The World of the Huns. Chapter IX. Language
O. Maenchen-Helfen

7. Names of undetermined origin

Adamis  —  Aigan  —  Akum  —  Anagios  —  Argek  —  Askan  —  Balamber  —  Balach  —  Boarex  —  Bochas  —  Ernach  —  Esla  —  Gordas  —  Gubulgudu  —  Chalazar  —  Charaton  —  Chelchal  —  Chinialon  —  Kuridachos  —  Mama  —  Muageris  —  Odolgan  —  Oebarsios  —  Sanoeces  —  Sigizan  —  Simmas  —  Sinnion  —  Skotta  —  Sunikas  —  Tarrach  —  Turgun  —  Uldin  —  Uldach  —  Ultzindur  —  Zilgibis

The following names, taken by themselves, might be Germanic, Iranian, Turkish or even Latin, or they defy any attempt to connect them with any known language group.

Steward in Queen Erekan's household. See p. 380.


"Massaget," cavalry commander in Belisarius' army, first in the Persian, then in the African campaign. [324] Without stating his reasons, Justi listed the name as Iranian, but left it out in the enumeration of names ending in -an or -gan. [325]  might be Turkish -can, "prince moon," as one of the six sons of Oyuz-can was called. [326] Compare Aï-bak, [327] Aï-tekin, [328] Aï-taš, and Aï-kün. [329] Incidentally, the Manichaean terms aï täŋg and kün aï täŋgri in the Chuastanift [330] and other Manichaean writings have nothing to do with these Turkish names. Mas'ūdi's Aigan in Gilgit were probably Tibetans; see Markwart 1938, 101, 110.


Magister militum per Illyricum in 538. [331] Malalas calls him "the Hun." Not even the correct form of the name can be established, [332] so speculations about its etymology are futile. [333]

Ruler of the Utigur about 576. [334] Anagai has been equated with A-na-kuai, [335] the name of the Juan-juan ruler whom the Turks defeated in 552. [336] Could Anagai be the Turkish name of a bird? According to E. Frankle (1948, 54), "the suffix -qaj, -kaj, -gaj, -gaj, embraces the function of forming designations for bird and the like." She adduces Osmanli daragai, "black bird," durgaj, "lark," and similar names of birds. Durgaj, Turgaj, and Torgaj are both Turkish and Mongol names. [337] One is also reminded of Mongol names like Piano Carpini's Eldegai, or Taqau, Tagai. [338]

Hun doryphorus who distinguished himself in the defense of Edessa in 544. [339]

The Massagetae Simmas and Askan were commanders of a corps of six hundred horsemen in Belisarius' army in the Persian war about 530. [340] Justi regarded Askan as an Iranian name. [341] It might be Turkish *as-qan, "the qan of the As (Az)," although the leader of such a small troop would hardly have been called qan. Besides, it is anything but clear who the As or Az were. [342]



Rex Hunnorum about 370. [343] Nomen nemo nisi imperitus pro germanico vendet, said Müllenhoff more than eighty years ago. [344] The name of the king who is said to have married a Gothic princess [345] was apparently assimilated to Gothic Valamer. It was Balimber.


Leader of the Sabir, husband of Boarex, about 520. [346] *Balaq is possibly malaq, "calf." [347]


Queen of the Sabir. The bewildering variety of the readings [348] makes any attempt to etymologize the name a hopeless task. Sinor sees in  Germanic reiks, [349] which for historical and geographical reasons is unacceptable.


Massaget, one of Belisarius' doryphori in the Gothic war about 536. [350] I do not know why Justi (1895, 72) listed the name as Iranian; perhaps he thought of Beuca, mentioned in Getica 277 as king of the Sarmatians in southern Pannonia about 470. Bochas could be *Bochan. [351]


Either by itself or with some addition, buqa (buga), "bull," occurs as a name since very early times among nearly all Turks. [352]


Attila's favorite son. [353] Ernak is supposed to be Turkish er, är, ir, "man," with the suffix -näk, -nik. Professor O. Pritsak informs me that -näk, -nik as diminutive suffix occurs only in the Altai dialects and in Tuva. He regards -nik as a combination of -n and -k, suffixes which are sometimes used to express not a diminution but an augmentation: är-än means "he-man, hero." In his opinion Ernak could be *är-än-äk > *är-näk, "great hero." Ernak has often been identified with  in the Bulgarian Princes' List.

