2019, Volume 16, Issue 2

Back to the Table of Contents

Yuri A. Dzitstsoity
South Ossetian State University
Tskhinval, Republic of South Ossetia

On the Etymology of the Ethnic Names Alan and Allon

Voprosy onomastiki, 2019, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp. 232–258 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2019.16.2.024

Received 18 February 2019

Abstract: The article provides a critical analysis of the research by A. K. Alikberov and O. A. Mudrak, attempting to revise the traditional views on ethnic attribution of the early Alans by offering a new etymology of their ethnic name. In the author’s view, the researchers’ disregard of specialized studies in Iranian and Alan culture, as well as limited knowledge of historical phonetics and morphology of the Ossetian language, has led them to erroneous conclusions. Their argumentation is based solely on the data presented in V. I. Abayev’s dictionary. Meanwhile, the etymological relationship between the ethnonyms alan and allon (the latter frequently occurs in Ossetian folklore) is no longer a subject of scholarly debate, and so is the relation of these names to the ethnic name aria. Although these arguments have been omitted in the discussed article, the present paper considers them, as they provide criticisms that need to be commented on. Ultimately, it was found that the only aspect that has not been discussed yet in Iranian studies is the problem of single and geminated -l- in the forms of the ethnonym, to which the authors of the reviewed article drew particular attention. However, a thorough analysis of the relevant language and folklore data settles all controversial issues. The article gives due consideration to the alternative etymologies proposed by A. K. Alikberov and O. A. Mudrak. But as a result of this analysis, the author of the article concludes that the traditional etymology for the ethnic names alan and allon remains valid and true, and also determines the place of these names among the self-names of modern Ossetians.

Keywords: Iranian languages, Ossetian language, Alan language, etymology, mythology.


Abaev, V. I. (1949). Osetinskii iazyk i fol'klor [Ossetian Language and Folklore] (Vol. 1). Moscow; Leningrad: Izd-vo AN SSSR.

Abaev, V. I. (1956). Mimeo-izobrazitel'nye slova v osetinskom iazyke [Mimeo-Visual Words in the Ossetian Language]. Trudy In-ta iazykoznaniia AN SSSR, 6, 409–427.

Abaev, V. I. (1958–1989). Istoriko-etimologicheskii slovar' osetinskogo iazyka (Vols. 1–4) [Historical and Etymological Dictionary of the Ossetian Language]. Moscow; Leningrad: Izd-vo AN SSSR; Nauka.

Abaev, V. I. (1960). [Review of Études sur la langue ossète by E. Benveniste]. Voprosy jazykoznanija, 4, 141–145.

Abaev, V. I. (1965). Skifo-evropeiskie izoglossy. Na styke Vostoka i Zapada [Scythian-European Isoglosses. At the Crossroads of East and West]. Moscow: Nauka.

Abaev, V. I. (1970). Grammaticheskii ocherk osetinskogo iazyka [A Grammatical Essay on the Ossetian Language]. In B. B. Bigulaev et al. (Eds.), Osetinsko-russkii slovar' [Ossetian-Russian Dictionary] (pp. 543–720). Ordzhonikidze: Ir.

Abaev, V. I. (1995). Izbrannye trudy [Selected Works] (Vol. 2). Vladikavkaz: Ir.

Alborov, B. A. (1979). Nekotorye voprosy osetinskoi filologii [Some Questions of Ossetian Philology]. Ordzhonikidze: Ir.

Alemany, A. (2003). Alany v drevnikh i srednevekovykh pis'mennykh istochnikakh [The Alans in Ancient and Medieval Written Sources]. Moscow: Menedzher.

Alemany, A. (2014). Where are Monuments of the “Alanic” Language? Nartamongæ. The Journal of Alano-Ossetic Studies: Epic, Mythology & Language, 11(1–2), 144–150.

Alemany, A. (2017). Ferdowsī’s “King of the Alans”. Nartamongæ. The Journal of Alano-Ossetic Studies: Epic, Mythology, Language, History, 12(1–2), 47–57.

Andronikashvili, M. (1966). Nark"vevebi iranul-kartuli enobrivi urtiertobidan [Studies in Iranian-Georgian Linguistic Contacts] (Vol. 1). Tbilisi: Izd-vo Tbilisskogo un-ta.

Bachrach, B. S. (1973). A History of the Alans in the West. From their First Appearance in the Sources of Classical Antiquity through the Early Middle Ages. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Bailey, H W. (1980). Ossetic (Nartä). In J. B. Hainsworth, & A. T. Hatto (Eds.), Traditions of Heroic and Epic Poetry (pp. 236–267). London: MHRA.

Bartholomae, Chr. (1904). Altiranisches Wörterbuch. Strassburg: Verlag von Karl. J. Truebner.

