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The sky of the Ukrainian steppe.

Dyēus (PIE: *Dyḗws, *Dyḗus, or Dyēus ; litt. "Daylight-Sky-God"), also Dyēus Phter (PIE: *Dyḗws Ph₂tḗr, *Dyḗus Pḥatḗr, or Dyēus Pətḗr ; litt. "Daylight-Sky-God Father")[1][2] is the reconstructed name of the Daylight-Sky-God in Proto-Indo-European mythology. Dyēus was the daylight sky imagined as a deity and the seat of the gods, the *deiwós. Associated with the bright sky and the fertile rain, he was often paired with *Dhéǵhōm, the Earth Mother, in a relationship of union and contrast.

While its existence is not directly attested by archaeological or written materials, Dyēus is considered by scholars the most securely reconstructed deity from the Indo-European pantheon, and identical formulas that referred to him can be found in later Indo-European languages and myths of the Greeks, Latins, Illyrians, Indo-Aryans and Hittites.[3][2]


There is some disagreement on the exact reconstruction (*Dyēus, *Dyḗws, and *Dyḗus), the matter being further complicated by the multiplicity of connotations associated with the root (the sky, brightness, day, and divinity), all of which playing a part in the original meaning.[1] Despite this, cognates stemming from the word are among the most widely attested in Indo-European languages.[2][3]


The divine name *Dyēus stems from *dyeu, denoting the "diurnal sky" or the "brightness of the day", in contrast to the darkness of the night, ultimately from *di /dei- ("to shine, be bright").[4][5] Cognates in Indo-European languages sharing the root *Dyēus as an etymon, and denoting the "day", "sky" and "deity", suggest that Dyēus was the vast and bright sky of the day conceived as a divine entity.[1]

A vṛddhi-derivative appears in *deywós ("celestial"), the common word for "god" in proto-Indo-European, and the suffix-derivative *diwyós ("divine") is also attested in Latin and Sanskrit, but not in Anatolian languages.[5][6] In classic Indo-European, associated with the late Khvalynsk culture (3900–3500),[7] *Dyēus also took the meaning of "Heaven", likewise absent in the Anatolian tradition.[6]


The most constant epithet associated with *Dyēus is "father", *Ph₂tḗr. The vocable "Father Dyēus" was inherited in Greek Zeus Patēr, Illyrian Deipaturos, Vedic Dyáuṣ Pitṛ́ or Roman Jupiter (*Djous patēr), even in the form of "dad" or "papa" in the Scythian Papaios for Zeus, or the Palaic expression Tiyaz papaz.[8]

The epithet *Ph₂tḗr ǵenh₁-tōr ("Father procreator") is also attested in Vedic, Iranian, Greek, and perhaps Roman ritual traditions.[9]


Dyēus was the Sky or Day conceived as a divine entity, and thus the dwelling of the gods, the Heaven.[3] As the gateway to the deities and the father of both the Divine Twins and the goddess of the dawn, Hausōs, Dyēus was a prominent deity in the Proto-Indo-European pantheon.[10][11] He was however likely not their ruler or the holder of the supreme power like Zeus and Jupiter.[6]

Dyēus was associated with the bright and vast sky, but also to the cloudy weather in the Vedic and Greek formulas Dyaus/Zeus's rain.[12] Although some of the more iconic reflexes of Dyēus are storm deities, such as Zeus and Jupiter, this is thought to be a late development exclusive to Mediterranean traditions, probably derived from syncretism with Canaanite deities and the Proto-Indo-European god Perkwunos.[13]

Due to his celestial nature, Dyēus is often described as "all-seeing", or "with wide vision", in Indo-European myths. It is unlikely however that he was in charge of the supervision of justice and righteousness, as it was the case for the Zeus or the Indo-Iranian MithraVaruna duo; but he was suited to serve at least as a witness to oaths and treaties.[14] Proto-Indo-Europeans also visualized the sun as the "lamp of Dyēus" or the "eye of Dyēus", as seen in various reflexes: "the god’s lamp" in Medes by Euripides, "heaven’s candle" in Beowulf, or "the land of Hatti’s torch", as the Sun-goddess of Arinna is called in a Hittite prayer[15] ; and Helios as the eye of Zeus,[16][17] Hvare-khshaeta as the eye of Ahura Mazda, and the sun as "God's eye" in Romanian folklore.[18]