On the other hand, it is noteworthy that the Armenian Arnak lived at the same time as Ernak (see Justi 1895, 27). Compare also  in an inscription of the second century from Tanais (Vasmer 1923, 33, Zgusta 1955, § 543).


A Hun of high rank, first in Rugila's, then in Attila's service. [354] Harmatta (1951, 145) suggested a Germanic etymology; he thought the name might be *aisila > *esla and connected it with *ais, "to be respectful, to honor." But the name might be Turkish: , , "comrade," + -la. [355]


Hunnic ruler near the Maeotis. [356]  in Malalas is almost certainly misspelled. The Turkish etymologies listed by Moravcsik are not particularly convincing.


Doryphorus of Valerian in 538. [357] Although the best codices have , Comparetti and Moravcsik prefer the reading . There can be little doubt that the longer form is the correct one. To some scribes the accumulation of the barbaric syllables, with their u-u-u-u, in addition preceded by another word ending in u proved


too much. They decapitated the monster. Gubul occurs as a Jazygian name in a Hungarian document of the fourteenth century. [358]


Doryphorus in the Byzantine army about 545. [359] Chalazar brings Tutizar to mind.


"The first of the kings of the Huns," about 412. [360] Olympiodorus, the only author to mention the name, took great liberties with foreign names. His , [361] possibly taken from a Latin source, seems to be a capricious rendering of *Valariþ. Instead of , [362] Olympiodorus wrote , [363] as if to indicate that the man was . -on in Charaton may be the Greek ending. If we had only , and , [364] it would be impossible to decide whether -on belongs to the name of the Bulgarian ruler. As the inscriptions with  [365] show, it does not. -on might also stand for -a. Note that Olympiodorus, like all Greek authors, wrote  for Stilika. [366] As so often in the endings of foreign names, -on could be -o. Finally, -ton may stand for -tom. Nearly all Greek writers had a marked aversion to -m at the end of a word. Propocius wrote  (I, 22, 4),  (De aedif. VI, 6, 16),  (De aedif. VI, 3, 11), and  (III, 1, 6). In other words, the name transcribed  may have ended in -tom, -ton, -to, -ta, and -t.

Vámbéry (1882, 45) took Charaton for Turkish qara ton, "black mantle." This is phonetically sound. But can we be sure that ton was a Turkish word as early as the fifth century? Uigur ton is borrowed from Khotanese or a related dialect: thauna, later thaum, thau, "piece of cloth, silk." [367]


If -ton in Charaton were the Iranian word, chara- might be the same as in the Parthian name  [368] "having a dark (hara, xara) horse (aspa)". [369] Charaton, furthermore, is reminiscent of Sardonius, *Sardon, the name of a Scythian, that is, Rhoxolanic leader whom Trajan defeated, [370] and the Ossetian Nart name Syrdon. [371]

If Charaton should actually mean "black mantle," , it could be the name of the clan or tribe to which the man belonged. There is the Kirghiz tribe Bozton, "Gray Coats," and the Kirghiz clans "White Coats," "Yellow Caps," and "High Caps" have analogous names. [372] However, it must be stressed that both the Turkish and Iranian etymologies presuppose that the name ended in -ton.


Hun general in the East Roman army, about 467. [373] If Chelchal were Chel-chal, one could think of Chalazar. If -al were the formans -al, one could think of Chelch, Kolc, an Ogur tribe. [374] *Kolk might be kölül, kölök, "(pack) animal," Kirghiz külük, "race horse." [375] But this threatens to degenerate into the well-known play with assonances.


Leader of the Kutrigur, about 550. [376]


See page 437.