Benveniste, E. (1965). Ocherki po osetinskomu iazyku [Essays on the Ossetian Language]. Moscow: Nauka.

Benveniste, E. (1995). Slovar' indoevropeiskikh sotsial'nykh terminov [A Dictionary of Indo-European Social Terms]. Moscow: Progress; Univers.

Biazyrty, A. (1993). Narty tauræg"ty istori [A History of the Narta Epic]. Vladikavkaz: Ir.

Bielmeier, R. (1977). Historische Untersuchung zum Erb- und Lehnwortschatzantail im ossetischen Grundwortschatz. Frankfurt am Main; Bern; Las Vegas: Peter Lang.

Bielmeier, R. (1988). Zum Namen der kaukasischen Iberer. In P. O. Scholz, R. Stempel (Eds.), Nubia et oriens christianus: Festschrift für C. Detlef G. Müller zum 60 Geburtstag (pp. 99–105). Köln: J. Dinter.

Bielmeier, R. (2011). Das alanische bei Tzetzes. Nartamongæ. The Journal of Alano-Ossetic Studies: Epic, Mythology & Language, 8(1–2), 180–206.

Bongard-Levin, G. M., & Grantovskii, E. A. (1983). Ot Skifii do Indii. Drevnie arii: mify i istoriia [From Scythia to India. Ancient Arias: Myths and History] (2nd ed.). Moscow: Mysl'.

Cheng, Dzh. (2008). Ocherki istoricheskogo razvitiia osetinskogo vokalizma [Essays on the Historical Development of Ossetian Vocalism]. Vladikavkaz; Tskhinval: Izd.-poligraf. predpriiatie im. V. Gassieva.

Christol, A. (1989). Des Scythes aux Ossetes. Rouenlac: Groupe de Recherches Rouenlac.

Cornillot, F. (1994). L’aube scythique du monde slave. Slovo: Revue du Centre d’études russes, eurasiennes et sibériennes, 14, 77–259.

Dumézil, G. (1976). Osetinskii epos i mifologiia [Ossetian Epic Tradition and Mythology]. Moscow: Nauka, 1976.

Dumézil, G. (1986). Verkhovnye bogi indoevropeitsev [The Supreme Gods of the Indo-Europeans]. Moscow: Nauka.

Dumézil, G. (1986). Fêtes romaines d’été et d’automne. Paris: Gallimard.

Dzhabiev, Z. P. (1977). O terminologii narodnoi meditsiny v osetinskom iazyke [On the Terminology of Traditional Medicine in the Ossetian Language]. Tskhinvali: Metsniereba.

Dzidziguri, Sh. V. (1986). Gruzinskie varianty nartskogo eposa [Georgian Versions of the Narta Epic]. Tbilisi: Metsniereba.

Dzitstsoity, Yu. A. (1992). Narty i ikh sosedi: Geograficheskie i etnicheskie nazvaniia v nartovskom epose [Narts and Their Neighbours: Geographical and Ethnic Names in the Narta Epic]. Vladikavkaz: Alaniia.

Dzitstsoity, Yu. A. (2003). Nartovskii epos i Amiraniani [The Narta Epic and Amiraniani]. Tskhinval: Poligraficheskoe proizvodstvennoe ob"edinenie.

Dzitstsoity, Yu. A. (2017). Voprosy osetinskoi filologii [Issues in Ossetian Philology] (Vol. 1). Tskhinval: Respublika.

Edelman, D. I. (1986). Sravnitel'naia grammatika vostochnoiranskikh iazykov. Fonologiia [Comparative Grammar of East Iranian Languages. Phonology]. Moscow: Nauka.

Efimov, V. A., Rastorgueva, V. S., & Sharova, E. N. (1982). Persidskii, tadzhikskii, dari [Persian, Tajik, Dari]. In V. S. Rastorgueva (Ed.), Osnovy iranskogo iazykoznaniia. Novoiranskie iazyki: zapadnaia gruppa, prikaspiiskie iazyki (pp. 5–231) [Fundamentals of Iranian Linguistics. New Iranian Languages: Western Group, Caspian Languages]. Moscow: Nauka.

Gabaraev, N. Ya. (1977). Morfologicheskaia struktura slova i slovoobrazovanie v sovremennom osetinskom iazyke [The Morphological Structure of the Word and Word Formation in the Modern Ossetian Language]. Tbilisi: Metsniereba.

Gamkrelidze, T. V., & Ivanov, V. V. (1984). Indoevropeiskii iazyk i indoevropeitsy. Rekonstruktsiia i istoriko-tipologicheskii analiz praiazyka i protokul'tury (Vols. 1–2) [Indo-European Language and Indo-Europeans. Reconstruction and Historical and Typological Analysis of the Proto-Language and Proto-Culture]. Tbilisi: Izd-vo Tbilis. un-ta.

