A combining form meaning "first, foremost, earliest form of," used in the formation of compound words such as → protogalaxy, → protoplanet, → protostar, etc.
From Gk. proto-, combining form of protos "first," superlative of pro "before," cognate with O.S. pruvu "first;" Rus. pervyy "first;" Av. pauruua-, as below.
Purvâ-, from O.Pers. paruviya- "former, initial," Av. pourva-, pouruuiia-, pauruua-, paoiriia- "first, initial, former;" cf. Skt. purva- "first, former, being before;" Tokharian B parwe "first;" PIE base *prwos "first."
The planet Earth during its → protoplanetary stage.
The hypothetical but strongly evidenced common ancestor of the Indo-European languages. PIE words are reconstructed from extant Indo-European languages. There is no clear agreement on exactly where or when the speakers of PIE lived. It is believed that most of the subgroups diverged and spread out over much of Europe, Iran, and northern Indian subcontinent during the fourth and third millennia BC. See also → proto-language.
The hypothetical and typically extinct language which is believed to be the ancestor of a group of languages of the same family. Historical linguistics uses comparative study of the languages of a family to reconstruct the ancestral language even though in most cases it was never recorded. Some examples are → Proto-Indo-European, Proto-Germanic, Proto-Romance, Proto-Sino-Tibetan, etc.