Derivation of Verbs

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256. Verbs may be classed as Primitive or Derivative.

  1. Primitive Verbs are those inherited by the Latin from the parent speech.
  2. Derivative Verbs are those formed in the development of the Latin as a separate language.

257. Derivative Verbs are of two main classes.

  1. Denominative Verbs, formed from nouns or adjectives.
  2. Verbs apparently derived from the stems of other verbs.


Denominative Verbs

258. Verbs were formed in Latin from almost every form of noun and adjective stem.

259.1. Verbs of the 1st Conjugation are formed directly from ā-stems, regularly with a transitive meaning.

fuga  flight
fugāre  put to flight

2. Many verbs of the 1st Conjugation are formed from o- stems, changing the o- into ā-. These are more commonly transitive.

stimulō, -āre  to incite
from stimulus  a good (stem stimulo-)

aequō, -āre  to make even
from aequus  even (stem aequo-)

hībernō, -āre  to pass the winter
from hībernus  of the winter (stem hīberno-)

albō, -āre  to whiten
from albus  white (stem albo-)

piō, -āre  to expiate
from pius  pure (stem pio-)

novō, -āre  to renew
from novus  new (stem novo-)

armō, -āre  to arm
from arma  arms (stem armo-)

damnō, -āre  to injure
from damnum  injury (stem damno-)

3. A few verbs, generally intransitive, are formed by analogy from consonant and i- or u- stems, adding ā to the stem.1

vigilō, -āre  to watch
from vigil  awake

exsulō, -āre  to be in exile
from exsul  an exile

auspicor, -ārī  to take the auspices
from auspex (stem auspic-)  augur

pulverō, -āre  to turn (anything) to dust
from pulvis (stem pulver- for pulvis-)  dust

aestuō, -āre  to surge
boil, from aestus (stem aestu-)  tide, seething

levō, -āre  to lighten
from levis (stem levi-)  light

260. A few verbs of the 2nd Conjugation (generally intransitive) are recognizable as formed from noun stems; but most are inherited, or the primitive noun stem is lost.

albeō, -ēre  to be white
from albus (stem (albo/e-)  white

cāneo, -ēre  to be hoary
from cānus (stem (cāno/e-)  hoary

clāreō, -ēre  to shine
from clārus  bright

claudeō, -ēre  to be lame
from claudus  lame

algeō, -ēre  to be cold
cf. algidus  cold

261. Some verbs of the 3rd Conjugation in -uō, -uere, are formed from noun stems in u- and have lost a consonant i.

statuō (for †statu-yō), -ere  to set up
from status  position

metuō, -ere  to fear
from metus  fear

acuō, -ere  to sharpen
from acus  needle

arguō, -ere  to clear up
from inherited stem †argu-  bright (cf. ἄργυρος)

Note— Many verbs in u are inherited, being formed from roots in u.

fluō, fluere flow
so-lvō (for †sē-luō, cf. λύω), solvere dissolve

Some roots have a parasitic u.

loquor, locūtus  speak

262. Many ī- verbs or verbs of the 4th Conjugation are formed from i-stems.

mōlior, -īrī  to toil
from mōlēs (-is)  mass

fīniō, -īre  to bound
from fīnis  end

sitiō, -īre  to thirst
from sitis  thirst

stabiliō, -īre  to establish
from stabilis  stable

a. Some arise by confusion from other stems treated as i-stems.

bulliō, -īre  to boil
from bulla (stem bullā-)  bubble

condiō, -īre  to preserve
from condus (stem condo-)  storekeeper

īnsāniō, -īre  to rave
from īnsānus (stem īnsāno-)  mad

gestiō, -īre  to show wild longing
from gestus (stem gestu-)  gesture

Note— Some of this form are of doubtful origin.