Gauthiot, R. (1913). Essai sur le vocalisme du sogdien. Paris: Librairie P. Geuthner.

Genko, A. N. (1930). Iz kul'turnogo proshlogo ingushei [From the Cultural Past of the Ingush]. Zapiski kollegii vostokovedov pri Aziatskom Muzee AN SSSR, 5, 681–761.

Gershevitch, I. (1955). Word and Spirit in Ossetic. Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, 17, 478–489.

Gershevitch, I. (1960). [Review of Eine Wörterliste der Jassen, der ungarländischen Alanen by J. Németh]. Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, 23, 595–596.

Gertsenberg, L. G. (1972). Morfologicheskaia struktura slova v drevnikh indoiranskikh iazykakh [The Morphological Structure of the Word in the Ancient Indo-Iranian Languages]. Leningrad: Nauka.

Gnoli, G. (1998). Two Historical Questions Relating to the Alans and the Mountains. In Studia Iranica et Alanica. Festschrift for Prof. Vasilij Ivanovič Abaev on the Occasion of His 95th Birthday (pp. 161–167). Rome: Ist. italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente.

Gnoli, G. (1989). The Idea of Iran. Rome: Serie Orientale Roma.

Griunberg, A. L., & Edelman, D. I. (1987). Afganskii iazyk [The Afgan Language]. In V. S. Rastorgueva (Ed.), Osnovy iranskogo iazykoznaniia. Novoiranskie iazyki: vostochnaia gruppa [Fundamentals of Iranian Linguistics. New Iranian Languages: Eastern Group] (pp. 6–154). Moscow: Nauka.

Harmatta, J. (1970). Studies in the History and Languages of the Sarmatians. Széged: Ed. Kultura.

Jacobsohn, H. (1922). Arier und Ugrofi nnen. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck u. Ruprecht.

Khromov, A. L. (1987). Iagnobskii iazyk [The Yagnobi Language]. In V. S. Rastorgueva (Ed.), Osnovy iranskogo iazykoznaniia. Novoiranskie iazyki: vostochnaia gruppa [Fundamentals of Iranian Linguistics. New Iranian Languages: Eastern Group] (pp. 644–701). Moscow: Nauka.

Klein, L. S. (1975). Legenda Gerodota ob aziatskom proiskhozhdenii skifov i Nartskii epos [The Legend of Herodotus about the Asian Origin of the Scythians and the Narta Epic]. Vestnik drevnei istorii, 4, 14–27.

Knobloch, J. (1991). Homerische Helden und christliche Heilige in der kaukasischen Nartenepic. Heidelberg: Carl Winter.

Kuznetsov, V. A. (1980). Nartskii epos i nekotorye voprosy istorii osetinskogo naroda [The Narta Epic and Some Issues in the History of the Ossetian People]. Ordzhonikidze: Ir.

Kuznetsov, V. A. (1992). Ocherki istorii alan [Essays on the History of the Alans]. Vladikavkaz: Ir.

Lebedinsky, Ya. (2016). Alany i sarmaty v Gallii IV–V vv.: istoriia i nasledie [Alans and Sarmatians in Gaul in the 4th–5th Centuries: History and Heritage]. Vladikavkaz: Proekt-Press.

Lebedynsky, J. (2000). Des noms et des peuples. Les noms ethniques des Ossètes et de leurs ancêtres. D’Ossètie et d’alentour. Bulletin de l’association ossète en France, 8, 4–17.

Littleton, Scott C., & Malcor, L. A. (2007). Ot Skifii do Kamelota [From Scythia to Camelot]. Moscow: Menedzher.

Mayrhofer, M. (1953). Kurzgefaßtes etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindischen (Vol. 1). Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1953.

Miller, V. (1962). Iazyk osetin [Language of Ossetians]. Moscow; Leningrad: Izd-vo AN SSSR.

Miller, V. F. (1887). Osetinskie etiudy [Ossetian Studies] (Vol. 3). Moscow: [s.n.].

Noli, G. (2002). Nazvanie alan v sasanidskikh nadpisiakh: lingvisticheskie i istoricheskie razmyshleniia po povodu protivopostavleniia Irana vneshnego i Irana vnutrennego [The Name of the Alans in Sasanian Inscriptions: Linguistic and Historical Reflections on the Opposition of the Outer and the Inner Iran]. Vladikavkaz: Ir, 2002.

Oransky, I. M. (1979). Vvedenie [Introduction]. In V. S. Rastorgueva (Ed.), Osnovy iranskogo iazykoznaniia. Drevneiranskie iazyki [Fundamentals of Iranian Linguistics. Ancient Iranian Language] (pp. 10–128). Moscow: Nauka.

Oransky, I. M. (1988). Vvedenie v iranskuiu filologiiu [Introduction to Iranian Philology] (2nd ed.). Moscow: Nauka.

