Derivation of Adjectives

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242. Derivative Adjectives, which often become nouns, are either Nominal (from nouns or adjectives) or Verbal (as from roots or verb stems).


Nominal Adjectives

243. Diminutive Adjectives are usually confined to one gender, that of the primitive, and are used as Diminutive Nouns.

They are formed by means of the suffixes -ulus (-a, -um), -olus (after a vowel), -culus, -ellus, -illus

rīv-ulus  a streamlet rīvus  a brook
gladi-olus  a small sword gladius  a sword
fīli-olus  a little son fīlius  a son
fīli-ola  a little daughter fīlia  a daughter
ātri-olum  a little hall ātrium  a hall
homun-culus  a dwarf homō  a man
auri-cula  a little ear auris  an ear
mūnus-culum  a little gift mūnus  a gift [n.]
cōdic-illī  writing-tablets cōdex  a block
mis-ellus  rather wretched miser  wretched
lib-ellus  a little book liber  a book
aure-olus (-a, -um)  golden aureus (-a, -um)  golden
parv-olus (later parv-ulus)  very small parvus (-a, -um)  little
mâius-culus  somewhat larger mâior (old mâiōs)  greater

Note 1— These diminutive endings are all formed by adding -lus to various stems. The formation is the same as that of -ulus in § 251 (below). But these words became settled as diminutives, and retained their connection with nouns. So in English the diminutives whitish, reddish, bookish and snappish. -culus -lus added to adjectives in -cus formed from stems in n- and s-:

Aurun-cus (cf. Aurunculêius)

whence the -cu- becomes a part of the termination, and the whole ending (-culus) is used elsewhere, but mostly with n- and s- stems, in accordance with its origin.

Note 2— Diminutives are often used to express affection, pity, or contempt.

dēliciolae  little pet
muliercula  a poor (weak) woman
Graeculus  a miserable Greek

a. -ciō, added to stems in n-, has the same diminutive force, but is used with masculines only.

homun-ciō  a dwarf (from homō a man)

244. Patronymics, indicating descent or relationship, are formed by adding the suffixes -adēs,-idēs, -īdēs, -eus [m.], -ās, -is, -ēis [f.], to proper names

These words, originally Greek adjectives, have almost all become nouns in Latin.

Atlās: Atlanti-adēs  Mercury;
Atlant-idĕs (Greek plural)  the Pleiads

Scīpiō: Scīpi-adēs  son of Scipio

Tyndareus: Tyndar-idēs  Castor or Pollux, son of Tyndarus
Tyndar-is  Helen, daughter of Tyndarus

Anchīsēs: Anchīsi-adēs  Æneas, son of Anchises

Thēseus: Thēs-īdēs  son of Theseus

Tȳdeus: Tȳd-īdēs  Diomedes, son of Tydeus

Oīleus: Âiāx Oīl-eus  son of Oileus

Cisseus: Cissē-is  Hecuba, daughter of Cisseus

Thaumās: Thaumant-iās  Iris, daughter of Thaumas

Hesperus: Hesper-ides (from Hesper-is, -idis), pl.
the daughters of Hesperus, the Hesperides

245. Adjectives meaning full of, prone to , are formed from noun stems with the suffixes -ōsus, -lēns, lentus

fluctu-ōsus  billowy fluctus  a billow
form-ōsus  beautiful forma  beauty
perīcul-ōsus  dangerous perīculum  danger
pesti-lēns, pesti-lentus  pestilent pestis  pest
vīno-lentus vīn-ōsus  given to drink vīnum  wine

246. Adjectives meaning provided with are formed from nouns by means of the regular participial endings -tus, -ātus, -ītus, ūtus

fūnes-tus  deadly fūnus (stem fūner-, older fūne/os-)  death
hones-tus  honorable honor  honor
faus-tus (for †faves-tus)  favorable favor  favor
barb-ātus  bearded barba  a beard
turr-ītus  turreted turris  a tower
corn-ūtus  horned cornū  a horn

Note— -ātus, -ītus, -ūtus, imply reference to an imaginary verb stem; -tus is added directly to nouns without any such reference.

