According to Wiktionary and De Vaan’s Etymological Dictionary, the etymology of the Latin adjective inanis (‘empty’; ‘worthless’) is unknown.

I was wondering if anybody had a theory on the origin of this mysterious word; any ideas?

By the way, could it be possible that inanis is composed of the prefix in- (‘not’) and *anis (‘full’, ‘useful’?)?


I think it could be useful for you to take a look at the following article by Prof. Benjamín García-Hernández. According to him, "inanis has its origins in the negation of the substantive ānus 'surrounding ring', so that inānis has come to mean 'empty', through metonymy from 'without a ring'". See pages 9-11 of the article above (Section 2.1) for more discussion.

García-Hernández, Benjamín (2017). «La negación como modalidad alterna. El in- privativo con bases nominales y el origen de inānis e ingens», De Lingua Latina, Revue de linguistique latine du Centre Alfred Ernout. http://www.parissorbonne.fr/rubrique2315, 1-16.

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