then, Beekes’s comment: «Origin unknown. Borrowed into late Latin, French, etc. Hence derives the name of the island inAlexandria, famous for its lighthouse (δ 355).»

Starting from the phonological analyses of the variation between φ ~ π, explicit manifest in φάρος (φαρ-ος) and (ἀστε)ροπή, last one appears to be a deglottalized and metathized form of φάρος; the main concept of ‘thunder’ is correlated to ‘light’, ‘lightning’ and ‘lighthouse’.

What is relevant, the fact that ἀστεροπή (et al.) bears the same phonological structure of the Aghul tt s’arp (<* tt s’a-rəp < *tt s’a-pər < *tt s’a-par) ‘lightning’, and from there, it is possible to presume the concept of ἀστεροπή as a compound word: ἀστεροπή < *ἀ-στε-ροπ-ή, where the ἀ- > Ø-, then*στε- related to *tt s’V ‘fire’, and finally -ροπ(ή) the same as *pyr ‘flash(light)’.

Such metathized form is manifest in the Aghul (Burkhun) tt s’arp ( rVp) and Lak tt s’upar ( pVr).

Further, there are some other words related, like στυφᾶν ‘to thunder’, and probably στίλβω ‘to shine, to gleam, to shimmer’; last one is accompanied by Beekes’ comment: «A connection to Proto-Celtic *stil-n- (Middle Irish sellaid, -sella ‘looks’, Old Irish sell ‘eye, iris’; Welsh syllu ‘stare, gaze’) seems far-fetched; no further cognates are known. If the root variant στιλπ- is not secondary from στίλψ-, the variation between -π- and -β- may point to Pre-Greek origin».

Even Chantraine came at the same conclusion with: «Famille de mots expressif qui s’emploie notamment pour les étoiles et qui ne coïncide pas exactement avec le champ sémantique de λάμπειν plus banal. Στιλπνος présente un suffixe -νός de type connue, cf. τερπνός, etc., mais la labial sourde n’ést pas expliquée. L’alternance στιλβ-/στιλπ- ne sauret remonter à l’Indo-Européen et peut relever du caractère expressif de cette famille. Pas d’etymologie».

The concept of “...mots expressif...” is arbitrary, as it cannot be part of the mimeo-expressive words. Further, the missing attempt of a synchronic analysis, where some other words have a *στV- for «fire» et sim. Once again, the response comes from the Caucasus.

The Lezgian language has tt s’ajlapan ‘молния / lightning’ < tt s’aj «fire», then -lapan form is a metathesis of Alpan, the «thunder god» appellative, as “Богом-громовержцем у Лезгин был, по всей вероятности, Алпан, на что указывает ряд данных. Молния по-Лезгински называется цIай-лапан (букв. «огонь Алпана»). Сохранились проклятия «Вун Алпанди ярай!» («Пусть тебя ударит Алпан!») и «Вун Алпандин цу ягъурай!» («Пусть тебя ударит огонь Алпана!»). Все это дало основание ряду авторов считать Алпана богом огня, грома и молнии. По мнению З. и Р. Ризвановых, этот теоним является составной частью многих географических названий, и он отразился, например, в названиях селений Алпан, Алпаут, Алпы в районах, населенных Лезгинами в Азербайджане” [According to the data, the Lezghian god of thunder was Alpan. The word is also used as a curse (“let’s Alpan striking you!” et sim.). All the reporters agree that Alpan was the god of fire, thunder and lightning. The theonym is also used for place names among the Lezghians of Azerbadjan]”.

Phonologically, metathesis phenomenon is pretty common among the Daghestanian languages, then, the theonym itself is in a metathized form, as Alpan < lapan; moreover, the Darghin (Itsari) tt s’alipːan ‘бабочка / butterfly’ < tt s’a «fire» plus lipːan «flashing»; last one is also in the Andi language, as lapi (4th class) ‘блеск, вспышка / flash, shine’; so, the full translation is «shining fire». To summarize that words, and far from a secure interpretation, στίλβω < *στ-ίλβ-ω ~ *στί- λ(ə)β-ω, where *-ίλβ-ω could be the same as lapi, a formation like tt s’aj-lap-an < tt s’aj «fire» and - lap-an «shine, flash».

Regarding στυφᾶν (a by-form of στυπάζω < στύπος · και ὁ ψόφος τῆς βροντῆς ‘the sound of thunder’) ‘to thunder’, the form in *στV- reveal its consistency. The assumption of sharing a common root with ἀστεροπή (< ἀ-στε-ροπή) and στίλβω (<*στί-λβ-ω) is more likely, both them are connected to the Central-Daghestani *tt s’V «fire».

Extending the comparison to the Ægean side with *στV-, it will be equally reliable.