A "royal Scythian," who fled to the Romans. [377] Hammer-Purgstall and Vámbéry compared the name with Mamai, emir of the Golden Horde. [378]


But Mamas, bishop of Anaea, [379] the presbyter Mamas, Eusebius' coadjutor at the council of Constantinople in 448, [380] and Mamas, cubicularius, later propositus under Anastasius, [381] were not Turks or Mongols. They were named after St. Mamas, the great martyr of Cappadocia. [382] The fugitive Hun was perhaps baptized. The Arria Mama of CIL III, 7830, [383] lived long before Attila. Mama is in all probability one of those Lallnamen which occur in any language.


Hunnic prince near the Azov Sea, about 527. [384] The name has been discussed by Hungarian philologists for decades. [385]


Hun commander of the Roman garrison of Perugia in 547. [386] The readings  and  lead possibly to *oldogan, which brings the common Turkish name togan, dogan "falcon" to mind; compare Äl togan tutuq. [387]


Attila's paternal uncle. [388] The similarity of Oebarsios to Oebasius in Valerius Flaccus is striking. In Argonautica VI, 245-247, we read, Oebasus Phalcen / evasisse ratus laevum per lumina orbem / transfigitur (Oebasus. . . thinks he has evaded Phalces, when he is hit in the left eye). Could Valerius have dropped -r- in Oebarsius as he dropped -s- in Bastarna, and for the same reasons? Could Oebasius be the name of a Hun? The question seems absurd. Valerius wrote the Argonautica during the siege of Jerusalem or shortly after the fall of the city in 70 A.D. Yet Agathias reports that the place in Colchis where in his time (the latter half of the sixth century) the fortress Saint Stephen stood, was formerly called . [389]


In past times the Hunnic Onoguri had fought with the Colchians and been defeated; in memory of their victory and as a trophy the Colchians called the place Onoguris. The Anonymus of Ravenna, writing about 700 A.D., places the patria quae dicilur Onogoria near the Sea of Azov and the lower Kuban. [390] That in the poem Oebasius is a Colchian and not an Onogur might be a misunderstanding. Onogur, "ten Ogur," is Turkish, which, however, does not exclude the possibility that one of their leaders had an Iranian name.

My late friend Henning [391] thought Oebarsios, if Iranian in origin, could represent Middle Persian *Weh-barz, "of good stature," compounded of weh, "good, better," and barz, "height, figure"; it would be closely related to the earlier name Wahub(a)rz, which belonged to a king of the Persis. [392] But Henning thought that these names need not be connected with Valerius Flaccus' Oebasus, which was probably identical with the Persian name  of Achaemenian times; Herodotus mentions three bearers of it. [393]

It is, indeed, unlikely that Oebadus of the Argonautica is *Oebarsus. There exists neither literary nor archaeological evidence that Huns were on the Kuban as early as the first century. Agathias' "past times" can very well refer to the middle or latter half of the fourth century when Hunnic tribes, moving east, were on or near the Kuban.

Henning's etymology of Oebarsios is philologically sound. But the same is true for the usual Turkish explanation of the name. [394] Bars, "tiger, leopard, lynx," [395] is one of the most common words in Turkish names. wh is probably not oi, as Vámbéry, Bang, and Melich thought; oi is used only for the color of a horse. [396] Gombocz and Németh suggested , "moon"; there are, indeed, quite a number of Turkish names beginning with .


One of the three duces of the Gothic and Hunnic troops sent to Africa in 424. Sanoeces is possibly to be emended to *Sandeces; compare Sondoke in a list of Bulgarians in the evangeliary of Cividale (eighth or ninth century), Sundicedat in a letter of Pope John VIII to a Bulgarian nobleman, 879 A.D., and Nesundicus (*Sundicus) uagatur, the name of a


Bulgarian who attended the eighth ecumenical council in Constantinople in 869-870. [397]


Hun officer in the Byzantine army, about 491. [398] If the name is not misspelled, [399] it might be Germanic.


