Illyrian languages

The Illyrian /ɪˈlɪriən/ languages are a group of Indo-European languages that were spoken in the western part of the Balkans[2] in former times by groups identified as Illyrians: Ardiaei, Delmatae, Pannonii, Autariates, Taulantii (see list of ancient tribes in Illyria). Some sound changes from Proto-Indo-European to Illyrian and other language features are deduced from what remains of the Illyrian languages, but because there are no examples of ancient Illyrian literature surviving[3] (aside from the Messapian writings if they can be considered Illyrian), it is difficult to clarify its place within the Indo-European language family. Because of the uncertainty,[4] most sources provisionally place the Illyrian language family on its own branch of Indo-European, though its relation to other languages, ancient and modern, continues to be studied.

Western Balkans (ancient region of Illyria and some lands adjacent)
Extinctattested ca. 500 BCE – 500 CE
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
  • Illyrian
ISO 639-3xil
Glottologilly1234  (Illyrian)[1]
Illyrian Tribes (English)
Illyrian tribes in antiquity.


The Illyrian languages are part of the Indo-European language family. The relation of the Illyrian languages to other Indo-European languages—ancient and modern—is poorly understood due to the paucity of data and is still being examined. Today, the main source of authoritative information about the Illyrian language consists of a handful of Illyrian words cited in classical sources, and numerous examples of Illyrian anthroponyms, ethnonyms, toponyms and hydronyms.

Given the scarcity of the data it is difficult to identify the sound changes that have taken place in the Illyrian languages; the most widely accepted one is that the Indo-European voiced aspirates /bʰ/, /dʰ/, /ɡʰ/ became voiced consonants /b/, /d/, /ɡ/.[5][6]

A grouping of Illyrian with the Messapian language has been proposed for about a century, but remains an unproven hypothesis. The theory is based on classical sources, archaeology and onomastics. Messapian material culture bears a number of similarities to Illyrian material culture. Some Messapian anthroponyms have close Illyrian equivalents.

A grouping of Illyrian with the Venetic language and Liburnian language, once spoken in northeastern Italy and Liburnia respectively, has also been proposed. The consensus now is that Illyrian was quite distinct from Venetic and Liburnian.[7][8]

Centum vs. Satem

In the absence of sufficient lexical data and texts written in the Illyrian languages, the theories supporting the Centum character of the Illyrian language have been based mainly on the Centum character of the Venetic language, which was thought to be related to Illyrian, in particular regarding Illyrian toponyms and names such as Vescleves, Acrabanus, Gentius, Clausal etc.[9] The relation between Venetic and Illyrian was later discredited and they are no longer considered closely related.[10]

Scholars supporting the Satem character of the Illyrian languages highlight particular toponyms and personal names such as Asamum, Birzinimum Zanatis etc. in which these scholars claim that there is clear evidence of the Satem character of the Illyrian language. They also point to other toponyms including Osseriates derived from /*eghero/ (lake)[11] or Birziminium from PIE /*bherǵh/[12] or Asamum from PIE /*aḱ-mo/ (sharp).[13][14]

Even if the above-mentioned Venetic toponyms and personal names are accepted as Illyrian in origin, it is not clear that they originated in a Centum language. Vescleves, Acrabanus, Gentius and Clausal are explained by proponents of the hypothesis that the Illyrian languages had a Centum character, through comparison with IE languages such as Sanskrit or Ancient Greek, or reconstructed PIE. For example, Vescleves has been explained as PIE *wesu-ḱlewes (of good fame).[6][15] Also, the name Acrabanus as a compound name has been compared with Ancient Greek /akros/ with no signs of palatalization,[5] or Clausal has been related to /*klew/ (wash, rinse).[16] In all these cases the supporters of the Centum character of the Illyrian language consider PIE *ḱ > /*k/ or PIE *ǵ > /*g/ followed by an /l/ or /r/ to be evidence of a Centum character of the Illyrian language. However, it has been shown that even in Albanian and Balto-Slavic, which are Satem languages, in this phonetical position the palatovelars have been generally depalatized (the depalatization of PIE *ḱ > *k and *ǵ > *g before /r/ and /l/ regularly in Albanian).[17] Even the name Gentius or Genthius does not help to solve the problem since we have two Illyrian forms Genthius and Zanatis. If Gentius or Genthius derives from *ǵen- (be born) this is proof of a Centum language, but if the name Zanatis is similarly generated (or from *ǵen- know) then we have a Satem language.[13] Another problem related to the name Gentius is that nowadays it cannot be stated surely if the initial /g/ of the sources was a palatovelar[18] or a labiovelar.[19]

Taking into account the absence of sufficient data and sometimes the dual nature of their interpretation, the Centum/Satem character of the Illyrian language is still uncertain and requires more evidence.[5][6][12]

Cognates with Albanian

  • Personal Illyrian names, Andena, Andes, Andio, Antis, based on a root and- or ant-, found in both the southern and the Dalmatian-Pannonian (including modern Bosnia and Herzegovina) onomastic provinces; cf. Alb. andë (northern Albanian dialect, or Gheg) and ëndë (southern Albanian dialect or Tosk) "appetite, pleasure, desire, wish".[20]
  • Ardiaioi/Ardiaei, name of an Illyrian people, cf. Alb. ardhja "arrival" or "descent", connected to hardhi "vine-branch, grape-vine", with a sense development similar to Germanic *stamniz, meaning both tree stalk and tribe, lineage.[20]
  • Bindo/Bindus, an Illyrian deity from Bihać, Bosnia and Herzegovina; cf. Alb. bind "to convince" or "to make believe", përbindësh "monster".[21]
  • Bilia "daughter"; cf. Alb. bijë, dial. bilë[22]
  • Barba- "swamp", a toponym from Metubarbis; possibly related to Alb. bërrakë "swampy soil"[23]
  • can- "dog"; related to Alb. qen[23]
  • Daesitiates, a name of an Illyrian people, cf. Alb. dash "ram", corresponding contextually with south Slavonic dasa "ace", which might represent a borrowing and adaptation from Illyrian (or some other ancient language).[20]
  • dard "Dardania", Dardanians; ancient Balkan region and name of a people connected with cf. Alb. dardhë, "pear"[24][25]
  • drakoina "supper"; cf. Alb. darke, dreke, drekojna, darkojna [26]
  • Hyllus cf. Alb. yll (hyll in some northern dialects) "star", also Alb. hyj "god"[26]
  • brisa "husk of grapes"; cf. Alb. bërsí "lees, dregs; mash" (< PA *brutiā)[23]
  • mag- "great"; cf. Alb. i madh "big, great"[23]
  • mantía "bramblebush"; Old and dial. Alb. mandë "berry, mulberry" (Mod. Alb. mën, man)
  • Ragusa-Ragusium "grape"; cf. Proto-Alb. ragusha (Mod. Alb. rrush)[26]
  • rhinos "fog, mist"; cf. Old Alb. ren "cloud" (Mod. Alb. re, ) (< PA *rina)[27]
  • Vendum "place"; cf. Proto-Alb. wen-ta (Mod. Alb. vend)[26]

