Studi Slavistici XVII (2020) 1

The Etymology of the Polabian Theonym Pripegala

Maxim Yuyukin
Independent researcher

Published 2020-05-20


  • Pripegala,
  • Polabian,
  • Etymology,
  • Theonym,
  • Principal Balto-Slavic Myth,
  • Velesŭ/Volosŭ,
  • Slavic Rites
  • ...More

How to Cite

Yuyukin, M. (2020). The Etymology of the Polabian Theonym Pripegala. Studi Slavistici, 17(1), 5–14.


This article deals with the etymological analysis of the god name Pripegala mentioned only in the epistle against the Pagan Slavs, written by the archbishop of Magdeburg Adelgot (1108) which characterizes the cult of this deity of the Veleti-Lutici as very cruel. The authenticity of this record is considered to be doubtful. A great number of etymologies have been proposed for this theonym; all of them, however, are based on a mere phonetic similarity (mostly rather approximate) and are not reliable. Only M. Žunkovič’s briefly presented hypothesis (*Priběgala connected with Sl. pribеg ‘defense, asylum’, in the supposed meaning ‘sanctuary’) can be accepted both because of the fact that this lexeme is really attested in the Bulgarian anthroponymy and from the phonetic side (cfr. the analogical change b > p in some medieval German place names), but it is unsatisfactory from the word-formative point of view.

The author explains this theonym as a nomen agentis derived from the verb *priběgati ‘come running’ by means of the suffix -lo or -lа and compares it with the Belarusian mythonym tsar Pabjagaj (– dzed Sivavaj), a fairy tale character whose image would be interpreted as a transformation of the image of the god Velesŭ/Volosŭ – the Thunderer’s rival in the principal Balto-Slavic myth. Consequently, the name of Pabjagaj is explained as a taboo denomination referring to the plot of the same myth, according to which, Velesŭ had to run off Perun who pursued him. The same motivation is very probable for Pripegala as well: the information narrated by Adelgot closely corresponds to what is known about the cult of Velesŭ/Volosŭ among the East Slavs and of his Baltic counterpart. It is remarkable that the name of the Veleti itself is cognate with the theonym Velesŭ.


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