Few Latin words are completely synonymous with any other. Two words may share the same sense in a particular context, but one or both may bear further senses in other contexts; or a word may be more at home in poetry than in prose, or vice versa; or a word may belong to everyday speech, while another, otherwise fully synonymous, is found in stylistically elevated literary texts; or a word may be preferred by an individual writer for reasons we cannot even guess at. Even so, with the salient provisos given with particular pairs, the words in the list below may properly be regarded as synonyms. (A list of words which a native speaker of English might be misled into supposing to be synonymous is given at the end of this file.)

The classic example of a pair of words with the same meaning, but found on quite distinct stylistic levels, is equus/caballus. equus is found throughout our surviving classical Latin texts, whereas caballus is very rare and, in some of the few passages in which it used, a special effect is clearly intended. caballus must have been the everyday word for a horse, since, unlike equus, it survives as the usual term in the Romance languages: Ital. and Span. caballo, Port. cavalo, Fr. cheval, Romanian cal. The scientific name for a horse is equus caballus, an interesting but, as so often with scientific terminology, philologically rather meaningless combination; at least horses fare better than the Western Lowland gorilla, known to scientists as gorilla gorilla gorilla. (For such repetitions, cf. homo sapiens sapiens, which distinguishes us from various extinct relatives, but is hardly aesthetic.)

Especially in the case of conjunctions and verbs, it should, of course, be borne in mind that words with the same meaning may involve quite different constructions; e.g. unlike quamquam and quamvis, cum never takes the indicative when it means “although” and, whereas iubeo “command” is constructed with the accusative of the direct object and an infinitive, impero, meaning the same thing, takes the dative case and ut + a subjunctive verb.


rursus 6

iterum 6


fere 7

paene 3


cum 27

quamquam 7

quamvis 7


ac 4

atque 4

et 2

-que 4


circa and circum adv., prep. + acc. 5

The two forms, circa and circum, can be used interchangeably both as adverbs and as prepositions when denoting place, as in “The pigs were standing around” and “The pigs were standing around the shepherd”; as a preposition in a less physical sense, as in “around five days”, “concerning the war”, circa is rather more frequent. They are not, however, alternative forms in the sense that a and ab are, or e and ex, or tum and tunc, the one to be used before vowels and the other before consonants. A syllable ending with a vowel or the letter m at the end of a word is elided, i.e. is blurred in pronunciation or not sounded at all, if the next word begins with a vowel. Whereas, therefore, the form tunc, unlike tum, is safeguarded against elision, circum is as exposed to it as is circa.


proelium, proelii neut. 2 7

pugna, pugnae fem. 1 14


quia 3

quod 3

quoniam 3


coepi, coepisse 3 (began) 19

incipio, incipere, incepi, inceptum 3 i-stem 7


magnus, -a, -um 6

ingens, ingentis 9

magnus is a more ordinary word than ingens, and hence much more frequent.


at 2

sed 2

tamen 7


fero, ferre, tuli, latum irreg. 4

porto 1 4


fateor, fateri, fassus sum 2 15

Also confiteor, confiteri, confessus sum 2

Compound verbs with the prefix cum are particularly prone to having little or no significance beyond that of the simple verb. Hence the two forms are sometimes found together; e.g. Ovid Amores 2.4.3 confiteor, si quid prodest delicta fateri “I confess, if it does me any good to confess my sins”, Fasti 3.25 languida consurgit, nec scit cur languida surgat “She gets up languidly, and she does not know why she gets up languidly”.


supero 1 14

vinco, vincere, vici, victum 3 1


deleo, delere, delevi, deletum 2 14

perdo, perdere, perdidi, perditum 3 7

delere is used more of destroying physical things, perdere more of abstractions.


ago, agere, egi, actum 3 4

facio, facere, feci, factum 3 i-stem 4


bibo, bibere, bibi 3 1

Also poto 1 1


ago, agere, egi, actum 3 4

pello, pellere, pulsi, pulsum 3 4


amplector, amplecti, amplexus sum 3 17

Also complector, complecti, complexus sum 3


epistula, epistulae 1 7

litterae, litterarum fem. 1 10


facies, faciei fem. 5 11

vultus, vultus masc. 4 11

According to ancient etymologists, it is possible to tell from a person’s facies what they want to do (sc. facere), and from a person’s vultus what they want (sc. velle) to do.