Illyrian dialects

The Greeks were the first literate people to come into frequent contact with the speakers of Illyrian languages. Their conception of "Illyrioi", however, differed from what the Romans would later call "Illyricum". The Greek term encompassed only the peoples who lived on the borders of Macedonia and Epirus. Pliny the Elder, in his work Natural History, applies a stricter usage of the term Illyrii when speaking of Illyrii proprie dicti ("Illyrians properly so-called") among the native communities in the south of Roman Dalmatia.

For a couple of centuries before and after the Roman conquest in the late 1st century BC, the concept of Illyricum expanded towards the west and north. Finally it encompassed all native peoples from the Adriatic to the Danube, inhabiting the Roman provinces of Dalmatia, Pannonia and Moesia, regardless of their ethnic and cultural differences.

An extensive study of Illyrian names and territory was undertaken by Hans Krahe in the first decades of the twentieth century. He and other scholars argued for a broad distribution of Illyrian peoples considerably beyond the Balkans,[28] though in his later work, Krahe curbed his view of the extent of Illyrian settlement.[29]

The further refinements of Illyrian onomastic provinces for that Illyrian area included in the later Roman province were proposed by Géza Alföldy.[30] He identified five principal groups: (1) "real Illyrians" south of the river Neretva and extending south of the provincial boundary with Macedonia at the river Drin to include the Illyris of north and central Albania; (2) the Delmatae who occupied the middle Adriatic coast between the "real Illyrians" and the Liburni; (3) the Venetic Liburni of the northeast Adriatic; (4) the Japodes who dwelt north of the Delmatae and behind Liburni, where names reveal a mixture of Venetic, Celtic and Illyrian; and (5) the Pannonian people north in Bosnia, Northern Montenegro, and western Serbia.

These identifications were later challenged by Radoslav Katičić[31][32] who on the basis of personal names which occur commonly in Illyricum distinguished three dialect areas: (1) South-Eastern Illyrian, extending southwards from the southern part of Montenegro and including most of Albania west of the river Drin, though its demarcation to the south remains uncertain; (2) Central Illyrian consisting of most of ex-Yugoslavia, north of southern Montenegro to the west of Morava, excepting ancient Liburnia in the northwest, but perhaps extending into Pannonia in the north; (3) Liburnian, whose names resemble those of the Venetic territory to the northeast.

The onomastic differences between the South-Eastern and Central areas are not sufficient to show that two clearly differentiated dialects of Illyrian were in use in these areas.[12] However, as Katičić has argued, the core onomastic area of Illyrian proper is to be located in the southeast of that Balkan region, traditionally associated with the Illyrians (centered in modern Albania).[33][34]

Traditionally Illyrian has referred to any non-Celtic language in the northwestern Balkans. Recent scholarship from the 1960s tends to agree that the region inhabited by Illyrian tribes can be divided into three distinct linguistic and cultural areas, of which only one can be properly termed "Illyrian".[35] No written texts regarding self-identification exist from the Illyrians[36] and no inscriptions in Illyrian exist, with the only linguistic remains being place names (toponyms) and some glosses.[35]

Illyrian vocabulary

Since there are no Illyrian texts, sources for identifying Illyrian words have been identified by Hans Krahe[29] as being of four kinds: inscriptions, glosses of Illyrian words in classical texts, names—including proper names (mostly inscribed on tombstones), toponyms and river names—and Illyrian loanwords in other languages. The last category has proven particularly contentious. The names occur in sources that range over more than a millennium, including numismatic evidence, as well as posited original forms of placenames.[29] There are no Illyrian inscriptions (Messapian inscriptions are treated separately, and there is no consensus that they are to be reckoned as Illyrian). The spearhead found at Kovel and thought by some to be Illyrian[37] is considered by the majority of runologists to be Eastern Germanic, and most likely Gothic, while a votive inscription on a ring found near Shkodër which was initially interpreted as Illyrian was shown to actually be Byzantine Greek.[38]

