According to Allen in his Vox Latina, initial h- "was omitted...in words of rustic origin", like anser. No doubt anser originally had an initial h- (cf. Sanskrit haṃsas, "swan"; Greek χήν, "goose"), but interestingly, all the other examples Allen provides for words that lost the initial h- have a form attested with it except anser. Words like arena, umor, aedus, and ircus have amply attested forms with their initial aspirant.

I note that Cato the Elder, Plautus, Lucilius, and Hemina all attest to anser without an initial h-, yet nowhere in PHI can you find a form with it. Is anser unique in this regard? Or are there other words that similarly lost that initial h- very early on? If not, what conclusions can we draw from its unique status?

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    I went through all the PIE lemmas on Wiktionary starting with *ǵʰ- or *gʰ- and I additionally found ēr 'hedgehog' (Greek χήρ 'hedgehog' (Hesychius), χοῖρος 'porcupine'), but I've never seen that in the wild (so to speak) so it might just be very rare.
    – Cairnarvon
    May 6, 2023 at 19:28
  • @Cairnarvon Thanks! I didn't think to look there. The word is in Plautus' Captivi. Though some editors prefer ictim instead, Codex Vetus (B), apparently the best of the mss., has irim, assuming it's an alternate form of the late Latin eres. That's definitely a possible answer, although its rarity and the uncertainty in the manuscripts means I can't really use it to draw too many conclusions.
    – cmw
    May 6, 2023 at 20:27


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