extremus, -a, -um 12

ultimus, -a, -um 12

fear (noun)

metus, metus masc. 4 11

timor, timoris masc. 3 16

Also pavor, pavoris masc. 3

metus and timor are synonymous, the former being rather the more common; of the cognate verbs metuere and timere, the latter is more common. The English word “meticulous” is derived from metu -culsus (from the late Latin cello, cellere, -culsi, -culsum), literally “compelled by fear [sc. of making a mistake]”.

fear (verb)

metuo, metuere, metui 3 1

timeo, timere, timui 2 1

vereor, vereri, veritus sum 2 15


reperio, reperire, repperi, repertum 4 1

invenio, invenire, inveni, inventum 4 4


grex, gregis masc. 3 8

pecus, pecudis fem. 3 8

Note also pecus, pecoris neut. 3. Most authors prefer the neuter form in the singular and the feminine in the plural. There is also an archaic form pecua, pecuum neut. 4, rarely occurring in the singular other than in the ablative, pecu. Some ancient grammarians thought that the feminine form should be used only of domesticated animals; in fact, all these terms are used almost exclusively of domesticated animals.


enim 5

nam 5

namque 5


donum, doni neut. 2 5

munus, muneris neut. 3 8


do, dare, dedi, datum 1 1

Also dono 1

dare is much the commoner word. The connotations of giving a gift (donum) restrict the range of meanings which donare can bear.

go into

ineo, inire, inii/inivi 4

ingredior, ingredi, ingressus sum 3 i-stem 15

Also intro 1

go out

egredior, egredi, egressus sum 3 i-stem 15

exeo, exire, exii/exivi 4

happens (it)

accidit, accidere, accidit 3 28

contingit, contingere, contigit 3 28

evenit, evenire, evenit 4 28


laedo, laedere, laesi, laesum 3 4

noceo, nocere, nocui, nocitum 2 17


iuvo, iuvare, iuvi, iutum 1 3

Also adiuvo, adiuvare, adiuvi, adiutum 1


impedio, impedire, impedivi, impeditum 4 24

obsto, obstare, obstiti 1 24

Also obsisto, obsistere, obstiti, obstitum 3


oro 1 24

precor 1 24


ius, iuris neut. 3 8

lex, legis fem. 3 8

ius is a more general concept, whereas specific enactments were called leges.


lumen, luminis neut. 3 8

lux, lucis fem. 3 8


amitto, amittere, amisi, amissum 3 4

perdo, perdere, perdidi, perditum 3 7


animus, animi masc. 2 7

mens, mentis fem. 3 8

necessary (it is)

necesse est 28

opus est 28


iam 7

nunc 4


adipiscor, adipisci, adeptus sum 3 15

Also nanciscor, nancisci, nactus sum 3


modo 13

solum 13

tantum 13


impero 1 17

iubeo, iubere, iussi, iussum 2 14

pleases (it)

delectat 1 28

iuvat, iuvare, iuvit 1 28

placet, placere, placuit 2 28


praeda, praedae fem. 1 2

spolia, spoliorum neut. 2 10


potentia, potentiae fem. 1 2

vires, virium fem. 3 10

Also potestas, potestatis fem. 3


polliceor, polliceri, pollicitus sum 2 15

promitto, promittere, promisi, promissum 3 21


flumen, fluminis neut. 3 8

Also fluvius, fluvii masc. 2

St. Isidore (Etymologies 13.21) distinguishes flumen as being properly the water itself, while fluvius is the place where the water flows.


peto, petere, petii/petivi, petitum 3 1

quaero, quaerere, quaesivi, quaesitum 3 24


(de)monstro 1 7

ostendo, ostendere, ostendi, ostentum 3 4


cano, canere, cecini 3 19

canto 1 21

cantare is much the less common term, but the normal words for singing in the Romance languages are derived from it - cantare, cantar and chanter in Ital., Span. and Fr. respectively.