attestation English meaning etymology cognates
*abeis "snakes" PIE *h₂engʷʰis Lat. anguis, Alb. thnegël (< PA ts-angulā) "kind of ant", Old High Germ. unc, Lith. angìs, Gk. ókhis "snake", ekhis "viper", Toch. auk "snake", Arm. auj, Russ. , Skt. áhis, Av. aži
*bagaron "warm" PIE *bʰōg- Alb. bukë "bread", Phrygian bekos "bread", Eng. bake, Lat. focus "hearth", Old Ir. goba "blacksmith", Gk. phōgein "to roast", Armenian bosor "red", bots "flame", Rus. bagrovɨj, bagrianɨj "crimson, saturated red, color of dark blood, purpur", bagriéc, bagrianiec "redness of someone's face, cheeks, of heated up material (e.g. metal), crimson cloth, fabric"
*brisa "husk of grapes" PIE *bʰruti̯eh₂ Alb. bërsí "lees, dregs; mash", Eng. broth, Lat. defrutum "new wine boiled down", Welsh brwd "brewage", Old Ir. bruth "heat, wrath", Thrac. brỹtos "barley alcohol", brỹtion "wine must", Gk. apéphrysen "to seethe, boil", ? Lith. bręsti "to mature, ripe", brendimas "ripening", also brinkti "to swell", brinkìmas "swelling" ?, Rus. braga, bražka "must, ale, unfinished or badly produced alcohol drink", broditj "to ferment (brew)", brožénije "fermentation (brewage)"
*deuádai "satyrs" PIE *dʰu̯ésmi Alb. dash "ram", Skt. dhūnoti "he shakes", Gk. thýein "to rage, seethe", théeion "sulfur vapor", Eng. dizzy, Paeonian Dýalos "Dionysos", Lat. furere "to rage", belua "wild animal", Old Ir. dásacht "rage, fury", Lith. dvėsti "to croak, perish, die (animals)", dvelksmas "breath, waft, aura", Hitt. tuhhai "to gasp", Rus. dɨhánije "breath, waft", duh "spirit, soul, mind, aura, ghost, wind" also "aliveness, breathing, willingness, meaningfulness, truthfulness", dušá "spirit, soul; heart, kindness, truthfulness"
*mandos "small horse" PIE *mendi̯os Alb. mëz, mâz "pony", Thrac. Mezēnai "divine horseman", Mess. Iuppiter Menzanas (divinity)
*mantía "bramblebush" PIE *? NGheg Alb. mandë, Alb. mën, man "berry, mulberry"; borrowed into Romansch mani "raspberry"
*rinos "fog, mist" PIE *h₁rinéHti Old Alb. ren, mod. Alb. re, rê "cloud", rij, rî 'to make humid'; further to Gk. (Lesbian) orínein "to move", Old Ch. Slav. rinǫti "to flow", Skt. riṇá-ti "to pour, let flow"
*sabaia, *sabaium, *sabaius "a type of beer" PIE *sap- Eng. sap, Lat. sapere "to taste", Skt. sabar "sap, juice, nectar", Avestan višāpa "having poisonous juices", Arm ham, Gk. hapalós "tender, delicate", Old Ch. Slav. sveptŭ "bee's honey"; borrowed into Lat. and from there into Ital. zabaglione "frothy drink"
*sibina (Lat. sibyna ~ sybina); σιβυνη (Gk.), σιβυνης (Gk.), συβινη (Gk.), ζιβυνη (Gk.) Festius, citing Ennius is compared to συβηνη (Gk.), "flute case", a word found in Aristophanes' Thesmophoriazusai; the word appears in the context of a barbarian speaking "a hunting spear", generally, "a spear", "pike" PIE * Alb. thupër "bar, stick",[39] Pers. zôpîn, Arm. səvīn "a spit"
*sika (Lat. sica ~ sicca) First mentioned in Ennius (Annals, 5.540):[40] Illyrii restant sicis sybinisque fodentes, of Illyrian soldiers;[41] later used in Pliny to describe Thracian implements "curved knife, dagger" PIE *ḱeh₁kʷeh₂ Alb. thika 'knife',[42] Old Ir. cath "wise", Lat. cōs, (gen. cōtis) "whetstone", catus "sharp, acute", Eng. hone, Arm. sur "sharp", srem "to sharpen", Avest. saēni "pot", sal "slab, anvil", Skt. śitá "sharp"; borrowed into Lat. sicca "dagger", Lat. sicarii "assassins", Rus. siečiénije "cut, section; cross-section", siečj, rassiekatj "to whip, flog; to cut, shred, split, sever"

Some additional words have been extracted by linguists from toponyms, hydronyms, anthroponyms, etc.:

