2021, Volume 18, Issue 3

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Armen Ye. Petrosyan
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography
National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia
Yerevan, Armenia

Reflexes of a Hurrian Word in Armenian: A Theonym, a Dendronym, an Anthroponym

Voprosy onomastiki, 2021, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp. 100–109 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2021.18.3.035

Received on 19 April 2021

Abstract: In Old Armenian, saws means ‘proud, luxurious, great,’ ‘some (bright) color,’ and saws and sawsi mean ‘oriental plane tree’. The word has no etymology. Hurrian has the word šauša [sausa] ‘big, great’ and the theonym Šauša / Šauška for the local version of the great goddess Ištar. The article undertakes to find a single etymon looking for the clue in comparative mythology. It is known that Anušavan, one of the ancient Armenian mythical patriarchs, was referred to as Sawsanuēr which can be interpreted as “The gift of plane trees” (with a reference to the cult of the plane trees of Armawir, the earliest capital of Armenia). According to mythology, Anushavan’s father and grandfather were related to Šamiram (Greek Semiramis), the queen of the city of Nineveh (capital of Assyria) that is seen as a historicized version of the local goddess Šauš(k)a otherwise called “Ishtar of Nineveh.” The Armenian saws ‘great, magnificent’ quite correlates with this name as a loan from the Hurrian šauša ‘great,’ with a regular apocope. The plane trees were probably symbols of the goddess. Thus, it is natural to assume that the dendronym saws / sawsi (the second form with the Indo-European suffix *-iyā, characteristic of Armenian dendronyms, cf. the genitive plural form sawseac‘) is of Hurrian origin. The first meaning of the Hurrian word ‘great, magnificent’ subsequently turned into theonym and then to the Armenian dendronym, the name of the largest and most luxurious tree in the Armenian Highland and adjacent territories.

Keywords: Armenian mythology, ethnogonic legends, goddess Ishtar, Shamiram / Semiramis, Armenian language, dendronym, theonym, etymology.


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