Dyēus is often paired with *Dʰéǵʰōm, the Earth goddess. Although the couple is not at the origin of the other gods, Dyēus is described as uniting with her to ensure the growth and sustenance of terrestrial life; the earth becomes pregnant as the rain falls from the sky.[19][11] The relationship between Father Sky (*Dyēus Ph₂tḗr) and Mother Earth (*Dʰéǵʰōm Méhₐtēr) is also of contrast: the latter is portrayed as the vast and dark dwelling of mortals, located below the bright seat of the gods.[20] According to Jackson however, as the thunder-god is frequently associated with the fructifying rains, "she is a more fitting partner of Perkwunos than of Dyēus".[21]

While Hausos and the Divine Twins are generally considered the offsprings of Dyēus alone, some scholars have proposed a spouse-goddess reconstructed as *Diwōnā or *Diuōneh₂, [22] with a possible descendant in Zeus's consort Dione. A thematic echo occurs in Indra's wife Indrānī, and both deities display a jealous and quarrelsome disposition under provocation. A second descendant may be found in Dia, a mortal said to unite with Zeus in a Greek myth. The story leads ultimately to the birth of the Centaurs after the mating of Dia's husband Ixion with the phantom of Hera, the spouse of Zeus. The reconstruction is however only attested in those two traditions and therefore not secured.[23][24]


Cognates stemming either from the root *dyeu ("daylight, bright sky"), the epithet *Dyēus Ph₂ter (Father Sky), the vṛddhi-derivative *deiwós (a god) or the back-formation *deynos (day) are among the most widely attested in Indo-European languages.[2][3] The root *Dyēus (the Daylight-Sky-God) has descendants in the following cognates:

Sky-Father epithet[edit]

The Roman god Jupiter, 1811.

Ritual and formulaic expressions stemming from the vocable *Dyēus Ph₂ter ("Father Dyēus") were inherited in the following mythologies and poetic traditions:

Other reflexes are variants have retained the original structure "Father God" and/or replaced ph₂ter with the nursery word papa ("dad"):

  • Hittite: attas Isanus, "Father Sun-god"; the name of the sky-god was replaced with a Hattic sun-god loan, but the original structure of the sentence left intact.[10]
  • Latvian: Debess tēvs, "Father of Heaven",[2]
  • Scythian: Papaios, "Papa Zios", the god of the Sky,[8]
  • Palaic: Tiyaz papaz, "Papa Tiyaz", the Sun-god,[8]
  • Luwian: Tātis tiwaz, "Daddy Tiwaz", the Sun-god.[32]

Other variants are less secured:


Other cognates descend from the vṛddhi-derivation *deywós ("celestial"), which denoted a "god" in general: Germanic *tīwa, a "god"; from which stems the war god Týr;[34][5] Avestan daēva (𐬛𐬀𐬉𐬎𐬎𐬀), a term for "demons" in Zoroastrianism, as a result of a religious reformation that degraded the status of prior deities;[5] Baltic Diēvas, a supreme god;[35][2] Latin deus, common name for a "god, a deity";[5] Sanskrit devá (देव), meaning "heavenly, divine, anything of excellence";[5] Celtic *dēwo, a "god, a deity";[36] or Lusitanian Reo, an unknown deity.[37]

The root *deynos ("day"), interpreted as a back-formation from *deywós, has descendant cognates in Latin diēs, but also Hittite siwat ("day"), Palaic Tīyat-, ("Sun, day"), Vedic divé-dive ("day by day"), Ancient Greek endios ("midday"), Old Armenian tiw (տիւ, "bright day"), Old Irish noenden ("nine-day period"), or Welsh heddyw ("today").[29]


As the pantheons of the individual mythologies related to Proto-Indo-European religion evolved, attributes of Dyēus seem to have been redistributed to other deities. In Greek and Roman mythology, Dyēus was the chief god, while the etymological continuant of Dyēus became a very abstract god in Vedic mythology, and his original prominence over other gods largely diluted.[10][3]

In non-Indo-European traditions[edit]

Various loanwords of *deiwós were introduced in non-Indo-European languages, such as Finnish taivas or Estonian taevas ("sky").[4] In Turkic mythology, Tengri is portrayed as the Heavenly-Father, and Mircea Eliade notes that "morphologically and in its general outlines, the Indo-European religion resembles that of the Turko-Tatars—supremacy of the celestial God, absence or minor importance of goddesses, cult of fire, and so on."[38]

In Taoism and Confucianism, Tiān (the celestial aspect of the cosmos, often translated as "Heaven") is mentioned in relationship to its complementary aspect of (地, often translated as "Earth").[39]


  1. ^ In Archaic Greek poetry: Homer, Iliad (1.503, 3.276, 3.320, 3.365, 5.421, 5.757, 5.762, 5.872, 7.202, 7.446, 7.179, 8.236, 12.164, 13.631, 15.372, 17.19, 17.645, 19.121, 19.270, 21.273, 24.308) ; Odyssey (5.7, 7.331, 8.306, 12.371, 12.377, 13.128, 20.98, 20.112, 21.200, 24.351) ; Homeric Hymns to Hermes (368) ; Hesiod, fr. 212 [276MW]; Archilochus, fr. (177), 197 ; Alcaeus fr. 69.


