Compound Words

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264. A compound word is one whose stem is made up of two or more simple stems.

a. A final stem vowel of the first member of the compound usually disappears before a vowel, and usually takes the form of i before a consonant. Only the second member receives inflection.1

b. Only noun stems can be thus compounded. A preposition, however, often becomes attached to a verb.

265. New stems are formed by Composition in three ways:

  1. The second part is simply added to the first.

    su-ove-taurīlia  the sacrifice of a swine, a sheep, and a bull
    (sūs, ovis, taurus) (cf. § 255.a)

    septen-decim  seventeen
    (septem, decem)

  2. The first part modifies the second as an adjective or adverb (Determinative Compounds).

    lāti-fundium  a large landed estate
    (lātus, fundus)

    omni-potēns  omnipotent
    (omnis, potēns)

  3. The first part has the force of a case, and the second a verbal force (Objective Compounds).

    agri-cola  a farmer
    (ager  field, †cola akin to colō  cultivate)

    armi-ger  armor-bearer
    (arma  arms, †ger akin to gerō  carry)

    corni-cen  horn-blower
    (cornū  horn, †cen akin to canō  sing)

    carni-fex  executioner
    (carō  flesh, †fex akin to faciō  make)

  a. Compounds of the above kinds, in which the last word is a noun, may become adjectives, meaning possessed of the quality denoted.

 āli-pēs  wing-footed
(āla  wing, pēs  foot)

 māgn-animus  great-souled
(māgnus  great, animus  soul)

 an-ceps  double
(amb-  at both ends, caput  head)

  Note— Many compounds of the above classes appear only in the form of some further derivative, the proper compound not being found in Latin.


Syntactic Compounds

266. In many apparent compounds, complete words—not stems—have grown together in speech. These are not strictly compounds in the etymological sense. They are called Syntactic Compounds.

a. Compounds of faciō, factō, with an actual or formerly existing noun stem confounded with a verbal stem in ē-. These are causative in force.

cōnsuē-faciō  habituate
(cf. cōnsuē-scō  become accustomed)

cale-faciō, cale-factō  to heat
(cf. calē-scō  grow warm)

b. An adverb or noun combined with a verb.

bene-dīcō  to bless
(bene  well, dīcō  speak)

satis-faciō  to do enough (for)
(satis  enough, faciō  do)

c. Many apparent compounds of stems.

fide-iubeō  to give surety
(fide  surety, iubeō  command)

mān-suētus  tame
(manuī  to the hand, suētus  accustomed)

Mārci-por  slave of Marcus
(Mārcī puer)

Iuppiter  father Jove
(†, old vocative, and pater)

anim-advertō  attend to, punish
(animum advertō)

d. A few phrases forced into the ordinary inflections of nouns.

prō-cōnsul  proconsul
(for prō cōnsule  instead of a consul)

trium-vir  triumvir
(singular from trium virōrum)

septen-triō  the Bear, a constellation
(supposed singular of septem triōnēs  the Seven Plough-Oxen)

In all these cases it is to be observed that words, not stems, are united.

267. Many syntactic compounds are formed by prefixing a Particle to some other part of speech.

a. Prepositions are often prefixed to Verbs. In these compounds the prepositions retain their original adverbial sense.

ā, ab AWAY:
ā-mittere  to send away

af-ferre (ad-ferō)  to bring

ante BEFORE:
ante-ferre  to prefer
ante-cellere  to excel

circum AROUND:
circum-mūnīre  to fortify completely

com-, con- (cum) TOGETHER or FORCIBLY:
cōn-ferre  to bring together
collocāre  to set firm

dē-spicere  despise
dē-struere  destroy

ē, ex OUT:
ef-ferre (ec-ferō)  to carry forth, uplift

in (with verbs) IN, ON, AGAINST:
īn-ferre  to bear against

inter-rumpere  to interrupt

of-ferre  to offer
ob-venīre  to meet

sub-struere  to build beneath
sub-dūcere  to lead up

super-fluere  to overflow

Note 1— In such compounds, however, the prepositions sometimes have their ordinary force as prepositions, especially ad, in, circum, trāns, and govern the case of a noun.

trānsīre flūmen  to cross a river (see § 388.b).

Note 2— Short a of the root is weakened to i before one consonant, to e before two.

faciō, cōnficiō, cōnfectus
iaciō, ēiciō, ēiectus

But long a is retained.


b. VERBS are also compounded with the following inseparable particles, which do not appear as prepositions in Latin.

amb- (am-, an-) AROUND:
amb-īre  to go about (cf. ἀμφί  about)

dis-, dī- ASUNDER, APART:
dis-cēdere  to depart (cf. duo  two)
dī-vidĕre  to divide

por-tendere  to hold forth, predict (cf. porrō  forth)

red-, re- BACK, AGAIN:
red-īre  to return
re-clūdere  to open (from claudō shut)
re-ficere  to repair (make again)

sēd-, sē- APART:
sē-cernō  to separate
[cf. sēd-itiō  a going apart, secession (, īre  to go)]

c. Many Verbals are found compounded with a preposition, like the verbs to which they correspond.

per-fuga  deserter
cf. per-fugiō

trā-dux  vine-branch
cf. trā-dūcō (trāns-dūcō)

ad-vena  stranger
cf. ad-veniō

con-iux (con-iūnx)  spouse
cf. con-iungō

in-dex  pointer out
cf. in-dīcō

prae-ses  guardian
cf. prae-sideō

com-bibō  boon companion
cf. com-bibō, -ĕre

d. An Adjective is sometimes modified by an adverbial prefix.

1. Of these, per- (less commonly prae-) very; sub- somewhat; in- not, are regular, and are very freely prefixed to adjectives.

per-māgnus  very large in-nocuus  harmless
per-paucī  very few in-imīcus  unfriendly
sub-rūsticus  rather clownish īn-sānus  insane
sub-fuscus  darkish īn-fīnītus  boundless
prae-longus  very long im-pūrus  impure

Note— Per and sub, in these senses, are also prefixed to verbs.

per-terreō  terrify
sub-rīdeō  smile

In īgnōscō pardon, in- appears to be the negative prefix.

2. The negative in- sometimes appears in combination with an adjective that does not occur alone.

in-ermis  unarmed (cf. arma  arms)
im-bellis  unwarlike (cf. bellum  war)
im-pūnis  without punishment (cf. poena  punishment)
in-teger  untouched, whole (cf. tangō  to touch, root TAG)
in-vītus  unwilling (probably from root seen in vī-s  thou wishest)



1.The second part generally has its usual inflection; but, as this kind of composition is in fact older than inflection, the compounded stem sometimes has an inflection of its own (as, cornicen, -cinis; lūcifer, -ferī; iūdex,
-dicis), from stems not occurring in Latin. Especially do compound adjectives in Latin take the form of i-stems.

animus , exanimis
nōrma, abnōrmis (see § 73)

In composition, stems regularly have their uninflected form:

īgni-spicium  divining by fire

but, in o- and ā- stems the final vowel of the stem appears as i-.

āli-pēs (from āla, stem ālā-)

i- is so common a termination of compounded stems, that it is often added to stems which do not properly have it.

flōri-comus  flower-crowned
(from flōs, flōr-is, and coma  hair)

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.