It is argued that Greek σφήξ, σφηκός ‘wasp’ may be derived from the PIE root *(s)bʰeh₁gʰ- ‘be irascible; start a fight’. The insect’s belligerent nature has been noted both in European antiquity and in various cultures around the world. The inverse of Grassmann’s Law (e.g. nom.pl. σφῆκες, not *σπῆχες) seems to be regular in paradigms with word-initial σφ-. The form σφάξ in Theocritus may be hyperdoric.
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