ōrdior  begin, cf. ōrdo and exōrdium

The formation is closely akin to that of verbs in -iō of the 3rd conjugation (§ 188).

b. Some are formed with -iō from consonant stems.

cūstōdiō, -īre  to guard
from cūstōs (stem cūstōd-)  guardian

fulguriō, -īre  to lighten
from fulgur  lightning

Note— Here probably belong the so-called desideratives in -uriō (see § 263.4, Note below).


Verbs from Other Verbs

263. The following four classes of verbs regularly derived from other verbs have special meanings connected with their terminations.

Note— These classes are all really denominative in their origin, but the formations had become so associated with actual verbs that new derivatives were often formed directly from verbs without the intervention of a noun stem.

  1. Inceptives or Inchoatives add -scō2 to the present stem of verbs. They denote the beginning of an action and are of the 3rd Conjugation. Of some there is no simple verb in existence.

    calē-scō  grow warm
    from caleō be  warm

    labā-scō  begin to totter
    from labō  totter

    scī-scō  determine
    from sciō  know

    con-cupī-scō  conceive a desire for
    from cupiō  desire

    alē-scō  grow
    from alō  feed

    So īrā-scor (get angry); cf. īrā-tus.

    iuvenē-scō  grow young
    cf. iuvenis  young man

    mītē-scō  grow mild
    cf. mītis  mild

    vesperā-scit  it is getting late
    cf. vesper  evening

    Note— Inceptives properly have only the Present stem, but many use the Perfect and Supine systems of simple verbs.

    calēscō  grow warm; caluī
    ārdēscō  blaze forth; ārsī
    proficīscor  set out; profectus

  2. Intensives or Iteratives are formed from the Supine stem and end in -tō or -itō (rarely -sō). They denote a forcible or repeated action, but this special sense often disappears. Those derived from verbs of the 1st Conjugation end in -itō (not -ātō).

    iac-tō  hurl
    from iaciō  throw

    dormī-tō  be sleepy
    from dormiō  sleep

    vol-itō  flit
    from volō  fly

    vēndi-tō  try to sell
    from vēndō  sell

    quas-sō  shatter
    from quatiō  shake

    They are of the 1st conjugation, and are properly denominative.

    a. Compound suffixes -titō -sitō are formed with a few verbs. These are probably derived from other Iteratives: thus, cantitō may come from cantō, iterative of canō (sing).

    b. Another form of Intensives—sometimes called Meditatives, or verbs of practice—ends in -essō (rarely -issō). These denote a certain energy or eagerness of action rather than its repetition.

    cap-essō  lay hold on
    from capiō  take

    fac-essō  do (with energy)
    from faciō  do

    pet-esso, pet-issō  seek (eagerly)
    from petō  seek

    These are of the 3rd conjugation, usually having the perfect and supine of the 4th.

    arcessō, arcessĕre, arcessīvī, arcessītum  summon

    lacessō, lacessĕre, lacessīvī, lacessītum  provoke

    Note— The verbs in -essō, -issō, show the same formation as levāssō, impetrāssere, iūdicāssit, etc. (§ 183.5), but its origin is not fully explained.

  3. Diminutives end in -illō, and denote a feeble or petty action.

    cav-illor  jest
    cf. cavilla  raillery

    cant-illō  chirp or warble
    from cantō  sing

    Note— Diminutives are formed from verb stems derived from real or supposed diminutive nouns.

  4. Desideratives end in -turiō (-suriō), and express longing or wishing. They are of the 4th conjugation, and only two are in common use.

    par-turiō  be in labor
    from pariō  bring forth

    ē-suriō (for †ed-turiō)  be hungry
    from edō  eat

    Others are used by the dramatists.

    Note— Desideratives are probably derived from some noun of agency: as, ēmpturiō (wish to buy) from ēmptor (buyer). Vīsō (go to see) is an inherited desiderative of a different formation.



1. The type of all or most of the denominative formations in § 259 - § 262 was inherited, but the process went on in the development of Latin as a separate language.

2. For -scō in primary formation, see § 176.b.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.