  • Agruvium "along the coast between Risinum and Butua": IE *aĝr-; cf. Skt. ájraḥ "pasture, field", Lat. ager, Gk. agrós, Goth. akrs
  • Bindus "river god"; cf. Alb. bind ‘to convince, to make believe’, përbindësh "monster", cf. Old Ir. banne "drop", Skt. bindú, vindú "drops, gob, spot", possibly Lat. fōns Bandusiae
  • Bosona "Bosna river", literally "running water": IE *bheg-, bhog- "to run"; Alb. dë-boj "to chase, to drive away", North. Alb. bosi "doer, maker", Rus. bĕg "running; (work)flow", cf. Old Ch. Slav. bĕžati & Rus. bĕžatj "to flee, run; to work, to flow", Lith. bėgti "to flee, to run", Gk. phébesthai "to flee", phóbos "fear", Eng. beck "brook, stream", Middle Ir. búal "flowing water", Hindi bhāg "to flee"
  • mons Bulsinus "Büžanim hill": IE *bʰl̥kos; cf. Eng. balk, Alb. bligë "forked piece of wood", Middle Ir. blog "piece, fragment", Lat. fulcrum "bedpost", Gk. phálanx "trunk, log", Lith. balžiena "crossbar", Serb. blazína "roof beam", Skt. bhuríjāu "cart arms"
  • Derbanoí, Anderva: IE *derw; cf. Eng. tree, Alb. dru "wood", Old Ch. Slav. drĕvo "tree", Rus. dérevo "tree, wood", Welsh derw "oak", Gk. dóry "wood, spear", drýs "oak, tree", Lith. derva "pine wood", Hitt. taru "tree, wood', Thrac. taru "spear", Skt. dru "tree, wood", daru "wood, log"
  • Dizēros, Andízētes: IE *digh; cf. Eng. dough, Gk. teîkhos "wall", Lat. fingere "to shape, mold", Old Ir. com-od-ding "he builds, erects", Old Rus. dĕža "kneading trough", Arm. dez "heap", Skt. dehah "body, form"
  • Domator, personal name; cf. Old Ir. damnaid "he binds, breaks a horse", dam "ox", Eng. tame, dialectal Germ. zamer "ox not under the yoke", Alb. dem "young bull", Lat. domāre "to tame", domitor "tamer", Gk. dámnēmi "to break in", dámalos "calf", Skt. dāmyáti "he is tame; he tames", Rus. odomashnivat' "to tame"
  • Loúgeon: Strabo in his Geography mentions "a marsh called Lougeon" (which has been identified as Lake Cerknica in Slovenia) by the locals (Illyrian and Celtic tribes), Lougeon being Strabo's rendition of the local toponym into Greek. cf. Alb. lag "to wet, soak, bathe, wash", lëgatë "pool", lug "trough, water-channel, spillway", Lith. liűgas "pool", Old Ch. Slav. & Rus. luža "pool", Rus. loža, lože, lógovo "rest place, lounge place, bed, den", Rus. ležátj "to lie, rest, lounge" and ložitj "to lay, put", Thrac. Lýginos, river name[43]
  • stagnus Morsianus "marshlands in Pannonia": IE *merĝ; cf. Middle High Germ. murc "rotten, withered, boggy", Old Ir. meirc "rust", Alb. marth "to shiver, shudder", Lith. markýti "to rust"
  • Naro: IE *nor; cf. Alb. "hum-nerë" "abyss, chasm", Lith. nãras "diving duck; diver", Russ. norá "hole, burrow", Serbo-Croat. po-nor "abyss"
  • Nedinum: IE *ned; cf. Skt. nadas "roarer"
  • Oseriates "lakes": IE *h1eĝʰero; cf. Serb-Croat. jȅzero, Rus. ózero, Lith. éžeras, Latvian ȩzȩrs, Gk. Achérōn "river in the underworld"
  • Pelso (Latin authors referred to modern Lake Balaton as "lacus Pelso", Pelso being a hydronym from the local inhabitants), Pelso apparently meant "deep" or "shallow": IE *pels-; Rus. ples (deep place in lake or river), North Alb. fellë (from fell "deep"), cf. Czech pleso "deep place in a river, lake", Welsh bwlch "crack", Arm. pelem "to dig"
  • Tergitio "merchant"; Alb. tregtar (from treg, market), cf. Old Ch. Slav. trĭgŭ (Serbo-Croat tȑg) "market", Rus. torg "bargain", Lith. tūrgus, Latv. tirgus, Swed. torg. This group is considered to be cognate with the Italian city name of Trieste.
  • Teuta, Teutana: IE *teuta- "people"; cf. Lith. tauta "people", Germ. Deutsch "German", Old Eng. theod "people", Gaul. teuta "tribe", Old Ir. túath "clan", Umbrian tota "people", Oscan touto "city", Hitt. tuzzi "army"; cf. Alb. (northern Albanian, or Gheg dialect) tetanë "all" (possible archaic Albanian synonym for "people").
  • Ulcisus mons, Ulcinium (city), Ulcisia castra: cf. Eng. wolf, Old Alb. ulk, Alb. ujk, Avestan vəhrkō, Persian gurg, Skt. vṛkas, Old Ch. Slav. vlŭkŭ, Russ. volk, volčíca, Lith. vil̃kas, Lat. lupus, Gk. lýkos
  • Volcos, river name in Pannonia; cf. Old Ir. folc "heavy rain, wet weather", Welsh golchi "to wash", obsolete Eng. welkin "cloud", Old High Germ. welk "moist", German Wolke "cloud", Old Ch. Slav. and Rus. vlaga "moisture, plant juice", Volga, river name in Russia, ? vŭlgŭkŭ "wet", Latv. val̃gums "wetness", Alb. ulmej "to dampen, wet"

Illyrian anthroponyms

Tombstone with an Illyrian name. Apollonia, Albania
Greek inscription with Illyrian onomastics (name and patronymic) on a funerary stele, 2nd century BC, Apollonia, Albania.[44]

The following anthroponyms derive from Illyrian or are not yet connected with another language unless noted, such as the Delmatae names of Liburnian origin. Alföldy identified five principal onomastic provinces within the Illyrian area: 1) the "real" Illyrians south of the river Neretva in Dalmatia and extending south to Epirus; 2) the Delmatae, who occupied the middle Adriatic coast between the "real Illyrians" to the south and the Liburni to the north; 3) the Liburni, a branch of Venetic in the northeast Adriatic; 4) the Iapodes, who dwelt north of the Delmatae and behind (inland from) the coastal Liburnians; 5) the Pannonians in the northern lands, and in Bosnia, northern Montenegro and Western Serbia. Katičić does not recognize a separate Pannonian onomastic area, and includes the Pannoni with the Delmatae.[45] Below, names from four of Alföldy's five onomastic areas are listed, Liburnian excluded, having been identified as being akin to Venetic. A Dardanian area is also detailed.[46][47][48]

South Illyrian


Hundreds of Delmatae names have been recorded. Characteristic names include:

  • Andena, Andes, Andis, Andio, Andia
  • Aplis, Apludus, Aplus, Aplius
  • Apurus
  • Baezo
  • Beusas, Beuzas
  • Curbania
  • Cursulavia
  • Iato
  • Lavincia
  • Ledrus
  • Messor
  • Paio, Paiio
  • Panes, Panias, Panius (or Pantus, inscription unclear), Panentius
  • Pant(h)ia/Panto (f.)
  • Pinsus
  • Pladomenus
  • Platino
  • Samuntio
  • Seio, Seiio
  • Statanius, Staticus, Stato, Status
  • Sestus, Sextus, Sexto
  • Tito
  • Tizius
  • Tritus
  • Var(r)o

Delmatae names in common with the Pannoni (some also occur among the south Illyrians):

  • Bardurius.
  • Bato
  • Carius
  • Dasantilla
  • Dasas, Dazas
  • Dasto
  • Plator, Platino
  • Scenobarbus, Scenobardos (?)
  • Verzo
  • Verzulus

Some Delmatae names probably originate from the Liburnians. This conclusion is based on the Liburnian suffixes: -icus, -ica, -ocus, -ico; and from the distribution of the names among the Liburni/Veneti, and from their absence or scarcity in other onomastic areas:

  • Acenica
  • Clevata
  • Darmocus
  • Germanicus (the native Delmatae stem Germanus, Germus, with the Venetic/Liburnian -icus suffix)
  • Labrico
  • Lunnicus
  • Melandrica
  • Turus

From the southern Illyrians, the names Boria, Epicadus, Laedicalius, Loiscus, Pinnes and Tato and some others are present. From the Iapodes, Diteio and Ve(n)do, and a few names of Celtic origin (not shown here).


