Notes: Etymology of the word ‘mitsu’ honey and its Central Asian origins

S. 2.1.3 Some words may shed more light on the old (west)Central Asian languages (s) of the area that are now lost. IE *medhu “honey, mead” has already been mentioned. It appears as Ved. Madhu “sweet, honey, mead”, Avest. Madhu (cf Bur. Mel “wine, from grapes”), Sogd. Mdw, mdw “wine”, Toch, B. mot “brandy”, Toch. B mit “honey” < *m’et <IE *medhu, Gr. Methu “wine”, etc. and it has ben widely borrowed by neighboring lanuages, both northwards into Uralic *mese, mete: Finn., mete Hung. Mez “honey”, as well as eastwards into Proto-Turk. Mir, Chin. mi <*mjit/mit, Sino-Kor. Mil, Jpn. Mitsu Turk., and Mong. Bal, Korean bel (beol) “bee” (cf Jpn. Hachi; note Arab. Madt?); finally also into finally also into Toch. B, in its specialized meaning mot “intoxicating drink”.
However, there is also another source of the word for “honey, mead”, which must e different from the C. Asian source, **med(h)-, discussed so far: Gr. Melit, perhaps in the Balkans/Anatolia. Note that the early reconstructions of Nostratic list both forms under *majAA> Ural. Majd’A, Drav. Matt, mitt (DEDR 4662 mattu), Altaic/m/ala, bala.46
All of this points to an early orthern boundary of Ilr. Coinciding more or less with the heavily wooded taiga belt of Russia and Siberia.47

It should be pointed out that there are …very early loans that can indicate a network of languages connecting western and eastern Central Asia. These include the words for “lion” and “honey” that have already been discussed (above S 2.1). The substrate word *sangha/sangha “lion”straddles the whole area, from Armenian and Iranian to Tibetan, Tocharian and Chinese, and so does **med(h)-/melit-from Finno-Ugrian and PIE to Chinese and Japanese on the one hand and to Hittite and Latin on the other. In this connection it should be noted that one incentive for the eastwards spread of the word for bees and honey may have been that of the use of bee’s wax in the early copper casting technology of cire perdue (see A. Sherratt, in V. Mair, for th c.) that spread along the taiga belt of S. Russia and S. Siberia (see n. 46-47).

Source: Linguistic evidence for cultural exchange in prehistoric Western Central Asia by Michael Witzel, Sino Platonic Papers, No 129, Dec 2003

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