Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Ralph

In Indo-European Language and Culture, Benjamin Fortson has a list of names formed from compounds where both elements stand for concepts, virtues, or animals that were important in Indo-European society. The most interesting one is Ralph, which is from Old Norse Ráðulfr, meaning "counsel-wolf". Ráð "counsel" is from Proto-Indo-European *h₂reh₁(i)- "to reason, count". It's also found in German Rathaus "town hall". The English reflex is read.

The second element of Ráðulfr is ulfr "wolf" from *wlkʷo- "wolf". Probably because the wolf was feared, the word was deformed in some of the daughter languages, becoming Latin lupus and Proto-Germanic *wulfaz.

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