Some names attested among the Pannoni:

  • Bato (also common among the Delmatae)
  • Dasas, Dasius (also common among the Delmatae)
  • Scenobarbus (also common among the Delmatae)
  • Carvus
  • Laidus
  • Liccaius
  • Plator
  • Temans
  • Tueta
  • Varro
  • Verzo

The following names are confined to the Pannonian onomastic province:

  • Arbo
  • Arsa (possibly Thracian)
  • Callo
  • Daetor
  • Iauletis (genitive)
  • Pirusta
  • Proradus
  • Scirto
  • Vietis (genitive)

Northern Pannoni:

  • Bato
  • Breucus
  • Dases
  • Dasmenus
  • Licco
  • Liccaius

Names attested among the Colapiani, an Illyric tribe of Pannonia:

  • Bato
  • Cralus
  • Liccaius
  • Lirus
  • Plassarus

Among the Jasi: Scenus. The Breuci: Scilus Bato (first and last name), Blaedarus, Dasmenus, Dasius, Surco, Sassaius, Liccaius, Lensus. The Amantini, the Scordisci: Terco, Precio, Dases, Dasmenus.


  • Dasius, Latin form of a Messapic name from southern Italy.[50]

Illyrian theonyms

The following names of gods (theonyms) derive from possibly several languages (Liburnian, Illyrian, etc.) and are names of gods worshipped by the Illyrians. However, they are known through Interpretatio romana and their names may have been corrupted.[51]

  • Anzotica
  • Armatus[52]
  • Bindus[53]
  • Boria
  • Eia
  • Ica
  • Iria
  • Latra
  • Malesocus
  • Medaurus[54]
  • Sentona
  • Thana[55]
  • Vidasus[55]

External influences

The Ancient Greek language would have become an important external influence on Illyrian-speakers who occupied lands adjacent to ancient Greek colonies, mainly on the Adriatic coast.[56] The Taulantii and the Bylliones had, according to Strabo, become bilingual.[57] Invading Celts who settled on lands occupied by Illyrians brought the Illyrians into contact with the Celtic languages and some tribes were Celticized especially those in Dalmatia[58][59] and the Pannoni.[60] Intensive contact may have happened in what is now Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia. Due to this intensive contact, and because of conflicting classical sources, it is unclear whether some ancient tribes were Illyrian or Celtic (ex: Scordisci)[61] or mixed in varying degree. Thracians and Paeonians also occupied lands populated by Illyrians, bringing Illyrians into contact with the Thracian language and Paeonian language. Certainly, no serious linguistic study of Illyrian language could be made without the inclusion of Latin, in addition to ancient Greek, Thracian and Celtic languages, as the peoples that spoke those languages were recorded by both ancient and modern historians to have lived in lands inhabited by Illyrians at one period of time in history or another. Last, but certainly not least, any comprehensive study of Illyrian language must take into account the Indo-European glossary.[20]


The following Illyrian names derive from Celtic:


The following names derive from Thracian:


The following names may derive from Greek:

  • Ardiaioi, the ancient Greek name for Ardiaei (ardis, 'head of the arrow, sting'). One challenge to this theory is that the suggested root-word ardis does not necessarily form 'Ardiaioi', by the rules of Greek language.[20]
  • Ceraunii, tribal exonym, ("Κεραύνιοι, "Thunderbolt-men)"[70]
  • Cleitus, ("κλειτός", "renowned man")
  • Glaukias, ("γλαυκός", "gleaming man")
  • Illyrians, gr. Ἰλλυριοί, tribal exonym
  • Mellito, Greek and Celtic element,[63] gr. μελλιτόεις, "like honey"
  • Plator, gr. Πλάτων, "wide man"
  • Pleuratus, gr. πλευρά, "side'"


The following names may derive from Latin:

  • Ardiaei, (ardea, 'heron'). However, the problem with the theory supporting the Latin etymology for the Ardiaei is that Ardiaioi, a Greek form of Ardiaei is found in several pre-Roman sources, and it turns that it precedes the Roman/Latin Influence, as it precedes the Vardaei, another form of this name. Greek historian Strabo says in paragraph 6 (Book 7, chapter 5) of his Geographica: “The Ardiaei were called by the men of later times "Vardiaei".[20]


The Illyrian languages were likely extinct between the 2nd and 6th centuries AD,[71][72] with the possible exception of the language that developed into Albanian according to the theory of Albanian descent from Illyrian. It has also been posited that Illyrian was preserved and spoken in the countryside, as attested in the 4th-5th century testimonies of St. Jerome.[73][74]

