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232. Derived Stems are formed from roots or from other stems by means of suffixes. There are two kinds of suffixes:

  1. Primary added to the root, or (in later times by analogy) to verb stems.
  2. Secondary added to a noun stem or an adjective stem.

    Both primary and secondary suffixes are for the most part pronominal roots (§ 228.2), but a few are of doubtful origin.

    Note 1— The distinction between primary and secondary suffixes, not being original (see § 227), is continually lost sight of in the development of a language. Suffixes once primary are used as secondary, and those once secondary are used as primary. Thus in hosticus (hosti + cus) the suffix -cus, originally ko- (see § 234.2.12 below) primary, as in paucus, has become secondary, and is thus regularly used to form derivatives; but in pudīcus amd aprīcus, it is treated as primary again, because these words were really or apparently connected with verbs. So in English -able was borrowed as a primary suffix (tolerable, eatable), but also makes forms like clubbable, salable; -some is properly a secondary suffix, as in toilsome, lonesome, but makes also such words as meddlesome, venturesome.

    Note 2— It is the stem of the word, not the nominative, that is formed by the derivative suffix. For convenience, however, the nominative will usually be given.

233. The words in Latin formed immediately from the root by means of primary suffixes are few, because:

  1. Inherited words so formed were mostly further developed by the addition of other suffixes, as we might make an adjective lone(-ly, -some, -ish) meaning nothing more than lone, lonely, or lonesome.
  2. By such accumulation of suffixes, new compound suffixes were formed which crowded out even the old types of derivation. Thus—

A word like mēns, mentis, by the suffix ōn- (nom. ), gave mentiō, and this, being divided into men + tiō, gave rise to a new type of abstract nouns in -tiō (as, lēgā-tiō embassy).

A word like audītor, by the suffix io- (nom. -ius), gave rise to adjectives like audītōr-ius, of which the neuter (audītōrium) is used to denote the place where the action of the verb is performed. Hence tōrio- (nom. -tōrium), neuter, becomes a regular noun suffix (§ 250.a).

So in English such a word as suffocation gives a suffix -ation, and with this is made starvation, though there is no such word as starvate.

234. The following are examples of primary stem suffixes.

I. Vowel suffixes.

  1. o- (m. / n.), ā- (f.), found in nouns and adjectives of the 1st and 2nd declensions.

    toga (root TEG)

  2. i-:


    in Latin frequently changed:


    or lost.

    scobs (scobis, root SCAB).

  3. u-, disguised in most adjectives by an additional i:

    suā-vis (for †suādvis, instead of †suā-dus, cf. ἡδύς)
    ten-uis (root TEN in tendō)

    and remaining alone only in nouns of the 4th declension.

    acus (root AK, sharp, in ācer, aciēs, ὠκύς)

II. Suffixes with a consonant.

  1. to- (m. / n.), tā-(f.), in the regular perfect passive participle:

    tēctus, tēctum

    sometimes with an active sense:

    pōtus, prānsus

    and found in a few words not recognized as participles.

    pūtus (cf. pūrus)
    altus (alō)

  2. ti- in abstracts and rarely in nouns of agency.

    messis, vestis, pars, mēns

    But in many the i is lost.

  3. tu- in abstracts (including Supines), sometimes becoming concretes.

    āctus, lūctus

  4. no- (m. / n.), nā-(f.), forming perfect participles in other languages, and in Latin making adjectives of like participial meaning, which often become nouns.

    māgnus, plēnus, rēgnum

  5. ni-, in nouns of agency and adjectives.

    īgnis, sēgnis

  6. nu- [rare].

    manus, pīnus, cornū

  7. mo- (mā-), with various meanings.

    animus, almus, fīrmus, forma

  8. vo- (vā-) (commonly uo-, uā-), with an active or passive meaning.

    equus (equos)
    vacīvus (vacuus)

  9. ro- (rā-).

    ager (stem ag-ro-)
    integer (cf. intāctus)
    plērī-que (cf. plēnus, plētus)

  10. lo- (lā-).

    caelum (for †caed-lum)  chisel
    sella (for †sedla)

  11. yo- (yā-), forming gerundives in other languages, and in Latin making adjectives and abstracts, including many of the 1st and 5th declensions.

    eximius, audācia, Flōrentia, perniciēs

  12. ko- (kā-), sometimes primary.

    paucī (cf. παῦρος)
    locus (for stlocus)

    In many cases the vowel of this termination is lost, leaving a consonant stem.

    apex, cortex, loquāx

  13. en- (on-, ēn-, ōn-), in nouns of agency and abstracts.

    compāgē (-ĭnis)
    gerō (-ōnis)

  14. men-, expressing means, often passing into the action itself.

    agmen, flūmen, fulmen.

  15. ter- (tor-, tēr-, tōr-, tr-), forming nouns of agency.

    pater (i.e. protector)
    frāter (i.e. supporter)

  16. tro-, forming nouns of means.

    claustrum (CLAUD)
    mūlctrum (MULG)

  17. es- (os-), forming names of actions, passing into concretes.

    genus (generis)
    tempus (see § 15.4)

    The infinitive in -ere (as in reg-ere) is a Locative of this stem (-er-e for †-es-i).

  18. nt- (ont-, ent-), forming present Active participles:


    with some adjectives from roots unknown.

    frequēns, recēns

The above, with some suffixes given below, belong to the Indo-European parent speech, and most of them were not felt as living formations in the Latin.

235. Both primary and secondary suffixes, especially in the form of compound suffixes, were used in Latin with more or less consciousness of their meaning. They may therefore be called Significant Endings.

They form (1) Nouns of Agency; (2) Abstract Nouns (including names of actions) and (3) Adjectives (active or passive).

Note— There is really no difference in etymology between an adjective and a noun, except that some formations are habitually used as adjectives and others as nouns (§ 20.b, Note 2).

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.