  1. ^ a b c "Indo-European Roots". The American Heritage Dictionary. Retrieved 2019-11-03.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Mallory & Adams 2006, p. 431.
  3. ^ a b c d e West 2007, p. 166–171.
  4. ^ a b c d e f West 2007, p. 167.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Mallory & Adams 2006, p. 408–409.
  6. ^ a b c West 2007, p. 168...But in general we may say that MIE had *dyéus (Dyéus) for ‘heaven (Heaven)’ [...] In Anatolian the picture is a little different [...] The reflex of *dyeus (Hittite sius) does not mean ‘heaven’ but either ‘god’ in general or the Sun-god. [...] The Greek Zeus is king of the gods and the supreme power in the world, his influence extending everywhere and into most spheres of life. There is little reason, however, to think that the Indo-European Dyeus had any such importance.
  7. ^ Anthony 2007, p. 78–79.
  8. ^ a b c West 2007, p. 171.
  9. ^ Jackson 2002, p. 71.
  10. ^ a b c Mallory & Adams 1997, p. 230–231.
  11. ^ a b Mallory & Adams 2006, p. 432.
  12. ^ West 2007, p. 169.
  13. ^ Green, Miranda J. (1990). "Pagan Celtic Religion: Archaeology and Myth". Transactions of the Honourable Society of the Cymmrodorion: 13–28.
  14. ^ West 2007, p. 171–175.
  15. ^ West 2007, p. 195.
  16. ^ Sick, David (2004-01-01). "Mit(h)ra(s) and the Myths of the Sun". Numen. 51 (4): 432–467. doi:10.1163/1568527042500140. ISSN 1568-5276.
  17. ^ Bortolani, Ljuba Merlina (2016-10-10). Magical Hymns from Roman Egypt: A Study of Greek and Egyptian Traditions of Divinity. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781316673270.
  18. ^ Ionescu, Doina; Dumitrache, Cristiana (2012-01-01). "The Sun Worship with the Romanians". Romanian Astronomical Journal. 22: 155–166.
  19. ^ West 2007, p. 180–181, 191.
  20. ^ West 2007, p. 178–179.
  21. ^ Jackson 2002, p. 80–81.
  22. ^ Jackson 2002, p. 72–74.
  23. ^ Dunkel, George E. (1988–1990). "Vater Himmels Gattin". Die Sprache. 34: 1–26.
  24. ^ West 2007, p. 192–193.
  25. ^ a b Beekes 2009, p. 198–199.
  26. ^ Griswold, Hervey De Witt (1923). The Religion of the Rigveda. H. Milford, Oxford University Press. p. 113.
  27. ^ a b c d Vaan 2008, p. 315.
  28. ^ West 2007, p. 166–167.
  29. ^ a b West 2007, p. 167–168.
  30. ^ a b c Kloekhorst 2008, p. 763.
  31. ^ a b c West 2007, p. 166.
  32. ^ Mallory & Adams 1997, p. 130.
  33. ^ Mallory & Adams 1997, p. 131.
  34. ^ Kroonen 2013, p. 519.
  35. ^ Derksen 2008, p. 128.
  36. ^ Matasović 2009, pp. 96–97.
  37. ^ Witczak, Krzysztof Tomasz (1999-06-30). "On the Indo-European origin of two Lusitanian theonyms ( laebo and reve )". Emerita. 67 (1): 65–73. doi:10.3989/emerita.1999.v67.i1.185. ISSN 1988-8384.
  38. ^ Eliade, Mircea (1989). Shamanism. Arkana. p. 378. ISBN 0-14-019155-0. OCLC 21226282.
  39. ^ Woodhead, Linda; Partridge, Christopher; Kawanami, Hiroko (2016). Religions in the Modern World (Third ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 147–148. ISBN 978-0-415-85881-6.


Further reading[edit]

  • "Indo-European *Deiwos and Related Words" by Grace Sturtevant Hopkins, Language Dissertations number XII, December 1932 (supplement to Language, journal of the Linguistic Society of America).