247. Adjectives of various meanings, but signifying in general made of or belonging to, are formed from nouns by means of the suffixes -eus, -ius,
-āceus, -īcius, āneus (-neus), -ticus

aur-eus  golden aurum  gold
patr-ius  paternal pater  a father
uxōr-ius  uxorious uxor  a wife
ros-āceu  of roses rosa  a rose
later-īcius  of brick later  a brick
praesent-āneus  operating instantly praesēns  present
extr-āneus  external extrā  without
subterr-āneus  subterranean sub terrā  underground
salīg-neus  of willow salix  willow
volā-ticus  winged (volātus a flight) volāre  to fly
domes-ticus  of the house, domestic domus  a house
silvā-ticus  sylvan silva  a wood

Note— -ius is originally primitive (§ 234.2.11); -eus corresponds to Greek -ειος, -εος, and has lost a y sound (cf. yo-, § 234.2.11); -īcius and -āceus are formed by adding -ius and -eus to stems in ī-c-, ā-c- (suffix ko-, § 234.2.12); -neus is no- + -eus (§ 234.2.4); -āneus is formed by adding -neus to ā- stems; -ticus is a formation with
-cus (cf. hosti-cus with silvā-ticus), and has been affected by the analogy of participial stems in to- (Nominative -tus).

248. Adjectives denoting pertaining to are formed from noun stems with the suffixes ālis, āris, ēlis, īlis, ūlis

nātūr-ālis  natural nātūra  nature
popul-āris  fellow-countryman populus  a people
patru-ēlis  cousin patruus  uncle
host-īlis  hostile hostis  an enemy
cur-ūlis  curule currus  a chariot

Note— The suffixes arise from adding -lis (stem li-) to various vowel stems. The long vowels are due partly to confusion between stem and suffix (cf. vītā-lis, from vītā-, with rēg-ālis), partly to confusion with verb stems.

Aprīlis (aperīre)
edūlis (edere)
senīlis (senex)

-ris is an inherited suffix, but in most of these formations -āris arises by differentiation for -ālis in words containing an l (as mīlit-āris).

249. Adjectives with the sense of belonging to are formed by means of the suffixes -ānus, -ēnus, -īnus; -ās, -ēnsis; -cus, -acus (-ācus), -icus;
-eus, -êius, -icius

1. So from common nouns:

mont-ānus  of the mountains mōns (stem monti-)  mountain
veter-ānus  veteran vetus (stem veter-)  old
antelūc-ānus  before daylight ante lūcem  before light
terr-ēnus  earthly terra  earth
ser-ēnus  calm (of evening stillness) sērus  late
coll-īnus  of a hill collis  hill
dīv-īnus  divine dīvus  god
lībert-īnus  of the class of freedmen lībertus  one's freedman
cûi-ās  of what country? quis  who?
īnfim-ās  of the lowest rank īnfimus  lowest
for-ēnsis  of a marketplace, or the Forum forum  a marketplace
cīvi-cus  civic, of a citizen cīvis  a citizen
fullōn-icus  of a fuller fullōa  fuller
mer-ācus  pure merum  pure wine
fēmin-eus  of a woman, feminine fēmina  a woman
lact-eus  milky lac  milk (stem lacti-).
plēb-ēius  of the commons, plebeian plēbēs  the commons
patr-icius  patrician pater  father

2. But especially from proper nouns to denote belonging to or coming from :

Rōm-ānus  Roman Rōma  Rome
Sull-ānī  Sulla's veterans Sulla
Cyzic-ēnī  Cyzicenes, people of Cyzicus Cyzicus
Ligur-īnus  of Liguria Liguria
Arpīn-ās  of Arpinum Arpīnum
Sicili-ēnsis  Sicilian Sicilia  Sicily
Īli-acus  Trojan (a Greek form) Īlium  Troy
Platōn-icus  Platonic Platō
Aquil-êius (a Roman name)
Aquil-êia (a town in Italy)

a. Many derivative adjectives with these endings have by usage become nouns.