See also


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Illyrian". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ If the Messapian language was close enough to the Illyrian languages to be considered an Illyrian language, then Illyrian would also have been spoken in southern Italy.
  3. ^ Woodard 2008, p. 6: "While the Illyrians are a well-documented people of antiquity, not a single verifiable inscription has survived written in the Illyrian language."
  4. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 67: "Though almost nothing of it survives, except for names, the Illyrian language has figured prominently in several theories regarding the spread of Indo-European languages into Europe."
  5. ^ a b c Mallory & Adams 1997.
  6. ^ a b c Christidis, Arapopoulou & Chritē 2007.
  7. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 183: "We may begin with the Venetic peoples, Veneti, Carni, Histri and Liburni, whose language set them apart from the rest of the Illyrians."
  8. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 81: "In Roman Pannonia the Latobici and Varciani who dwelt east of the Venetic Catari in the upper Sava valley were Celtic but the Colapiani of the Colapis (Kulpa) valley were Illyrians (north Pannonian), exhibiting names such as Liccaius, Bato, Cralus, Lirus and Plassarus."
  9. ^ Boardman 1982, Polomé, Edgar C. "Balkan Languages (Illyrian, Thracian and Daco-Moesian), pp. 866-888; Birnbaum & Puhvel 1966, Hamp, Eric P. "The Position of Albanian", pp. 97-121.
  10. ^ Andersen 2003, p. 22.
  11. ^ Christidis, Arapopoulou & Chritē 2007, p. 746.
  12. ^ a b c Woodard 2008.
  13. ^ a b Mallory & Adams 1997, p. 288
  14. ^ Christidis, Arapopoulou & Chritē 2007, p. 748.
  15. ^ Blench 1999, p. 250; Woodard 2008, p. 259; Fortson 2004, p. 35.
  16. ^ Boardman 1982, p. 874: "Clausal, river near Scodra, may be derived from an IE theme *klew- 'wash, rinse (: Gk. κλύζω, Lat. cluō, 'purge')."
  17. ^ Kortlandt 2008; Hamp 1960, pp. 275–280; Demiraj 1988, p. 44; Demiraj 1996, p. 190.
  18. ^ Krahe 1955, p. 50
  19. ^ Mayer 1957, p. 50.
  20. ^ a b c d e f Adzanela (Axhanela) Ardian, Illyrian Bosnia and Herzegovina-an overview of a cultural legacy, 2004,
  21. ^ Ushaku, Ruzhdi, Hulumtime etnoliguistike, chapter: The continuation of Illyrian Bind in Albanian Mythology and Language, Fakulteti filologjise, Prishtine, 2000, pp. 46-48
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b c d "Illyrian Glossary". Archived from the original on 2011-06-17.
  24. ^ Madgearu, Alexandru; Gordon, Martin (2008). The wars of the Balkan Peninsula: Their medieval origins. Lanham: Scarecrow Press. p. 150. ISBN 9780810858466.
  25. ^ Iseni, Bashkim (2008). La question nationale en Europe du Sud-Est: genèse, émergence et développement de l'indentité nationale albanaise au Kosovo et en Macédoine. Peter Lang. p. 25. ISBN 9783039113200.
  26. ^ a b c d Orel, Vladimir; Albanian Etymological Dictionary, Brill, 1998 ISBN 90-04-11024-0
  27. ^ Indo-european language and culture: an introduction Blackwell textbooks in linguistics Author Benjamin W. Fortson Edition 2, illustrated, reprint Publisher John Wiley and Sons, 2009 ISBN 1-4051-8896-0, ISBN 978-1-4051-8896-8 p. 465
  28. ^ Krahe 1925.
  29. ^ a b c Krahe 1955.
  30. ^ Alföldy 1964, pp. 55–104.
  31. ^ Benać 1964, Katičić, Radoslav. "Suvremena istrazivanja o jeziku starosjedilaca ilirskih provincija – Die neuesten Forschungen über die einheimische Sprachschicht in den illyrischen Provinzen", pp. 9-58.
  32. ^ Katičić 1965, pp. 53–76; Katičić 1976.
  33. ^ Katičić 1976, pp. 179–180.
  34. ^ Suić and Katičić question the existence of a separate people of Illyrii. For them, Illyrii proprie dicti are peoples inhabiting the heartland of the Illyrian kingdom; Suić, M. (1976) "Illyrii proprie dicti" ANUBiH 11 gcbi 11, 179-197. Katičić, R. (1964) "Illyrii proprie dicti" ZAnt 13-14, 87-97 Katičić, R. (1965) "Nochmals Illyrii proprie dicti" ZAnt 16, 241-244. This view is also supported in Papazoglu, F. (1989) "L'organisation politique de l'Illyrie meridionale (A propos du livre de P. Cabanes sur "Les Illyriens de Bardylis a Genthios")" ZAnt. 39, 31-53.
  35. ^ a b Fortson, Benjamin W. (2011). Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction. John Wiley & Sons. p. 465. ISBN 9781444359688.
  36. ^ Roisman, Joseph; Worthington, Ian (2011). A Companion to Ancient Macedonia. John Wiley & Sons. p. 279. ISBN 9781444351637.
  37. ^ Gustav Must, reviewing Krahe 1955 in Language 32.4 (October 1956), p. 721.
  38. ^ Ognenova 1959, pp. 794–799.
  39. ^ Hamp & Ismajli 2007.
  40. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 239.
  41. ^ Cicero & Dyck 2008, "COMMENTARY: 1.16.1-8", p. 96.
  42. ^ Best, de Vries & Henri Frankfort Foundation 1982, pp. 134–135, Note #20.
  43. ^ Strabo. Geography, 7.43: "élos loúgeon kaloúmenon".
  44. ^ Ceka, Neritan (2005). Apollonia: History and Monuments. Migjeni. p. 19. ISBN 9789994367252. "In the third-second centuries BC, a number of Illyrians, including Abrus, Bato, and Epicardus, rose to the highest position in the city administration, that of prytanis. Other Illyrians such as Niken, son of Agron, Tritus, son of Plator, or Genthius, are found on graves belonging to ordinary families (fig.7)."
  45. ^ Katičić 1965.
  46. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 72: "Thus it seems generally agreed that the name of the Illyrian queen Teuta of the third century BC derives from teutana, which means 'queen'."
  47. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 71: "The names Daza, Dasius and Dazomenus have been connected with Dasmenus in Pannonia and Dazos in southern Italy. The meaning of these plausible correspondences is hard to determine: neither the internal links between the three principal Illyrian onomastic provinces nor those between them and other areas indicate more than that the languages spoken by peoples in the Illyrian territories were somehow related if not altogether common."
  48. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 186: "The fourth of the Venetic-speaking peoples around the head of the Adriatic were the Liburni, who occupied the coast and islands between Istria and the river Titus (Krka) and had been known to the Greeks since at least the eighth century BC."
  49. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 73: "The common name Bato may derive from the same root as the Latin battuere meaning `to strike', or is just as likely to derive from the root *bha 'say' or 'tell', the Latin fari."
  50. ^ Williams 2004, p. 182: "1 Dasius: The Latin form of a Messapic name from southern Italy..."
  51. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 245: "Illyrian deities are named on monuments of the Roman era, some in equation with gods of the classical pantheon. ... Thus several deities occur only in Istria, including Eia, Malesocus, Boria and Iria. Anzotica was the Liburnian Venus and appears in the traditional image of the classical goddess. Other local deities were Latra, Sentona and the nymph Ica, worshipped in eastern Istria at a spring still known by praying in relief sculpture, Knez 1974 (ritual vessel), Baçe 1984 (temple architecture in Illyrian Albania)."
  52. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 247: "Sometimes the name of a local deity is recorded only in the Latin form, for example, Armatus at Delminium (Duvno) who was evidently a war god of the Delmatae, and the Latin Liber who appears with the attributes of Silvanus and Terminus..."
  53. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 200: "Continuity in a local tradition of engraved ornament is to be seen on other monuments of the Roman period, including altars dedicated by chiefs of the Japodes at the shrine of Bindus Neptunus at a spring near Bihac (see figure 30)."
  54. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 247: "The Illyrian town Rhizon (Risinium) on the Gulf of Kotor had its protective deity Medaurus..."
  55. ^ a b Wilkes 1995, pp. 246–247: "North of the Japodes, the altars to Vidasus and Thana dedicated at the hot springs of Topuško..."
  56. ^ Davison et al. 2006, p. 21; Pomeroy et al. 2008, p. 255.
  57. ^ Lewis & Boardman 1994, "The Illyrians c. 540-360 B.C.", p. 423: "Through contact with their Greek neighbors some Illyrian tribe became bilingual (Strabo VII.7.8 diglottoi): in particular the Bylliones and the Taulantian tribes close to Epidamnus."
  58. ^ Hornblower & Spawforth 2003, p. 426.
  59. ^ Bunson 1995, "ILLYRICUM (Dalmatia)", p. 202.
  60. ^ Hornblower & Spawforth 2003, p. 1106.
  61. ^ Ó hÓgáin 2003, p. 60.
  62. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Wilkes 1995, p. 82.
  63. ^ a b c d e f g h i Wilkes 1995, p. 79.
  64. ^ a b c d e f g h Wilkes 1995, p. 84.
  65. ^ a b c d e Wilkes 1995, p. 75.
  66. ^ a b c d e f Wilkes 1995, p. 76.
  67. ^ Wilkes 1995, pp. 76, 82.
  68. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Wilkes 1995, p. 86.
  69. ^ Wilkes 1995, pp. 84, 86.
  70. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 217: "Ceraunii whose name deriving from the Greek for 'thunderbolt' links them with high mountains..."
  71. ^ Fol 2002, p. 225: "Romanisation was total and complete by the end of the 4th century A.D. In the case of the Illyrian elements a Romance intermediary is inevitable as long as Illyrian was probably extinct in the 2nd century A.D."
  72. ^ Eastern Michigan University Linguist List: The Illyrian Language.
  73. ^ Fortson 2004, p. 405: "Although they were to play an important role in the Roman army and even furnished later Rome with several famous emperors (including Diocletian, Constantine the Great and Justinian I), the Illyrians never became fully assimilated Romans and kept their language."
  74. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 266: "Alongside Latin the native Illyrian survived in the country areas, and St Jerome claimed to speak his 'sermo gentilis' (Commentary on Isaiah 7.19)."


