If it comes from PIE q̆etlom then the Russian reflex should be "четло". Why it is число then? A speculation may be that it came from q̆etˢtlom, in this case it would become чесло.

What is the correct analysis?

  • 1
    PIE q̆etˢtlom would give PS čestlo but there is no T also in West Slavic languages (číslo and Old Polish czysło). It may contain PS suffix -slo as in весло from veslo (vez-slo) and be connected with читать. Etymology of Latvian skaitīt on Wiktionary seems to agree with this interpretation and suggests PIE root skey-.
    – BartekChom
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 21:41
  • @BartekChom oh no, the PIE root was q̆et and meant "fitting together", for instance, in a word for a pair q̆eta̯. It is a very ancient root reconstructed for proto-Eurasiatic as well where it would produce numerals for two. It is also a source for the word for four and the -q̆e clitic.
    – Anixx
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 21:58

1 Answer 1


In Proto-Slavic it was most likely četslo/čitslo. Then "t" just dropped down due to the rule of ascending sonority (закон восходящей звучности), one of the most basic phonological rules of Old East Slavic (or Old Russian, whatever you call it).

Exactly for the same reason we have "прясло" (was прѧтсло initially) and "ясли" (derived from *ēdsli-).

This happened in Proto-Slavic so actually there are some more non-obvious examples, when this particular changes was affected by some other phonetical mutations. For instance pṓds - the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European word for foot is something that gave us words "пехота" and "пеший" (first, ds -> s, then it morphed into x and ʂ).

  • So the PIE form was q̆etslom?
    – Anixx
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 5:47
  • @Anixx nope, that is something I'm not sure about, I'm not aware about the PIE reconstruction.
    – shabunc
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 6:05

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