Silv-ānus  a god of the woods [m.] silva  a wood
membr-āna  skin [f.] membrum  limb
Aemili-ānus name of Scipio Africanus [m.] Aemilia (gēns)
lani-ēna  a butcher's stall [f.] lanius  butcher
Aufidi-ēnus a Roman name [m.] Aufidius (Aufidus)
inquil-īnus  a lodger [m.] incola  an inhabitant
Caec-īna a Roman name, used as [m.] caecus  blind
ru-īna  a fall [f.] ruō  fall (no noun existing)
doctr-īna  learning [f.] doctor  teacher

Note— Of these terminations, -ānus, -ēnus, -īnus are compounded from -nus added to a stem-vowel.

arca, arcānus
collis, collīnus

The long vowels come from a confusion with verb stems (as in plē-nus, fīnī-tus, tribū-tus), and from the noun stem in ā-.


A few nouns occur of similar formation, as if from verb stems in ō- and ū-.

colōnus (colō, cf. incola)
patrōnus (cf. patrō, -āre)
tribūnus (cf. tribuō, tribus)
Portūnus (cf. portus)
Vacūna (cf. vacō, vacuus)

250. Other adjectives meaning in a general way belonging to (especially of places and times ) are formed with the suffixes -ter (-tris), -ester
(-estris), -timus, -nus, -ernus, -urnus, ternus (-turnus)

palūs-ter  of the marshes palūs  a marsh
pedes-ter  of the foot-soldiers pedes  a footman
sēmēs-tris  lasting six months sex mēnsēs  six months
silv-ester, silv-estris  woody silva  a wood
fīni-timus  neighboring, on the borders fīnis  an end
mari-timus  of the sea mare  sea
vēr-nus  vernal vēr  spring
hodi-ernus  of today hodiē  today
di-urnus  daily diēs  day
hes-ternus  of yesterday herī (old hesī)  yesterday
diū-turnus  lasting diū  long (in time)

Note— Of these, -ester is formed by adding tri- (cf. tro-, § 234.2.16) to stems in t- or d-. Thus †pedet-tri- becomes pedestri-, and others follow the analogy. -nus is an inherited suffix (§ 234.2.4). -ernus and -urnus are formed by adding -nus to s- stems:

diur-nus (for †dius-nus)

and hence, by analogy

hodiernus (hodiē)

By an extension of the same principle were formed the suffixes -ternus and -turnus from words like paternus and nocturnus.

a. Adjectives meaning belonging to are formed from nouns by means of the suffixes ārius, -tōrius (sōrius)

ōrdin-ārius  regular ōrdō  rank, order
argent-ārius  of silver or money argentum  silver
extr-ārius  stranger extrā  outside
meri-tōrius  profitable meritus  earned
dēvor-sōrius  of an inn (cf. § 254.5) dēvorsus  turned aside

Note 1— Here -ius (§ 234.2.11) is added to shorter forms in -āris and -or

pecūliārius (from pecūliāris)
bellātōrius (from bellātor).

Note 2— These adjectives are often fixed as nouns (see § 254).


Verbal Adjectives

251. Adjectives expressing the action of the verb as a quality or tendency are formed from real or apparent verb stems with the suffixes āx, idus, ulus, vus (uus, īvus, tīvus). -āx denotes a faulty or aggressive tendency;
-tīvus is oftener passive.

pūgn-āx  pugnacious pūgnāre  to fight
aud-āx  bold audēre  to dare
cup-idus  eager cupere  to desire
bib-ulus  thirsty (such as dry earth, etc.) bibere  to drink
proter-vus  violent, wanton prōterere  to trample
noc-uus (noc-īvus)  hurtful, injurious nocēre  to do harm
recid-īvus  restored recidere  to fall back
cap-tīvus  captive,  a prisoner of war [m.] capere  to take

Note— Of these, -āx is a reduction of -ācus (stem vowel ā- + -cus), become independent and used with verb stems. Similar forms in -ĕx, -ōx, -īx, and -ūx are found or employed in derivatives.

imbrex  a rain-tile [m.] (from imber)
senex  old (from seni-s)
ferōx  fierce (ferus)
atrōx  savage (āter  black)
celōx  a yacht [f.] (cf. cellō)
fēlīx  happy, originally fertile (cf. fēlō  suck)
fīdūcia confidence (as from †fīdūx)

cf. also victrīx (from victor). So mandūcus chewing (from mandō).

