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

8. Hybrid names

Apsich  —  Apsikal  —  Kursich  —  Tuldila

Hun officer in the Byzantine army, about 580. [423] Apsik could be *Apsïq, Alanic *apsa, "horse," [424] and Turkish -°k, -°q, "little horse."


A Byzantine general of Gothic origin; [425] if he was actually a Goth, he must have been one of those who "borrowed their names from the Huns" (Getica 58). Apsikal is Aps-ik-al.


Hunnic leader, about 395. If Kursich is, as I believe, Kurs-ik, Kurs can be compared with Churs, prince of Gardman in northeastern Armenia, [426] and the Ias personal name Hurz, [427] Ossetic xorz. [428]



See above and p. 405. Tuld- has nothing to do with , "train", in the Byzantine military language; the word is of Latin origin. [429]


There remain a small number of supposedly Hunnic names and words which have not been included in the preceding lists. The connection of the bearers of the names with the Huns was loose, if it existed at all. Some of these names and words, provided they were Hunnish, were possibly borrowed from other languages.

Byzantine captain, about 515. Bury (1923, 449) and Stein (1959, 2, 180) called him a Hun. John of Antioch (EI 14431), the only Greek writer to mention the man, says that he was of Scythian origin. In Romana 4622 he appears as mag. mil. Alathor or Alathort, which might be Germanic (see Schönfeld 1911, 11).

Altheim (Geschichte 1, 363) rightly rejects the often repeated assertion [430] that Donatus was a Hun king. Donatus may not even have been a Hun but a Roman who fled to the Huns as did later the physician Eudoxius. [431] The Latin name Donatus was extremely common in the fourth and fifth centuries. [432]

General of the East Roman army in 378, "of royal Scythian lineage" (, Zosimus IV, 25, 2). Modares was not a Hun, as some authors thought. No Hun could have held such a high position in 378. Modares was possibly a Visigoth. Zosimus (IV, 3, 4, 3) calls Athanaric the leader . The name seems to be the short form of a Germanic name beginning with Moda-; see Schönfeld 1911, 118.

Priscus, EL 12116. Moravcsik (BT 2, 274) erroneously calls him an envoy of Ruga. He was a client of the East Roman official Plinta.

Leader of mutinous Rugians in the northern Dobrogea who between 434 and 441 took, and for awhile held, Noviodunum. [433]Val might be


Germanic, the ending is obscure. But this is no reason to call Valips a Hun. [434]

The name of the feeble-minded jester [435] has nothing to do with proto-Bulgarian ičirgü, in Latin transcription zerco or zergo. The ičirgü boila had a high rank; he was perhaps minister of foreign affairs. [436] There lay a world between him and the repulsive creature at whom Attila would not even look. Zerkon is probably a "Maurusian" name.


Var, the Hunnish name of the Dnieper, [437] is the same as bor- in Borysthenes, the Iranian name of the river. It means "broad, wide," Avestan varu-, Ossetic uäräx, urux. [438] Ptolemy's , [439] the Kuban or one of its tributaries, is *var-dan, "the broad river," Urux, a left tributary of the Terek, "the broad one." The Huns and after them the Pechenegs took over the ancient Iranian name. [440]

It is hard to understand why Pritsak [441] disregarded these river names. The involved Chuvash etymology [442] he offered has rightly been rejected by B. A. Serebrennikov. [443]

[Previous] [Next]
[Back to Index]

423. Theoph. Sim. 672; 7317. An Avar general had the same name (Moravcsik, BT 2, 82).

424. Cf.  (Zgusta 1955, §73, 281, 90). Ossetic digor æfsæ, "mare. "

425. John of Antioch, EL 14222.

426. Koriun 1927, 219; Gardmanorum princeps nomine Chors (P. Peeters, Analecta Bollandiana 51, 1933, 28).

427. Gombocz, MSFOU 30, 109.

428. For Turkish k, q < Iranian, cf. qormusta < xwrmzd.

429. A. Dain, Annnaire de l'institut de philologie et d'histoire orientales et slaves 10, 1950, 161-169.

430. E.g., Thompson 1948, 58; Moravcsik, BT 2, 119.

431. CM I, 662448.

432. Pritsak's Turkish etymology (1955, 43-44) is ingenious but unconvincing.

433. Priscus, HGM I, 2784. Noviodunum is the present Isaccea, not Neviodunum-Dernovo near Gurkfeld in Carinthia, as H. Mitscha-Märheim (Mitteil, d. anthropolog. Ges. in Wien 80, 1950, 224) and Ernest Schwarz (Forschungen und Fortschritte 28, 1944, 369) maintain. Valips rebelled against the East Romans.

434. As Polaschek (PW 17, 1194) and Moravcsik (BT 2, 223) do. Cf. Thompson 1948, 217-218.

435. Priscus, EL 1454, HGM 32422, 32520.

436. Beshevliev 169-170.

437. Danabri amnis fluenta. . . quam lingua sua Hunni Var appellant (Getica 12719-20.) Pritsak's assertion (1954b) that all scholars agree that the passage goes back to Priscus is wrong; neither Moravcsik nor Markwart, to whom he refers, says anything of this sort. The context points to Jordanes as the author.

438. Vasmer 1923, 65-66, and 1955, 1, 355; Abaev 1949, 183.

439. Ptolemy V, 8, 5; Waldanis in Armenian (Markwart 1896, 88).

440. Markwart 1903, 33; cf. E. Dickmann, Beiträge zur Namenkunde 6, 1955, 273.

441. Pritsak 1954b.

442. It rests on the assumption that the Chuvash v-prothesis is of a very early date. Magyar ökör, "ox," Turkish öküz, Chuvash , and or, oru, "thief," Chuvash , were borrowed at a time when in Chuvash the v-prothesis had not yet developed. Cf. M. K. Palló, AOH 12, 1961, 42-43.

443. AOH 19, 1966, 59.