They seem to come from the same proto-indo-european word "weyk", which has two separate meanings. Is this a coincidence, or are the words related?

  • Interesting and less simple than I'd have expected. Etymonline says 'victim' is of uncertain origen. Could you provide a link that indicates the connection between victim and "weyk"?
    – S Conroy
    Oct 15, 2018 at 18:16
  • Actually I just found the link between vicarious and "weyk" and etymonline says victim may be related to vicarious. It might be an idea to add that link to your question.
    – S Conroy
    Oct 15, 2018 at 18:21
  • I've suggested an edit to your title, viz. "Is 'victim' derived from 'victor'?" since even your question acknowledges their relatedness.
    – Wordster
    Oct 15, 2018 at 20:04
  • First of all, ‘victor’, in the original Latin, is derived from the verb ‘vinco’ (I win/conquer). It’s supine is ‘victum’ From this you can form the noun for ‘winner’ by replacing ‘-um’ with ‘-or’ and ‘loser’ by using ‘-us’. The core meaning of ‘victima’ is a sacrifiai victim. ‘interestingly’, there is another Latin word ‘vincio (‘I bind’), with the supine ‘vinct um’. The noun for a bond or chains is ‘vinculum’. I claim no authority for this, But it might be worth looking in an area like this. Sacrificial victims has to be bouns (as Abraham bound his son Isaac).
    – Tuffy
    Oct 15, 2018 at 21:59
  • @Tuffy. Sounds logical and I found support here (I've never learned Latin): en.wiktionary.org/wiki/vinco#Latin. Although I'm a bit confused, since if that's the answer I'm surprised that etymonline don't include it.
    – S Conroy
    Oct 15, 2018 at 23:11

3 Answers 3


Apparently not, the etymology of victim is less clear.


mid-14c., from Anglo-French, Old French victor "conqueror," and directly from Latin victorem (nominative victor) "a conqueror," agent noun from past participle stem of vincere "to conquer, overcome, defeat," from nasalized form of PIE root weik- (3) "to fight, conquer."

weik- (3) Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to fight, conquer."


late 15c., "living creature killed and offered as a sacrifice to a deity or supernatural power, or in the performance of a religious rite;" from Latin victima "sacrificial animal; person or animal killed as a sacrifice," a word of uncertain origin. Perhaps related to vicis "turn, occasion" (as in vicarious), if the notion is an "exchange" with the gods. Perhaps distantly connected to Old English wig "idol," Gothic weihs "holy," German weihen "consecrate" (compare Weihnachten "Christmas") on notion of "a consecrated animal."

weik- (2) also *weig-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to bend, to wind."

  • I wouldn't go so far as to say "apparently not". The etymology of "victim" isn't known. At first glance, it appears it could relate to the Latin "victor". It's hard to say without asking the person who coined the term.
    – R Mac
    Oct 15, 2018 at 19:37
  • @RMac - that’s what evidence suggests. “At first glance” means basing a comment on an personal impression.
    – user 66974
    Oct 15, 2018 at 19:40
  • I suppose one could (only) speculate that the different Indo-Europen senses of "weyk" could also be related.
    – S Conroy
    Oct 15, 2018 at 19:44
  • 2
    @user240918 The evidence doesn't suggest anything except for explicitly suggesting that it suggests nothing at all. More specifically, it suggests that no one knows where the Latin word "victima", from which it claims the modern English "victim" is derived, came from. Obviously it came from somewhere, but the evidence presented here does not establish where. I quote your quotation regarding the Latin "victima": "a word of uncertain origin."
    – R Mac
    Oct 15, 2018 at 19:49
  • @RMac - the fact that victim has an uncertain origin, unlike victor, makes the two terms unrelated, or apparently so, given the lack of more precise information.
    – user 66974
    Oct 15, 2018 at 19:52

I have said a few words about the latin words victor and victima. The old dictionary Lewis and Short are not helpful about etymology. 'Victor' is traced to 'Vinco', as cannot be doubted. For victima, I suggested that the verb vincio (I bind, as might happen to a defeated prisoner - they were brought into Rome in chains - vincula), with its supine vincitum or vinctum. Lewis and Short suggest vigeo, meaning I thrive as the root of victima.

"From Proto-Italic *wegēō (with unexpected i), from Proto-Indo-European *weǵ-eh₁-(ye)-, stative verb from *weǵ- (“to be lively”), same ultimate source of English English wake. Confer with the causative vegeō." Wictionary entry for vigeo

However, before we go further, there is an important point to be explained. It is the letter 'v' in ancient Latin. The shape that we call 'vee' (and the French call 'vée (vay), was pronounced like the letter u (roughly as in 'put'). Also, it was mostly seen as what we now think of as the capital V. So ancient Latin had no separate vowel u. That is because their V was their u. They had no vee sound.

BUT: when when the Latin 'V' is followed by 'a', as in 'validus' (strong) or 'o', as in 'vox' (voice), or 'vita' (life), it sounds like a 'W'. You can try it yourself: "u-eeta" turns to uweeta --> weeta. Interestingly, the same word with the same spelling,wagon. So, is pronounced with a double-U in English but a vee in French. So, Tmlen, the initial w in "weyk" is at least a plausible similar feature. I am no etymologist, but "weyk" reminds me of "wake" and "awake", and from there to life is not that much of a stretch.

Emma Dash suggests that the Latin noun victvs (that is how it was spelled) means life. In a way you could say that, but not quite. The noun is derived from a third verb: not vinco or vincio but vivo (I live). It is a fourth declension noun derived from the supine, and means nourishment, diet, even way of life.

The more I think about this, the more tempting to think that there might be a connection between these various words (victor, victus, vinctus, possibly even vita). But etymology is a colossal subject, and, as the poet and critic Samuel Johnson puts it,

A little learning is a dangerous thing.

Drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring.


They are directly related as cognates in Latin.

The Latin word victus means life. A victor is a survivor or conqueror. A victima is an animal or person that is sacrificed. All three of these words are related.

  • 1
    This sounds feasible. Can you add some sources.
    – S Conroy
    Oct 15, 2018 at 18:23
  • @SConroy Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris Laviniaque venit.
    – Emma Dash
    Oct 15, 2018 at 18:28
  • I actually meant sources (dictionaries etc) to support your derivation.
    – S Conroy
    Oct 15, 2018 at 18:43
  • 3
    @EmmaDash You claim they are cognates. I believe S Conroy is asking for sources that assert "victim" is in fact derived from "victus". Perhaps a source which explains that appending "-ima" to a root in Latin is a common practice that fits this use context would do.
    – R Mac
    Oct 15, 2018 at 19:47
  • 2
    (en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Reconstruction:Proto-Indo-European/weyk-) lists them both, but doesn't show "victim" deriving from "victus/-or."
    – Wordster
    Oct 15, 2018 at 20:14

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