-idus is no doubt denominative.

herbidus  grassy (from herba  herb)
tumidus  swollen (cf. tumu-lus  hill; tumul-tus  uproar)
callidus  tough, cunning (cf. callum  tough flesh)
mūcidus  slimy (cf. mūcus  slime)
tābidus  wasting (cf. tābēs  wasting disease)

But later it was used to form adjectives directly from verb stems.

-ulus is the same suffix as in diminutives, but attached to verb stems.

Cf. aemulus  rivaling (cf. imitor and imāgō)

sēdulus  sitting by, attentive (cf. domi-seda  homestaying, and sēdō  set, settle, hence calm)

pendulus  hanging (cf. pondō, ablative, in weight; perpendiculum,  a plummet; appendix  an addition)

strāgulus  covering (cf. strāgēs)

legulus  a picker (cf. sacri-legus  a picker up of things sacred)

-vus seems originally primary (cf. § 234.2.8), but -īvus and -tīvus have become secondary and are used with nouns.

aestīvus  of summer (from aestus  heat)
tempestīvus  timely (from tempus)

cf. domes-ticus (from domus).

252. Adjectives expressing passive qualities, but occasionally active, are formed by means of the suffixes -ilis, -bilis, -ius, -tilis (-silis)

frag-ilis  frail frangere (FRAG)  to break
nō-bilis  well known, famous nōscere (GNO)  to know
exim-ius  choice, rare (cf. ē-greg-ius) eximere  to take out, select
ag-ilis  active agere  to drive
hab-ilis  handy habēre  to hold
al-tilis  fattened (see note) alere  to nourish

Note— Of these, -ius is primary, but is also used as secondary (cf. § 241.b, Note). -ilis is both primary (as in agilis, fragilis) and secondary (as in similis  like, cf. ὅμος, ὅμαλος, English same); -bilis is in some way related to -bulum and -brum (§ 240, Note); in -tilis and -silis, -lis is added to to- (so-), stem of the perfect participle.

fossilis  dug up (from fossus  dug)
volātilis  winged (from volātus  flight)

253. Verbal Adjectives that are Participial in meaning are formed with the suffixes -ndus, -bundus, -cundus

a. -ndus (the same as the Gerundive ending) forms a few active or reflexive adjectives.

secu-ndus  second (the following), favorable sequī  to follow
rotu-ndus  round (whirling)1 rotāre  to whirl

b. -bundus, -cundus, denote a continuance of the act or quality expressed by the verb.

vītā-bundus  avoiding vītāre  to shun
treme-bundus  trembling tremere  to tremble
mori-bundus  dying, at the point of death morīrī  to die
fā-cundus  eloquent fārī  to speak
fē-cundus  fruitful root ,  nourish
īrā-cundus  irascible cf. īrāscī  to be angry

Note— These must have been originally nominal, as seen in the following.

rubus  red bush
rubidus (but no †rubicus)  ruddy
Rubicōn  Red River (cf. Miniō, a river of Etruria; Minius, a river of Lusitania)
rubicundus (as in averruncus, homun-culus).

So turba  commotion, turbō a top, turbidus  roily, etc. Cf. apexabō, longabō, gravēdō, dulcēdō.

c. Here belong also the participial suffixes -minus, -mnus (cf. Greek -μενος), from which are formed a few nouns in which the participial force is still discernible.2

fē-mina  woman (the nourisher) root ,  nourish
alu-mnus  a foster-child, nursling alere  to nourish



1. Cf. volvendīs mēnsibus (Aen. 1.269)  in the revolving months; cf. oriundī ab Sabinīs (Liv. 1.17)  sprung from the Sabines, where oriundī = ortī.

2.Cf. § 163, footnote 1.

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.