The word avalanche was adopted in 1763 from French, and that comes from a language we have not previously covered - Romansh, which is spoken in Graubünden, a mountainous canton of Switzerland. There, it was avalantze, which could also mean "descent", and that in turn derives from Savoy lavantse, from Provençal lavanca. Beyond that, things get hazy. The -anca suffix implies that it might be Ligurian, a dead language which might not be Indo-European, but there definitely seems to have been some Latin influence there, because labina means "landslide". Either that's related or it was folk etymologized to the point where it's difficult to tell the words apart. Usage of the word avalanche in literature over time has been rising disturbingly quickly. Perhaps it's all about to tumble back down again...
Adam Aleksic is a 220-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard College in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd