I found an Indo-European root, nō̆-men-, in the free dictionary.

I know both macron and breve mean the length of vowels. And the Latin word, nōmen, has a long ō.

However, how should I pronounce the vowel with macron and breve simultaneously?

  • This question asks about the interpretation of an (reconstructed) Indo-European root, not about Latin language. My best guess is that the reconstruction isn't clear whether the o should be long or short and this uncertainty is expressed by displaying both diacritics. Sep 23, 2016 at 16:10
  • Yes, macron and breve means "this vowel may be short or long" -- either because we don't know which, or because both variants appeared in different forms of the word.
    – TKR
    Sep 23, 2016 at 16:15
  • @jknappen and TKR, Thank you for teaching me the meaning. I want to hear that. Sorry for posting the question to the wrong category.
    – nekketsuuu
    Sep 23, 2016 at 16:30
  • I think the question could be on topic--it's obviously the root of Latin nomen, which has a long -o...
    – brianpck
    Sep 23, 2016 at 16:42

2 Answers 2


Either as a long vowel or as a short one...but linguists aren't entirely sure which.

This root appears in Latin (and other languages) with a long ō, nōmen, but in Greek (and others) with a short o, ónoma. So it's not entirely clear whether the PIE vowel was long or short. We know it was one or the other, but there's not a consensus on which one.

One theory is that it was short in PIE, and became long separately in Indo-Iranian (via Brugmann's Law), Germanic (via Germanic ablaut), and Latin (by analogy with other words: for example, cōgnōmen looks like cognōsco, which is from a separate root with a long ō). But Brugmann's Law is far from universally accepted, and others argue that the root had a long ō which became short in some languages.

  • Thank you for teaching me the meaning of the diacritics. And sorry for posting the question to the wrong category. I didn't notice the difference between roots and Latin words.
    – nekketsuuu
    Sep 23, 2016 at 16:40
  • Maybe I should ask this question in linguistics.stackexchange.com instead of here.
    – nekketsuuu
    Sep 23, 2016 at 16:54
  • 2
    @nekketsuuu, if you think your question would be better at Linguistics (and if the people there agree), it can be migrated there. The question can be related to Latin as well: macron and breve together sometimes mark ambiguity, and the root is related to the Latin word nomen. If you could edit the question a bit to relate it to Latin somehow, it would certainly be on-topic.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Sep 23, 2016 at 17:06
  • @JoonasIlmavirta Thank you for the advice! I edited my question.
    – nekketsuuu
    Sep 23, 2016 at 17:28
  • 1
    Btw I was surprised by the statement that Brugmann's Law is controversial, so I posted a question about it on Linguistics SE.
    – TKR
    Oct 6, 2016 at 23:14

The linked entry in “the free dictionary” has the lemma as “nō̆-men-“, but then proceeds to claim “oldest form *h1no(h3)-mn̥”. If *h1no(h3)-mn̥ is Proto-Indo-European (PIE) what language is nō̆-men- supposed to be? Surely not Latin? If not, what then is "oldest form" supposed to mean?

The “Leiden school”, as exemplified by de Vaan’s etymological dictionary, posits the PIE form *h3neh3-mn-, zero-grade *h3nh3-mn-. The first laryngeal would explain the initial o- in Greek onoma; the second laryngeal would account for the long vowel in Latin nōmen. This theory relieves us of having to posit an ambiguous vowel in the first syllable.

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