Further reading

External links

Albanian language

Albanian (; shqip [ʃcip] or gjuha shqipe [ɟuha ʃcipɛ]) is an Indo-European language spoken by the Albanians in the Balkans and the Albanian diaspora in the Americas, Europe and Oceania. It comprises an independent branch within the Indo-European languages and is not closely related to any other language in Europe.

Gheg and Tosk constitute the major dialects of the Albanian language with Gheg spoken in the north and Tosk spoken in the south of the Shkumbin. Standard Albanian is a standardised form of spoken Albanian based on the Tosk dialect. It is the official language of Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia as well as a minority language of Italy, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia.

Centuries-old communities speaking Albanian dialects can be found scattered in Croatia (the Arbanasi), Greece (the Arvanites and some communities in Epirus, Western Macedonia and Western Thrace), Italy (the Arbëreshë immigrants in Italy) as well as in Romania and Ukraine.

Chinna (Dardania)

Chinna was an Illyrian settlement located near the White Drin, near the modern-day settlement of Klina.It was settled by the Dardanii.


Epicaria (Ancient Greek: Ἐπικάρια) or Durnium was a settlement in ancient Illyria, of the Illyrian tribe called the Cavii. It was close to Bassania.

Gradistë belt-plate

The Gradistë belt-plate is an Illyrian silvered bronze belt-plate found in the village of Gradistë in south-eastern Albania near Lake Ohrid. The decorative belt-plate dates from the early 3rd century BC around the year 280 BC. It depicts Illyrian warriors in combat both on foot and on horseback with a giant snake-dragon on the left and an unknown dead character with a face mask. The belt-plate shows the typical southern Illyrian shield used in southern Illyria and the Illyrian helmet. The snake in the side symbolizes the religious role it played in the religion of the Illyrians According to several archaeologists the shields depicted in the Gradistë artifact indicate a widespread use of that particular shield type among Illyrians and Ancient Macedonians.

Hans Krahe

Hans Krahe (7 February 1898 – 25 June 1965) was a German philologist and linguist, specializing over many decades in the Illyrian languages. He was born at Gelsenkirchen.


In classical antiquity, Illyria (; Ancient Greek: Ἰλλυρία, Illyría or Ἰλλυρίς, Illyrís; Latin: Illyria, see also Illyricum) was a region in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula inhabited by a numerous tribes of people collectively known as the Illyrians. Besides them, this region was also settled, in various times, by some tribes of Celts, Goths and Thracians. Illyrians spoke Illyrian languages, a group of Indo-European languages, which in ancient times perhaps had speakers in some parts in southern Italy. The Roman term Illyris (distinct from Illyria) was sometimes used to define an area north of the Aous valley, most notably Illyris proper.