"Massaget" in the Byzantine army, about 530. [400]


He shared with Balas the command over six hundred "Massagetae" in Belisarius' army in 530; later he became ruler of the Kutrigur. [401] Theophanes' description of the Byzantine forces in Africa, A. M. 6026, is taken from Procopius III, 11. Of the twenty-one names of his source, Theophanes selected the twelve more important ones. The biblical, Greek, Latin, and two barbarian names, Pharas and Balas, are in Theophanes the same as in Procopius, but where Procopius has  and , Theophanes has  and . There can be no doubt that  is the correct reading; it occurs four times without any varia lectio was assimilated to , a Byzantine name of probably Persian origin (see Justi 1895, 303-304).


Brother of Onegesius. [402] The double consonant of the beginning seems to preclude a Turkish origin. Harmatta (1951, 148) thought Skottas might be Germanic *Skutta; he compared the name with OHG scuzzo, OE scytta, ON skyti, "shot, Schütze." If Szemerényi's analysis of Skolotoi (Herodotus IV, 6) [403] should be correct, there existed an Iranian word *skuda, "shot," which, however, was doubted by W. Brandenstein. [404] I think it quite possible that Priscus himself assimilated the Hunnish name to Skythes, either by dropping a vowel at the beginning (*Es-kota?) or between s and k (*S-kota?); it may have ended in -an.


A "Massaget" by birth, later baptized. [405] Tomaschek proposed a Turkish, [406] Justi an Iranian etymology. [407] *Sunika could be the hypocoristic form of Suniericus, Sunhivadus, and similar Germanic names. [408] It could also stand for *Sunikan.


After the collapse of Vitalian's second revolt in the fall of 515, Tarrach, "the fiercest of the Huns" in the service of the "tyrant," was captured, tortured, and burned at the stake in Chalcedon. [409] In Vitalian's army were mercenaries from "various tribes," [410] Bulgars, Goths, and "Scythians," [411] but the Huns were apparently the strongest group. [412] Like Vitalian himself, who is sometimes called a Goth, sometimes a Scythian, but also a Thracian, [413] Tarrach may have been of mixed origin. If he was baptized, which is possible, his pagan name probably was assimilated to Tarachus, one of the three famous martyrs from Cappadocia. Tarachus and Probus had churches in Constantinople before the end of the sixth century. [414] As Professor A. Tietze informs me, [415] Tarrach is not a Turkish name. [416]


A Hun in Vitalian's army. [417] Rásonyi takes the name for Turkish. [418] It might be an "Iranian" title. [419]



Hun king about 400.


Hun general in the Byzantine army, about 550. [420]



Consanguineus Attilae. [421] On analogy with Tuldich, Tuldila, the first element in these three names must be uld-, ult-.


Hun princes in the Caucasus, about 520. [422]

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324. Named together with Sunikas, Procopius I, 14, 44; Moravcsik, BT 2, 57.

325. Justi 1895, 11, 522-523.

326. Rashid-ad-Din, Sbornik letopiseiĭ 1 (Moscow and Leningrad, 1952), 76, 86; Pelliot 1950, 27, n. 1.

327. Rashid-ad-Din, Sbornik letopiseiĭ 1, 195; 2, 140; Mayer 1933, 148; Zambaur 1927, 30, 31, 97, 103; Sauvaget 1950, 39.

