Etruscan language

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Etruscan (†)
Period 9th century BC BC to 1st century AD

Formerly spoken in

Etruria (essentially today's Tuscany ) and southern Italy

Tyrsenic languages

  • Etruscan
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3


Language areas in Italy in the 6th century BC Chr.

The Etruscan language - also called Etruscan - is an extinct language that has been passed down mainly epigraphically . It was built from the 9th century BC. Spoken by the Etruscans in the then province of Etruria until the 1st century AD .

Etruscan texts come from Etruria, Campania , Latium , Falerii (area of ​​the Falisker ), Veji , Cerveteri ( Caere ), Tarquinia and their surroundings, but also from areas outside of Italy with which the Etruscans had diplomatic and trade contacts, such as B. the later Gallia Narbonensis , but also Corsica , Sardinia and the Carthaginian North Africa. The northernmost inscription is in Austria near the Guffert . The texts can only be translated in fragments to this day.

Etruscan was written in a variant of the old Italian alphabet (see Etruscan script ).

Well-known texts

In addition to the inscriptions , which can be found on many devices and objects, such as pottery and mirrors, on grave walls and on coffins, as well as on vestments (very short, often consisting only of the name of the deceased), the most important surviving texts in Etruscan language are the following:

The longest text found so far. It is a veritable “book”, written on linen , which was torn into eight strips and used as a bandage for an Egyptian mummy ; however, three of the strips have been lost. The mummy is in the National Museum in Zagreb . The text, which dates from the 1st century BC. It is calligraphy in red and black ink and comprises twelve columns, approx. 230 lines and approx. 1200 readable words, including around 500 different words. The repetitions are explained by the ritual character of the text. It is also known as the “religious calendar ”, which prescribes the ceremonies intended for honoring the gods with details of the place and time for each day .
This text consists of 10 paragraphs and 62 lines, each of which is separated by a horizontal line. Around 300 words are still legible today. The text is religious in nature and contains instructions on how to prepare for a funeral rite .
Cippus Perusinus (National Archaeological Museum of Umbria in Perugia, 3rd - 2nd century BC)
This text consists of 46 lines and approx. 150 words. It is an agreement between two families that defines the boundaries between their properties.
Gold sheets from Pyrgi (Etruscan National Museum in Rome, around 5th century BC)
Three gold sheets with inscriptions in Etruscan and Phoenician / Old Punic language that were found in the sanctuary of Pyrgi . The texts describe how Thefarie Velianas, the ruler of Caere , made votive offerings to the goddesses Uni and Astarte . The gold sheets are of fundamental importance for a knowledge of the history and language of the Etruscans.
  • Four inscriptions on lead tablets
The lead tablet at Santa Marinella appears to contain a prophecy from an oracle . The lead plate by Magliano is a list of offerings to several gods written in a spiral. The third one found in Volterra , it is probably a magical-ritual text. The fourth was found in Campiglia Marittima , it is an escape board with curses against several people.
This bronze plaque was only found in 1992 near the city of Cortona on Lake Trasimeno . It is now the third longest known inscription after the Zagreb mummy bandages and the Capua brick. The text is 40 lines long and appears to be a notarial deed.

Linguistic classification

The genetic affiliation of Etruscan to a language family is still unclear, although attempts have been made to link it to Indo-European and non-Indo-European languages . A relationship between Etruscan and that on the Aegean island of Lemnos until the Athens invasion by Miltiades in 510 BC. The pre-Greek Lemnian language spoken in BC could be proven. A connection to the Rhaetian language in the Alpine region is assumed for both languages . A Tyrsenian language family can be deduced from this.

The linguistic connection with Lemnish could support the hypothesis that the Etruscans immigrated from the Aegean-Asia Minor region; however, a reverse direction of migration cannot be ruled out from the outset; in this case Etruscan would be an autochthonous language of Italy. However, in the Etruscan area of ​​distribution there are indications of a linguistic substrate that could be responsible for the aforementioned connection with the Rhaetian.

Steinbauer tries to establish a linguistic connection between Etruscan and Lemnian and Indo-European through commonalities in western Anatolia . Woudhuizen has been particularly concerned with relations with the Anatolian language Luwish .

The following theories exist about attempts to connect Etruscan with other languages ​​and language families:

Even fewer connections can be made to the macro family of the nostratic , which is used to explain certain similarities between different language families (including the Indo-European, Afro-Asian and Uralic language families ).



According to Helmut Rix (→ literature ) one can distinguish the following cases in Etruscan ( V stands for a vowel):

Nominative : empty suffix (basic form)
Accusative : identical to the nominative in the noun; only when pronoun by n (i) in
Genitive  : - (V) s ; - (a) l
Locative : -i
Ablative  : -is ; -(as
Pertinent  : - (V) si ; -(ale

The plural is in the nouns by the suffixes - (V) r or -χva / -cva / va / -ua marked. The plural marker comes before the case marker.


There are no personal endings in Etruscan , and the number (singular or plural) of the subject is not marked.

ame means z. B. “I am, you are, he / she / it is; we are you are they are".

Present tense : -e
Active past tense : -ce
Past tense passive : -χe
Imperative : = verbal stem
Subjunctive : -a
Necessitive : -ri

Verbal nouns are formed by: -u (result), (simultaneity), -as (prematurity), -e (infinitive).