Illyrian may refer to:

Illyrian tribes, ancient Illyrian tribes in Southeastern Europe

Illyrian languages, languages of ancient Illyrian tribes

Thraco-Illyrian languages, ancient linguistic group in Southeastern Europe

Illyrian mythology, mythology of ancient Illyrians

Illyrian coinage, coinage of ancient Illyrian tribes

Illyrian emperors, designation for several Roman emperors, descended from Roman Illyricum

Illyrian Wars, several wars between ancient Romans and Illyrians

Illyrian warfare, general warfare history of ancient Illyrians

Illyrian weaponry, weaponry of ancient Illyrians

Illyrian type helmet, a type helmet used by ancient Illyrians

Illyrian Armorials, a group of early modern armorials

Illyrian Academy (1703), a college for Catholic Slavs, established in Split (Dalmatia)

Pan-Illyrian theories, a group of linguistic theories on ancient Illyrian language

adjective for ancient Illyria

adjective for ancient Illyrians

adjective for Roman Illyricum

adjective for French Illyrian Provinces

adjective for Austrian Illyrian Kingdom

adjective for Illyrism


The Illyrians (Ancient Greek: Ἰλλυριοί, Illyrioi; Latin: Illyrii or Illyri) were a group of Indo-European tribes in antiquity, who inhabited part of the western Balkans. The territory the Illyrians inhabited came to be known as Illyria to Greek and Roman authors, who identified a territory that corresponds to Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Montenegro, part of Serbia and most of central and northern Albania, between the Adriatic Sea in the west, the Drava river in the north, the Morava river in the east and the mouth of the Aoos river in the south. The first account of Illyrian peoples comes from the Periplus of Pseudo-Scylax, an ancient Greek text of the middle of the 4th century BC that describes coastal passages in the Mediterranean.The name "Illyrians", as applied by the ancient Greeks to their northern neighbors, may have referred to a broad, ill-defined group of peoples. The Illyrian tribes never collectively regarded themselves as 'Illyrians', and it is unlikely that they used any collective nomenclature for themselves. In fact, Illyrians seems to be the name of a specific Illyrian tribe that was among the first to come in contact with the ancient Greeks during the Bronze Age, with the Greeks later applying pars pro toto the name Illyrians to all people with similar language and customs. At present it is unclear to what extent the Illyrians were linguistically and culturally homogeneous. In fact, Illyric origin was and still is attributed also to a few ancient peoples residing in Italy: the Iapyges, Dauni, and Messapi, who are thought to have most likely followed Adriatic shorelines to the Italian peninsula from the geographic "Illyria".

The term "Illyrians" last appears in the historical record in the 7th century, referring to a Byzantine garrison operating within the former Roman province of Illyricum.


Mazaei or Maezaei (Ancient Greek: Μαζαῖοι/Μαιζαῖοι) were a sub-tribe of the Illyrians, settled in what later became Pannonia. They were autochthonous, and inhabited the interior of today's Bosnia and Herzegovina, mainly in the Sana river basin, the middle course of Vrbas, and around the Vrbanja and Ugar rivers.

Messapian language

Messapian (; also known as Messapic) is an extinct Indo-European language of southeastern Italy, once spoken in the region of Apulia. It was spoken by the three Iapygian tribes of the region: the Messapians, the Peucetians and the Daunians. The language has been preserved in about 300 inscriptions dating from the 6th to the 1st century BC.

There is an unverifiable hypothesis about a link between it and the Illyrian language. It became extinct after the Roman Republic conquered the region of Apulia and assimilated the inhabitants.

Paleo-Balkan languages

The Paleo-Balkan languages are the various extinct Indo-European languages that were spoken in the Balkans in ancient times. Hellenization, Romanization and Slavicization in the region caused their only modern descendants to be Modern Greek and Albanian, which are descended from Ancient Greek and one of the Thraco-Illyrian languages, respectively.

Pan-Illyrian theories

Pan-Illyrian theories were proposed in the first half the twentieth century by philologists who thought that traces of Illyrian languages could be found in several parts of Europe, outside the Balkan area.

Salvia, Liburnia

Salvia was an Illyrian settlement Liburnia of the Delmatae.

The exact location is unknown, it is mentioned together with Stridon, possibly at Bosansko Grahovo.


A sibyna (Ancient Greek: Σιβύνη) was a type of spear used for hunting or warfare (see boar spears) in ancient times.A long heavy spear the Illyrians used was described by the poet Ennius according to Festius. Hesychius of Alexandria, (5th century) calls it similar to a spear. Suda lexicon (10th century) calls it a Roman javelin.

The word may be Illyrian or Thraco-Phrygian.

Soleto Map

The Soleto Map is a possibly ancient map, which depicts Salento on a small piece of ostrakon derived from a terracotta vase. However, while the ostrakon is undoubtedly ancient, doubts have been raised about the age of the map.

Spectacle brooch

The Spectacle brooch was an ancient fibula used by the Illyrians. The spectacle brooch originates in Illyria and consists of two concentrically wound spirals attached to a pin.


Thraco-Illyrian is a hypothesis that the Thraco-Dacian and Illyrian languages comprise a distinct branch of Indo-European. Thraco-Illyrian is also used as a term merely implying a Thracian-Illyrian interference, mixture or sprachbund, or as a shorthand way of saying that it is not determined whether a subject is to be considered as pertaining to Thracian or Illyrian. Downgraded to a geo-linguistic concept, these languages are referred to as Paleo-Balkan.

The linguistical hypothesis was especially current in the early 20th century, but after the 1960s it was seriously called into question. New publications argued that no strong evidence for Thraco-Illyrian exists, and that the two language-areas show more differences than correspondences (Vladimir Georgiev, Ivan Duridanov, Eric Hamp, et al.). Whereas more recent linguists like Sorin Paliga have argued that based on the available data, Illyrian and Thracian were mutually understandable in a way comparable to Czech-Slovak or Spanish-Portuguese.


Ugento (Salentino: Ušèntu) is a town and comune in the province of Lecce, Apulia, southern Italy. It has a small harbour on the Gulf of Taranto of the Ionian Sea.

Venetic language

Venetic is an extinct Indo-European language, usually classified into the Italic subgroup, that was spoken by the Veneti people in ancient times in the North East of Italy (Veneto) and part of modern Slovenia, between the Po River delta and the southern fringe of the Alps.The language is attested by over 300 short inscriptions dating from the 6th to the 1st century BC. Its speakers are identified with the ancient people called Veneti by the Romans and Enetoi by the Greeks. It became extinct around the 1st century when the local inhabitants were assimilated into the Roman sphere. Inscriptions dedicating offerings to Reitia are one of the chief sources of knowledge of the Venetic language.Venetic should not be confused with Venetian, a Romance language presently spoken in the same general region, which developed from Vulgar Latin, another Italic language.

Ancient Illyrians
Name & identity
in modern times

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