The term Indo-European itself now current in English literature, was coined in 1813 by the British scholar Sir Thomas Young, although at that time, there was no consensus as to the naming of the recently discovered language family. However, he seems to have used it as a geographical term. Among the other names suggested were:
- indo-germanique (C. Malte-Brun, 1810)
- Indoeuropean (Th. Young, 1813)
- japetisk (Rasmus C. Rask, 1815)
- indisch-teutsch (F. Schmitthenner, 1826)
- sanskritisch (Wilhelm von Humboldt, 1827)
- indokeltisch (A. F. Pott, 1840)
- arioeuropeo (G. I. Ascoli, 1854)
- Aryan (F. M. Müller, 1861)
- aryaque (H. Chavée, 1867).
Rask's japetisk or "Japhetic languages", after the old notion of "Japhetites" and ultimately Japheth, son of the Biblical Noah, parallels the term Semitic, from Noah's son Shem, and Hamitic, from Noah's son Ham. Japhetic and Hamitic are both obsolete, apart from occasional dated use of term "Hamito-Semitic" for the Afro-Asiatic languages.
In English, Indo-German was used by J. C. Prichard in 1826 although he preferred Indo-European. In French, use of indo-européen was established by A. Pictet (1836). In German literature, Indoeuropäisch was used by Franz Bopp since 1835, while the term Indogermanisch had already been introduced by
Julius von Klapproth in 1823, intending to include the northernmost and the southernmost of the family's branches, as it were as an abbreviation of the full listing of involved languages that had been common in earlier literature. Indo-Germanisch became established by the works of August Friedrich Pott, who understood it to include the easternmost and the westernmost branches, opening the doors to ensuing fruitless discussions whether it should not be Indo-Celtic, or even Tocharo-Celtic.
Today, Indo-European, indo-européen is well established in English and French literature, while Indogermanisch remains current in German literature, but alongside a growing number of uses of Indoeuropäisch. Similarly, Indo-Europees has now largely replaced the still occasionally encountered Indogermaans in Dutch scientific literature.
Indo-Hittite is sometimes used for the wider family including Anatolian by those who consider that IE and Anatolian are comparable separate branches.