astrum, astri neut. 2 5

stella, stellae fem. 1 3

Also sidus, sideris neut. 3


patior, pati, passus sum 3 i-stem 15

perfero, perferre, pertuli, perlatum 4

suffero, sufferre, sustuli, sublatum 4


aedes, aedis fem. 3 10

templum, templi neut. 2 5


ergo 3

igitur conj. 3

itaque conj. 3


credo, credere, credidi, creditum 3 17

fido, fidere, fisus sum 3 18

Also confido, confidere, confisus sum 3


hortor 1 15

suadeo, suadere, suasi, suasum 2 17


specto 1 1

Also tueor, tueri, tuitus sum 2


fluctus, fluctus masc. 4 11

unda, undae fem. 1 2


cupio, cupere, cupivi, cupitum 3 i-stem 7

volo, velle, volui irreg. 10

velle is the less emphatic, and much more frequent, term.


femina, feminae fem. 1 5

mulier, mulieris fem. 3 8

worse, worst

deterior, -oris/ deterrimus, -a, -um 12

peior, -oris/ pessimus, -a, -um 12


labor, laboris masc. 3 8

opus, operis neut. 3 8

labor tends to have an implication of “hard work” whereas opus can mean “achievement attained through work”: pyramides opus magnum regibus erant, sed servis labor infinitus, “The pyramids were a great achievement for the pharaohs, but endless labor for their slaves”.

Words which are not synonymous


omnis, -e 9

totus, -a, -um 13

totus means “the whole of” something. omnis in the singular can bear that sense. Italia tota nobiscum pugnabit “All of Italy will fight with us”, Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres “All Gaul is divided into three parts” or, as it was once notoriously rendered, “All Gaul is quartered into three halves”. In the plural, only omnis is used.

either … or ...

aut … aut ... 3

vel ... vel ... 3

For the distinction between these terms, see Chapter 3.


aedes, aedium fem. 3 10

casa, casae fem. 1 2

domus, -us fem. 4 11

domus is the general term, whereas aedes is a grand residence, casa a humble cottage.


(intrans.) cresco, crescere, crevi, cretum 3 19

(trans.) augeo, augere, auxi, auctum 2 19


There is a broad distinction between scio, scire, scivi, scitum 4, used of awareness of facts etc., and cognosco, -ere, -novi, -nitum 3, used of acquaintance with people etc.; contrast e.g. scio Ovidium poetam magnum esse “I know that Ovid is a great poet” and cognovi Ovidium, poetam magnum “I know [I have come to know] Ovid, the great poet”. Much the same distinction is observed in the Romance languages, between verbs descended from sapio, sapere, sapii (or sapivi) 3 i-stem “have taste”, “be wise”, and hence “know (facts etc.)” and the descendants of cognoscere: e.g. Italian sapere/conoscere, Spanish saber/conocer, French savoir/connaître.

Likewise in German, between wissen and kennen (Ich weiss, dass Ovid ein grosser Dichter ist and Ich kenne Ovid, den grossen Dichter) and in classical Greek, between εδέναι and γνναι (οδα τν Οίδιον μέγαν ποιήτην ντα [oida ton Ouidion megan poieten onta] and γνωκα τν Οίδιον, τν μέγαν ποιήτην [egnoka ton Ouidion, ton poieten megan]).


careo, carere, carui 2 18

egeo, egere, egui 2 18

For the distinction between these terms, see Chapter 18.


(of a woman) nubo, nubere, nupsi, nuptum 3 17

(of a man) in matrimonium duco, -ere, duxi, ductum 3


anima, animae fem. 1 soul 7

animus, animi masc. 2 mind 7


alius, alia, aliud another 13

alter, -a, -um the other, second 13

ceteri, -ae, -a the others 13

reliqui, -ae, -a the others 13

For the various nuances of these terms, see Chapter 13.


alter, -a, -um (of only two) 13

secundus, -a, -um (when there may be more than two) 10

shore litus, litoris neut. 3 11

ora, orae fem. 1 2

Also ripa, ripae fem. 1

ora is used of both the sea and inland waters (lakes, rivers), litus mostly of the sea, ripa mostly of rivers


quidam, quaedam, quid(quod)dam 18

aliqui(s), aliquid(-quod) 18

For the various nuances of these terms, see Chapter 18.


ille, illa, illud 17

is, ea, id 17

iste, ista, istud 17

For the various nuances of these terms, see Chapter 17.


moenia, moenium neut. 3 10

murus, muri masc. 2 5

Also paries, parietis masc. 3

murus is the general word for “wall”, paries is a wall of a building (inner or outer), while moenia, which is cognate with munio, munire, munivi, munitum 4 “defend”, denotes the defensive walls of a city or military camp.