Rastorgueva, V. S., & Edelman, D. I. (1982). Gilianskii, mazanderanskii (s dialektami shamerzadi i velatru) [Gilaki and Mazandarani (with the Dialects Shahmirzadi and Velatru)]. In V. S. Rastorgueva (Ed.), Osnovy iranskogo iazykoznaniia. Novoiranskie iazyki: zapadnaia gruppa, prikaspiiskie iazyki [Fundamentals of Iranian Linguistics. New Iranian Languages: Western group, Caspian languages] (pp. 447–554). Moscow: Nauka.

Rastorgueva, V. S., & Edelman, D. I. (2000–). Etimologicheskii slovar' iranskikh iazykov [Etymological Dictionary of Iranian Languages] (Vol. 1–). Moscow: Vost. lit.

Rossi, A. V. (2000). L’iscrizione originaria di Bisotun: DB Elam. A+L [The Original Description of Bisotun: DB Elam. A+L]. In S. Graziani (Ed.), Studi sul vicino oriente antico dedicati alla memoria di Luigi Cagni (Vol. 4, pp. 2065–2107). Naples: Instituto Universitatiro Orientali di Napoli.

Russell, J. R. (2006). Argawan: The Indo-European Memory of the Caucasus. Journal of Armenian Studies, 8/2, 110–147.

Shegren, A. M. (1844). Osetinskaia grammatika s kratkim slovarem osetinsko-rossiiskim i rossiiskoosetinskim [Ossetian Grammar with a Concise Ossetian-Russian and Russian-Ossetian Dictionary]. St Petersburg: Imp. Akad. nauk.

Shegren, A. M. (1998). Osetinskie issledovaniia [Ossetian Studies]. Vladikavkaz: Izd-vo SOGU.

Sköld, H. (1925). Die Ossetischen Lehnwörter im Ungarischen. Lunds Universitets Årsskrift, 20(4), 1–114.

Steblin-Kamensky, I. M. (1982). Ocherki po istorii leksiki pamirskikh iazykov. Nazvaniia kul’turnykh rastenii [Essays on the History of the Pamir Languages. Names of Cultivated Plants]. Moscow: Nauka.

Szemerényi, O. (1977). Studies in the Kinship Terminology of the Indo-European Languages. Leiden: Brill.

Szemerényi, O. (1980). Four Old Iranian Ethnic Names: Scythian — Skudra — Sogdian — Saka. Vienna: Scripta Minora.

Thordarson, F. (1986). An Ossetic Miscellany: Lexical Marginalia. In E. Kahrs (Ed.), Kalyānamitrārāganam. Essays in honour of Nils Simonsson (pp. 277–286). Oslo: Norwegian University Press.

Thordarson, F. (1989). Ossetic. In R. Schmitt (Ed.), Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum (pp. 456–479). Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag.

Thordarson, F. (1998). Gallia Alanica. In Studia Iranica et Alanica. Festschrift for Prof. Vasilij Ivanovič Abaev on the Occasion of His 95th Birthday (pp. 483–498). Rome: Ist. italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente.

Tokhtasyev, S. R. (2013). Iranskie imena v nadpisiakh Ol’vii I–III vv. n. e [Iranian Names in the Inscriptions of Olbia of the 1st–3rd Century AD]. In S. R. Tokhtasyev, & P. B. Lurye (Eds.), Commentationes Iranicae. Sbornik statei k 90-letiiu V. A. Livshitsa [Commentationes Iranicae. A Collection of Papers to the 90th Anniversary of V. A. Livshits] (pp. 565–607). St Petersburg: Nestor-Istoriia.

Tsabolov, R. L. (1999). Osetinskie etimologii. II [Ossetian Etymologies. II]. Issledovaniia po iranskoi filologii, 2, 146–152.

Tuallagov, A. A. (2001). Skifo-sarmatskii mir i Nartovskii epos osetin [Scythian-Sarmatian World and the Narta Epic of Ossetians]. Vladikavkaz: Izd-vo SOGU im. K. L. Khetagurova.

Yusufbekov, Sh. P., & Dodykhudoeva, L. R. (2008). Sanglichskii iazyk [The Sanglechi Language]. In V. S. Rastorgueva (Ed.), Osnovy iranskogo iazykoznaniia. Sredneiranskie i novoiranski e iazyki [Fundamentals of Iranian Linguistics. Middle Iranian and New Iranian Languages] (pp. 110–234). Moscow: Vost. lit.

Zaliznyak, A. A. (1963). O kharaktere iazykovogo kontakta mezhdu slavianskimi i skifo-sarmatskimi plemenami [On the Nature of Linguistic Contact between the Slavic and Scythian-Sarmatian Tribes]. Kratkie soobshcheniia Instituta slavianovedeniia AN SSSR, 38, 3–22.