Nevertheless, from the same root for «fire», within the Daghestani languages, there are derivative words, like the Andi tt s’ato, Chamalal and Tindi tt s’ah ‘to burn’; where *tt s’V- retain its original aspect.

Phonological analysis

After the data and the diachronic illustration, including the sacral aspect, some questions are waiting for more profound analyses; starting from the viewpoint of the words for «fire» and the relationship with «shine» [et sim.].

In the Central group (Chechen), two distinctive words are used:

  1. sɑː ‘light’
  2. tt s’e ‘fire’

The same it occur in the Darghin group:

  1. ala ‘light’
  2. tt s’a ‘fire’

From this phonological and semantic frame, those words are from two distinctive roots, and the Chechen theonym Sela – despite the similarity with the Pre-Greek σέλας – can not be compared to.

Nevertheless, the incompatibility affects the Tsezic tt sálu ‘flint (lit.: white stones)’. Briefly, an association between Sela ~ σέλας ~ tt sálu, despite the resemblance, can not be held.

The more secure comparison is with the Darghin phyla, as ʃala («light, dawn») is very straightforward, and to a lesser extent the Chechen sɑː ‘ib.’ A resume of all the Aegean words are listed here:

ἀστεροπή (including variations) ‘lightning’ στυφᾶν ‘to thunder’

στίλβω ‘to shine, to gleam, to shimmer’.

All those words have a *στV-, so, the compound of a sibilant with a voiceless dentoalveolar is seen as a heavy mora, or a case of dissimilation. Although, this concept is in contrast with Beekes’ analyses of sibilant+Consonant, actually, the main consonants set, namely p/t/k. The Daghestani form with a glottalized affricate (*tt s’a) seems phonologically distant from the Ægean, but it is not the case, as the Chechen shows a regular alternation between Sela ~ Stela, The Greek alphabet was designed for an IE language, and the variations are used with an approximation for a non-IE lexical item.

In this way there are all the conditions for the assumption of an affricate like [tt s]; and from there, it is possible to reconstruct the original word as *tt s’e- or the like.

According to Bokarev, a diachronic survey between the Daghestani languages shows a certain degree of variability, that’s include the dialectal form, like Avar s, Andi ʃ, Lezghian s, ʃ. If the same rule is extended to other languages, it will be very wise to think to a phonological typology that sprung from the same evolutionary system.

Table 5.

The variation between the sybilant and the affricate














tt s, st

tt s



tt s

tt s

tt s, s

tt s, s


The Aegan* στV- follow this process, a good parallel to the Daghestani.

Moreover, the metathesis of p r (> r p) it works in both ways; a typical phonological interchange with the clear explanation of reshaping the structure that does not affect the meaning as such.

Conversely, the main concept of «fire» is also the base for compound words related to it, such as “lightning” or “thunder”. So, the «fire» must be seen as a core concept, and the second element is reinforced by the main theme.

As seen in this excursus, the Daghestani and the Aegean words proceed in the same direction, where the root for «fire» and the attributives retain their basic phonological structure.


Starting from the analyses of the Greek word for «moon», the survey is intentionally designed to go far beyond the well-known definition; adding a reliable comparison with the Darghin phyla of the Centre-Oriental languages of the Caucasus.

The linguistic investigation is extended to other words of the same semantic area, more specifically, the interrelated words of «fire» and «thunder». In the Asia Minor, the “Storm god” – in the ancient sources – is well documented, as well as in the – pre-Islamic – Caucasian myth. However, the Aegean area shows a common trait only in the lexical context.

The analyses start with a synchronic introspective, and after that, it expands in a diachronic manner. Previous explanations of that word with the IE context reveal a certain degree of weakness, the semantic aspect was not clear enough. This is one of many cases where similarities misleading the original sense.

Further, as exposed in this article, the linguistic factor itself is accompanied by a relatively common cultural aspect of the «peak sanctuaries», the ritual and their use for sacral purposes.

Adding this detail, the proposal of a common origin between the earliest settlers of the Aegean Sea and the North Caucasian, it might deserve a kind of consideration that cannot be discarded a priori. Despite the well-known and more reputed celebration of Zoroastrianism, where the «fire» is the centre of the religion; the Caucasian «fire» share the same aspect of the ancient Anatolian people, the «thunder» or the «storm» god. Furthermore, the caves in the hills («peak sanctuaries») are also a distinctive trait, and from this perspective, from the Aegean Sea – through Anatolia – to the Caucasus Mountain, all of them show a kind of common origin.

To conclude, the more reliable part come from the lexicon, and this is a time when resistant aspect cannot be ignored.


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Information About the Authors

Giampaolo Tardivo, Professor of linguistics, Padua State University, Italy, ORCID:, e-mail:



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