328. Zambaur 1927, 222, 285; Sauvaget 1950, 40.

329. Sauvaget 1950, 39.

330. Malov 1951, 117, 119.

331. Moravcsik, BT 2, 59. On the campaign, see Stein 1959, 2, 306-307.

332. Malalas has , Theophanes .

333. Vámbery 1882, 40, suggested aq-qum, "white sand," or aqyn, "raid."

334. Menander, EL 20418, 2082.

335. First by Hirth 1899, 110, n. 1.

336. Chavannes 1903, 221, 240.

337. Sauvaget 1950, 50; Hambis 90, n. 1.

338. Pelliot 1950, 91, note.

339. Moravcsik, BT 2, 71.

340. Procopius I, 13, 21; 14, 44; 18, 38, 41; Moravcsik, BT 2, 75.

341. Cf. Aškan, the legendary ancestor of the Parthian kings (Wolff, 1935, 63 and Justi 1895, 43).

342. See the discussion in Giraud 1960, 193-196. It has often been assumed that the Assan (Assantsy, Asantsy, Azantsy; cf. Dolgikh 1934, 26), a small tribe encountered by Russian travelers in the eighteenth century near Krasnoyarsk, were the descendants of the Az named in the Orkhon inscriptions. In the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Assan were already "Turkized" but the few words of their former language preserved in J. E. Fischer 1803, 213, show that it was closely related to that of the Ket. It is perhaps not a coincidence that az and qïrqïz are named together in the incriptions. A clan Yas lived side by side with the Kirghiz clans Adzhu-khurman, Dzhup-par, and Khudai-bery among the Khoton in northwest Mongolia; cf. Grum-Grzhimaĭlo 3:1, 276. On Asan-Kot, see Alekseenko 1967, 30, n. 19.

343. Getica 9119, 12123, 1225.

344. Jordanes, index 147. This did not prevent some scholars from taking the name for Gothic; see Schönfeld 1911, 275.

345. Getica 249.

346. Moravcsik, BT 2, 85-86.

347. Németh and Rásonyi, quoted by Sinor 1948, 25.  in Agathias III, 17, 5, Keydell 1967, 10612 (another Sabir, ca. 555) is possibly a scribal error for .

348. Moravcsik, BT 2, 107-108.

349. Sinor 1948, 25-29. Altheim and, more recently, R. Werner (1967, 491, n. 18) "etymologized" Wārāks in the Chronicle of John of Nikiu, although Wrks is just a distortion of .

350. Moravcsik, BT 2, 108, v. 1. .

351. A Turk, 576 (Menander, EL 2081).

352. Buga in a Yenisei inscription (Malov 1952, 98); Solda Buqa and Qara Buqa in Uigur documents from Turfan (Malov 1951, 210, 213). Of the 209 Mameluk names listed by Sauvaget (1950), no fewer than sixteen contain boga.

353. Priscus, EL 5888 (14517). Getica 1271: Hernac.

354. Moravcsik, BT 2, 133, v. II.

355. On the Turkish adjectival suffix -la, see Gabain 1950a, section 76; Clauson 1962, 145.

356. Moravcsik, BT 2, 114.

357. Ibid., 106.

358. Gombocz 1924, 110; J. Németh, Abh. Ak. Wiss. 4, 1958, 26. The dropping of the initial gu- has an amusing parallel in the name Bulawayo in Rhodesia, which originally was Gubulawayo, "place of execution"; see P. J. Nienaber in Proceedings of the Eighth International Congress of Onomastic Sciences (The Hague, 1966), 345.

359. Moravcsik, BT 2, 337.

360. Ibid., 341.

361. Henry 1959, 58a32.

362. Sozomen IX, 12.

363. Henry 1959, 58a11,17.

364. Moravcsik, BT 2, 217-218.

365. Beshevliev 1963, 337.

366. Schönfeld 1911, 209-210.

367. Bailey, Transactions, Philological Society 1945, 26, and Bailey 1961, 53. G. Doerfer (UJb 39, 1-2, 1967, 65) postulates "Urtürkisch" *tom because Turkish tön, Chuvash tum, would speak for the existence of n > m, which runs against his views.

368. Justi 1895, 170, 486.

369. Cf. Bailey 1954 on xara, "dark"; on xara, "ass," see E. Schwentner in Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung 72, 1955, 197.

370. Aurelius Victor, Caesar. 13, 3.

371. V. I. Abaev in Iazyk i myshlenie 5, 1935, 71.

372. Abramzon 1946, 128.

373. Moravcsik, BT 2, 344.

374. Theoph. Sim. 25912. On the interpretation of the passage, see Moravcsik, BT 2, 162-163. I wonder whether the tribal name could be Külüg, "famous"; cf. Malov 1952, 44-45, and L. P. Kyzlasov, SE 1965, 105.

