Stalin was the adopted surname of Joseph Jughashvili, who made up the name because everybody in the Bolshevik party was trying to deceive the authorities and stuff. His use of it was surprisingly appropriate, as it meant "steel" in Russian, and, well, just look at his personality. The -in suffix made it plural, so the root was stalb, or "steel", singular. This is a loanword from the German word stahl, with the same definition. Stahl is from the Proto-Germanic term stahla, or "to be firm" (this is also the root of the English word steel, through Old English style, and of the words for steel in everything from Luxembourgish to Esperanto). As basically all Proto-Germanic words do, this derived from Proto-Indo-European stak, which meant "to stay or be firm". Usage of the words steel and Stalin have both decreased since 1950. Apparently both iron alloys and Communists are out of fashion.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.