Día and Dios are related

I learned that día and dios are related while looking into the topic of masculine nouns that end in -aDía is the most common of these words — we use it every day in Buenos días (note the masculine buenos).

To find the relationship between día and dios you have to go back to Proto-Indo-European (PIE), the language that was the ancestor of Latin, and hundreds of other languages from Gaelic to Gujarati. Día comes from Latin diēs, which is in turn derived from PIE *diéus, meaning ‘Sky-god’ or ‘daytime sky’. Dios comes from Latin deus, from PIE *deiuós ‘God’. These PIE roots are related to many familiar words. *Diéus is the root of both Zeus and Jupiter (the first syllable is the related bit). English words related to *deiuós include demon (that’s ironic), diva, and Tuesday.

The connection between the two PIE roots, *diéus and *deiuós, is too technical for me to really understand because I’m not an PIE expert. However, I know such an expert, Cornell linguistics professor Michael Weiss. He explained to me that *deiuós ‘god’ was derived from the word for ‘sky’ via a common PIE process of vowel affixation referred to by its Sanskrit name, vr̥ddhi. (This is a simplification of his explanation, and I hope I got it right.) As Professor Weiss is the author of the formidable Outline of the Historical and Comparative Grammar of Latin I am more than happy to take his word for it.

Incidentally, the fact that día comes from the name of the sky god — a masculine deity — explains its masculine gender. Its -a ending is another story, hopefully one I’ll have time to tell soon.

11 thoughts on “Día and Dios are related

  1. Fred

    It’s much easier to see the relationship of the Greek “Zeus” and the Latin “deus” if you look at the other cases in Greek. All except the nominative begin with “D” (or rather delta). In fact the genitive is “Dios”, but pronounced as two syllables (or so contemporary classical pronunciation would have it).

    1. jhochberg Post author

      Wow, you know much more Greek than I do! To me they already sound related since /z/ and /d/ are both alveolar obstruents, if you’ll excuse the jargon.

  2. Fred

    Interesting post, by the way. Thanks!

    In a future article you might also want to note the relationship between Spanish “hoy” and Latin “dies”.

  3. Jonathan Holz

    Now i may be mistaken but the connection to deiuos meaning that of demon is also because of what the nature of a demon is. The nature of a demon is to harm. To do harm to something you must seperate it. Seperating is to cut or make unwhole. Whole connecting to the word holy.

    Now the connection to deiuos comes into the word diagonal which means to cross, to split, or cut if you will. Which is a diabolic action.

    In old chinese pictoglyphs they refer to the Heaven’s as the sky and in references connects to father sky while earth is mother. So to me the deep interconnections of language fascinate me and I appreciate the post here.

  4. Anne Monaghan

    Re. Spanish ‘ hoy’ and Latin HODIE :
    I am now in my 70s, so this may be out of date, but when I was studying Spanish at QMC, University of London, the wonderful Professor L..P.Harvey was our Professor, and taught us history of the Spanish language and medieval Spanish Literature.
    I can’t remember the exact derivation, but of course the Latin H drops away ( “h” isn’t pronounced in Spanish) , and then there is an evolution resulting in a contraction of the remaining ‘ODIE’ to the pronunciation ’oy’ . I think there is a ‘j’ sound of some kind resulting during the evolution ? (I can’t now remember how that works) .
    My memory is very rusty, but I would love to hear any further developments.

    1. jhochberg Post author

      Anne, Prof. Harvey must have been wonderful indeed for his class to make such an impression on you. You are correct. According to Ralph Penny’s A History of the Spanish Language, between Latin HODIE and Spanish ‘hoy’ there was an intermediate form in which the /d/ had changed to a /ǰ/ (a ‘mid-palatal fricative’).

  5. eric

    does the latin derived ‘via’ also have root within the greek ‘dia’ (meaning seems similar, but I can’t find anyone making the connection).

    1. jhochberg Post author

      According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, Latin via comes from “PIE root *wegh- “to go, move, transport in a vehicle,” which is also the source of English way (n.),” which is a different source from that of día and dios. My trusty etymological dictionary (Corominas) traces all three words directly back to PIE (Proto-Indo-European) rather than pointing to any Greek involvement.


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