edited by Meagan Ayer et al.

Irregular and Defective Comparison of Adjectives

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129. Several adjectives have in their comparison irregular forms.

bonus goodmelior betteroptimus best
malus badpêior worsepessimus worst
māgnus greatmâior greatermaximus greatest
parvus smallminor lessminimus least
multus much

plūs (n.) more
(§ 120)

plūrimus most
multī manyplūrēs moreplūrimī most

nēquam worthless
(indecl., § 122.b)


frūgī useful, worthy
(indecl., § 122.b)

dexter on the right, handydexteriordextimus

Note— These irregularities arise from the use of different stems (cf. § 127). Thus frūgālior and frūgālissimus are formed from the stem frūgāli-, but are used as the comparative and superlative of the indeclinable frūgī.

130. Some Comparatives and Superlatives appear without a Positive.

ōcior swifterōcissimus swiftest
potior preferable1potissimus most important.

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

cis, citrā on this side
citerior hithercitimus hithermost
dēterior worsedēterrimus worst
in, intrā inwithin
interior innerintimus inmost
prae, prō before
prior formerprīmus first
prope near
propior nearerproximus next
ultrā beyond
ulterior fartherultimus farthest

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

exterus outwardexterior outerextrēmus (extimusoutmost
īnferus below
(see § 111.b)
īnferior lowerīnfimus (īmuslowest
posterus followingposterior latterpostrēmus (postumuslast
superus abovesuperior highersuprēmus or summus 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.

131. Several adjectives lack the Comparative or the Superlative.

a. The Comparative is rare or wanting in the following.

bellusinclutus (or inclitus)novus
fīdus (with its compounds)meritusvafer

b. Many adjectives in -ilis or -bilis lack the superlative—for example, agilis, probābilis, and the following.


c. From iuvenis (youth) and senex (old man) [cf. § 122.d], are formed the comparatives iūnior (younger) and senior (older). For these, however, minor nātū and mâior nātū are sometimes used (nātū being often omitted). The superlative is regularly expressed by minimus and maximus, with or without nātū.

Note— In these phrases nātū is an Ablative of Specification (see § 418).

d. Many adjectives (such as aureus golden) are incapable of comparison due to their meaning.

Note— But each language has its own usage in this respect. Thus, niger (glossy black) and candidus (shining white) are compared; but not āter or albus, meaning absolute dead black or white (except that Plautus once has ātrio).



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.

Suggested Citation

Meagan Ayer, Allen and Greenough’s New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-947822-04-7. http://dcc.dickinson.edu/grammar/latin/irregular-and-defective-comparison-adjectives