About 200 Etruscan words have been more or less interpreted, the meaning of the remaining 300–400 words is still unclear. The interpretations of the individual researchers go z. Some of them are still far apart and should be viewed critically. Some Etruscan words with a definite meaning:

Father - apa
Mother - ati
Son - clan
Daughter - seχ
Brother - ruva
Grandfather - papa
Grandmother - teta
Wife - puia
Sun - usil
Moon, month - tiur
Year - avil
u. a.

Part of the Etruscan vocabulary consists of "Etruscan" words from other languages, such as B. the Italic languages , Greek , Persian , Punic u. a.

Etruscan given names

In addition to their own first names, the Etruscans also used those from Italian , Greek and other Indo-European languages .

Some examples of purely Etruscan given names:

Male: Avile / Avele / Aule, Arnθ, Larθ, Lar (e) ce, Laris, Vel, Śeθre, Tarχi
Female: Larθi (a), Veli (a), Śeθr (i) a, Fasti (a) / Hasti (a), Tarχa, Θana, Θanχvil, Ramθa

Some numerals

(after Pfiffig 1969)

01 - θu (n)
02 - zal, esal
03 - ci
04 - śa
05 - maχ
06 - huθ
07 - semφ
08 - cezp
09 - onlyφ
10 - śar
20 - zaθrum

See also



  • Ambros Josef Pfiffig : The Etruscan Language. Attempt to present an overall picture. Academic Printing and Publishing Company, Graz 1969.
  • Ambros Josef Pfiffig: The Etruscan Language. Script, alphabet, form theory, syntax, exercises . VMA, Wiesbaden 1998. ISBN 3-928127-55-1
  • Helmut Rix : Etruscan texts, 2 volumes. Narr, Tübingen 1991. ISBN 3-8233-4476-5
  • Helmut Rix: Rhaetian and Etruscan . Institute for Linguistics of the University. Innsbruck 1998. ISBN 3-85124-670-5
  • Helmut Rix: The Etruscans. Writing and language. In: Mauro Cristofani: The Etruscans. Belser Verlag, Stuttgart, special edition 2006. ISBN 3-7630-2270-8
  • Dieter H. Steinbauer: New manual of the Etruscan . Scripta Mercaturae, St. Katharinen 1999. ISBN 3-89590-080-X


  • Giuliano Bonfante , Larissa Bonfante : The Etruscan Language. An introduction . New York University Press, New York 1983, 2002. ISBN 0-7190-5539-3
  • Helmut Rix: Etruscan. In: Roger D. Woodard (Ed.): The Cambridge encyclopedia of the World's ancient languages. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2004, pp. 943-966. ISBN 0-521-56256-2
  • Rex E. Wallace: Zikh Rasna: a manual of the Etruscan language and inscriptions. Beech Stave Press, Ann Arbor 2008. ISBN 0-9747927-4-8


  • Enrico Benelli: Iscrizioni etrusche - leggerle e capirle. SACI, Ancona 2007. ISBN 978-88-902694-0-0 .
  • Piero Bernardini Marzolla: L'etrusco, una lingua ritrovata. Mondadori, Milan 1984.
  • Giuliano Bonfante , Larissa Bonfante : Lingua e cultura degli Etruschi. Editori Riuniti, Rome 1985. ISBN 88-359-2819-2 .
  • Mauro Cristofani: Gli Etruschi, una nuova immagine. Giunti, Florence 1984 and 2000. ISBN 88-09-01792-7 .
  • Carlo De Simone: I Tirreni a Lemnos - evidenza linguistica e tradizioni storiche. Olschki, Florence 1996. ISBN 88-222-4432-X .
  • Angelo Di Mario: La ricerca dei Tirreni attraverso la lingua. Cannarsa, Vasto 2002.
  • Giulio M. Facchetti: L'enigma svelato della lingua etrusca. Newton & Compton editori, Rome 2000, 2001 2nd . ISBN 88-8289-458-4 .
  • Vladimir L. Georgiev: La lingua e l'origine degli Etruschi. Editrice Nagard, Rome 1979.
  • Massimo Pittau : La lingua etrusca, grammatica e lessico. Insula, Nuoro 1997. ISBN 88-86111-07-X .
  • Romolo A. Staccioli: Il "mistero" della lingua etrusca. Newton & Compton, Rome 1977, 1978 2 ; Melita, Rome 1981. (With a glossary of safely interpreted Etruscan words).
  • Koen Wylin: Il verbo Etrusco. Ricerca morfosintattica delle forme usate in funzione verbale. “L'Erma” di Bretschneider, Roma, 2000. ISBN 88-8265-084-7 .


  • Maurice Guignard: Comment j'ai déchiffré la langue étrusque. Impr. Avisseau, Burg Puttlingen 1962, Bonneval 1965.
  • Massimo Pallottino: La langue étrusque. Problems and perspectives. Société d'Edition Les Belles Lettres, Paris 1978.
  • Damien Erwan Perrotin: Paroles étrusques. Liens entre l'étrusque et l'indo-européen ancien. L'Harmattan, Paris 1999. ISBN 2-7384-7746-1


Web links

Commons : Etruscan language  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Hadumod Bußmann (ed.) With the assistance of Hartmut Lauffer: Lexikon der Sprachwissenschaft. 4th, revised and bibliographically supplemented edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-520-45204-7 , Lemma Etruscan.
  2. Dieter H. Steinbauer: New manual of the Etruscan . Scripta Mercaturae, St. Katharinen 1999, p. 357 ff.
  3. Fred C. Woudhuizen : Etruscan as a colonial Luwian language . Innsbruck contributions to cultural studies , special issue 128. Innsbruck 2008.