375. Malov 1951, 395; Shcherbak 1959, 123. The name of the Roman general Calluc, who fought against the Gepids (Jordanes, Romana 387), is possibly the same.

376. Moravcsik, BT 2, 344.

377. Priscus, EL 1228.

378. Quoted Moravcsik, BT 2, 180.

379. ACO II: 6, 43.

380. Ernest Schwartz, SB München 1929, 15, 17, 19.

381. Vita Theodori, TU 49, 2, 240.

382. AA SS August III, 423-446; Delehaye 1933, 174-175. In 383, Mamas' compatriot Gregory of Nazianzen made a speech in his honor (Gallay 1943, 255).

383. Alföldi 1944b, 15.

384. Moravcsik, BT 2, 192-193.

385. The common view that Muageris is Mod'eri, "Magyar," has been rejected by D. Sinor, Cahiers d'histoire mondiale 4, 3, 1958, 527; Boodberg (1939,238) takes *Mog'er to be an Altaic word for "horn."

386. Moravcsik, BT 2, 214.

387. In an inscription from the Uyuk-Tarlak, a tributary of the Ulug-kem in Tuva (Malov 1952, 11).

388. Priscus, EL 14618.

389. Agathias III, 4, 6, Keydell 1967, 899-13.

390. Cosmographia, Pinder-Parthey 1848, 17015-1712.

391. Oral communication.

392. Justi 1895, 231, 341.

393. Ibid., 232.

394. Moravcsik, BT 2.

395. Maygar borz, "badger," is a loanword from Chuvash; cf. Z. Gombocz, MSFOU 30, 52.

396. Laute-Cirtautas 1961, 107, 110.

397. See Moravcsik 1933, 8-23; Moravcsik, BT 2, 355-357.

398. John of Antioch, EI 14222; Moravcsik, BT 2, 274.

399. Cf. the Kuman name  (Moravcsik, BT 2, 294).

400. Moravcsik, BT 2, 276. Justi (1895, 301) lists two Turks named Sīmā.

401. Moravcsik, BT 2, 276-277.

402. Priscus, EL 12522, 12711,2,634; Moravcsik, BT 2, 279.

403. ZDMG 1951, 216.

404. WZKM 1953, 199.

405. Moravcsik, BT 2, 289. Cf. Zacharias Rhetor, Brooks II, CSCO, 64.

406. Zeitschr. f. d. österr. Gymnasien 1877, 685, quoted by Moravcsik, BT 2, 289.

407. He referred to Avar suni, Armenian sun, "dog."

408. Schönfeld 1911, 218.

409. John of Antioch, EI 1479: Moravcsik, BT 2, 300.

410. "Many savage people" (Zacharias Rhetor, Brooks II, CSCO, 185); cum valida manu barbarorum (Victor Tonnennensis, CM II, 195).

411. Malalas 404-405.

412. Hypatius ab Hunnis auxiliaribus capitur (Jordanes, Romana 358).

413. See Stein 1959, 2, 179, on the contradictory statements.

414. Delehaye 1902, 165, 241.

415. Letter of December 13, 1962.

416. In the present studies the many etymologies of Hunnish names suggested by Haussig 1954, 275-462, have been disregarded. One example will suffice: He writes (p. 354), Die (sic) Tarraq () werden in dem Werk des Johannes von Antiochia als zu den Hun (Qun [sic]) gehörig erwähnt.

417. John of Antioch, EL 14710.

418. Quoted by Moravcsik, BT 2, 319.

419. Twrgn, trgwn, trg'n (A. A. Freiman, Trudy instituta vostokovedeniia 17, 1936, 164; Zapiski inst. vostokoved. 7, 1939, 30; Sovetskoe vostokovedenie 3, 1958, 130-131).

420. Agathias 1816, 1827 seems preferable to Moravcsik's .

421. Getica 1272.

422. Moravcsik, BT 2, 131, with many different readings.