Alternative Word-Forms

The strongly centralising influence of Rome meant that there was a high degree of standardization in the writing of literary Latin. Variations are generally avoided throughout the course, though there are some exceptions: e.g. verbs such as , īre, (or īvī), itum irreg. go. You will, however, meet alternative spellings when you read, for example, archaic Latin or poetry. (The eccentricities of inscriptions are usually to be attributable simply to illiteracy and indifference.) Such variations are easy to learn as you encounter them.


-um for –ium in the gen. pl. of the the present participle active

amantum for amantium

-re for –ris in the second pers. sing. of the present, future, and imperfect passive tense of verbs

amāre for amāris, amābere for amāberis, amābāre for amābāris

-ēre for -ērunt in the third pers. pl. ind. act. of verbs

amāvēre for amāvērunt

-asse for –āvisse in the perf. act. inf. of first conj. verbs

amasse for amāvisse


-um for –ōrum in the gen. pl. of some second decl. masc. nouns

deum for deōrum

-im for –em in the acc. sing. of many third decl. i-stem nouns

nāvim for nāvem

-ī for –e in the abl. sing. of many third decl. i-stem nouns

nāvī for nāve

-īs for –ēs in the acc. pl. of some third decl. nouns and ajectives

nāvīs for nāvēs, dulcīs for dulcēs

Here are some further examples, mostly illustrating types of variation.

olle or ollus for ille

maxumus for maximus

magi’ for magis

amārier for amārī (pres. inf. pass.)

viāī for viae (gen. sing.; Ennius has silvāī frondosāī ‘of the leafy wood’)

familiās for familiae (gen. sing.)

artubus for artibus

induperātor for imperātor

duellum for bellum

perīclum for perīculum

quom for cum (conj.)

fuerunt for fuērunt (i.e. with a short e in the third pers. pl. perf. ind. act.)

utī for ut

for nisi

siet for sim

forem for essem

dīvom for dīvum (= dīvōrum = deōrum)

aequom for aequum

aedificātō for aedificā

vortō for vertō

sequontur for sequuntur

A particularly remarkable archaism is the retention of the original ending in –ābus in the dative and ablative plural of some first declension feminine nouns which have matching masculine forms in second declension, most notably dea/deus, fīlia/fīlius, līberta/lībertus [freedman/-woman]: deābus, fīliābus, lībertābus. On the other hand, amīcīs and porcīs are the dative and ablative plural of the word for “friend” and “pig” in either gender. It was obviously important to distinguish gods from goddesses, and ambiguity between sons and daughters or freedmen and freedwomen would have had great potential for confusion in legal documents.

Grammarians observe that fīliābus and lībertābus are found most commonly in wills, and the Romans’ scrupulous attention to detail in religious observations is reflected in this repetitiously phrased record of rituals carried out in AD 81 on behalf of Domitian and other members of the imperial family:

Archaisms can be fascinating, and give insights into the origins of the language. noenum may be an ancient form of nōn, and be derived from ne + ūnum, i.e. “not (even) one”; cf. nēmō = ne + homō. noenum has an alternative form, noenu, one of the very few Latin words to end in a short u (but this will be easily explicable if it is really noenu’ = ne + ūnus).

Mettoeo Fufetioeo (Ennius, Annals 120) is a strikingly memorable application of an archaic Greek genitive singular ending to a non-Greek proper name, whereas Ovid’s vinoeo bonoeo (= vini boni; quoted at Quintilian, Education of the Orator 8.6.33) is merely playful.