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Allen and Greenough/ New Latin Grammar

Defective Comparison of Adjectives

130. Some Comparatives and Superlatives appear without a Positive:—

ōc ior, swifter;ōc issimus, swiftest.
pot ior, preferable; 1pot issimus, most important.

a. The following are formed from stems not used as adjectives: 2

cis , citrā (adv., on this side):citer ior, hither;ci timus, hithermost.
(prep., down):dēter ior, worse;dēter rimus, worst.
in, intrā (prep., in , within):inter ior, inner;in timus, inmost.
prae , prō (prep., before):pr ior, former;prī mus, first.
prope (adv., near):prop ior, nearer;pro ximus, next.
ultrā (adv., beyond):ulter ior, farther;ul timus, farthest.

b. Of the following the positive forms are rare, except when used as nouns (generally in the plural):—

exterus, outward;exter ior, outer;extrē mus (ex timus), outmost
īnferus, below (see § 111 . b);īnfer ior, lower;īnfi mus (īmus), lowest.
posterus, following;poster ior, latter;postrē mus (pos tumus), last.
superus, above;super ior, higher;suprē mus or sum mus, highest

But the plurals, exterī, foreigners; īnferī, the gods below; posterī, posterity, superī, the heavenly gods, are common.

Note— The superlative postumus has the special sense of last-born , and was a well known surname.

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Notes
1
The old positive potis occurs in the sense of able , possible.
2
The forms in -trā and -terus were originally comparative (cf. alter ), so that the comparatives in -terior are double comparatives. Īnferus and superus are comparatives of a still more primitive form (cf. the English comparative in - er ). The superlatives in -timus ( -tumus ) are relics of old forms of comparison; those in -mus like īmus , summus , prīmus , are still more primitive. Forms like extrēmus are superlatives of a comparative. In fact, comparison has always been treated with an accumulation of endings, as children say furtherer and furtherest.