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123. In Latin, as in English, there are three degrees of comparison: the Positive, the Comparative, and the Superlative.

124. The Comparative is regularly formed by adding -ior (neuter -ius),1 the Superlative by adding -issimus (-a, -um), to the stem of the Positive, which loses its final vowel.

Comparison of Adjectives

Note— A form of diminutive is made upon the stem of some comparatives.

grandius-culus a little larger (see § 243).

a. Participles when used as adjectives are regularly compared.

patiēns (patient), patientior, patientissimus
apertus (open), apertior, apertissimus

125. Adjectives in -er form the Superlative by adding -rimus to the Nominative. The comparative is regular.

ācer (keen)ācrior, ācerrimus
miser (wretched), miserior, miserrimus

a. So vetus (gen. veteris) has superlative veterrimus, from the old form veter and mātūrus, besides its regular superlative (mātūrissimus), has a rare form mātūrrimus.

For the comparative of vetus, vetustior (from vetustus) is used.

126. Six adjectives in -lis form the superlative by adding -limus to the stem clipped of its final -i-. These are facilis, difficilis, similis, dissimilis, gracilis, humilis.

facilis (easy), facilior, facillimus [stem facili-]

127. Compounds in -dicus (saying) and -volus (willing) take in their comparison the forms of the corresponding participles dīcēns and volēns, which were anciently used as adjectives.

maledicus (slanderous), maledīcentior, maledīcentissimus

malevolus (spiteful), malevolentior, malevolentissimus

a. So, by analogy, compounds in -ficus.

māgnificus (grand), māgnificentior, māgnificentissimus

128. Some adjectives are compared by means of the adverbs magis (more) and maximē (most). So especially adjectives in -us preceded by e or i.

idōneus (fit), magis idōneus, maximē idōneus.

Note— But pius has piissimus in the superlative, a form condemned by Cicero, but common in inscriptions; equally common, however, is the irregular pientissimus.



1. The comparative suffix (earlier -iōs) is akin to the Greek ίων, or the Sanskrit -iyans. That of the superlative (-issimus) is a double form of uncertain origin. It appears to contain the is- of the old suffix -is-to-s (seen in ἥδ-ιστο-ς and English sweetest) and also the old -mo-s (seen in prī-mus, mini-mus, etc.). The endings -limus and -rimus are formed by assimilation (§ 15.6) from -simus. The comparative and superlative are really new stems, and are not strictly to be regarded as forms of inflection.

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.