Adjectives Defective of Comparatives and Superlatives

Summary of Comparative Defection

Many adjectives in Latin are defective (i.e. are wanting) of either the comparative, the superlative, or both.

  • This is either a matter of sense or usage
  • Words who sense lacks comparable forms are conceptually incomparable: aureus, -a, um (golden); āter, -ra, -rum (pitch black); (n.b, however — niger, nigrior, nigrrimus [dark black])
  • Other words lack comparatives or superlatives merely according to standard use

Adjectives Lacking the Comparative and (in some cases) the Superlative

  • bellus, —, — : pretty, beautiful
  • caesius, —, — : blue-gray, keen, sharp
  • falsus, —, falsissimus : mistaken, beguiled, false
  • fīdus, —, fīdissimus : faithful, trustworthy
  • inclutus, —, — : neglected, unadorned
  • invictus, —, invictissimus : invincible
  • invītus, —, invītissimus : unwilling
  • meritus, —, — : earned, deserving
  • novus, —, novissimus : new, young, recent
  • pius, —, piissimus : pius, holy, observant
  • sacer, —, — : holy, sacred
  • vafer, —, — : sly, cunning

Adjectives Lacking the Superlative

  • āctuōsus, āctuōsior, — : busy, active
  • agrestis, agrestior, — : rural, rude
  • alacer, alacrior, — : swift, eager, cheerful
  • arcānus, arcānior, — : hidden, intimate, personal
  • caecus, caecior, — : blind
  • diūturnus, diūturnior, — : long-lasting
  • exīlis, exīlior, — : thin, feeble
  • ingēns, ingentior, — : huge, vast
  • iēiūnus, iēniūnior, — : fasting, hungry, scanty, rare, insignificant
  • longinquus, longinquior, — : long, far-off, strange, old
  • oblīquus, oblīquior, — : oblique, sidelong
  • opīmus, opīmior, — : fat, rich, fertile
  • prōclīvis, prōclīvior, — : easy, downward, steep, prone to
  • propinquus, propinquior, — : near, resembling
  • satur, satrior, — : sated
  • sēgnis, sēgnior, — : slow, lazy
  • sērus, sērior, — : late, slow
  • supīnus, supīnior, — : backwards, careless
  • surdus, surdior, — : deaf, dull, silent, inattentive
  • taciturnus, taciturnior, — : silent
  • tempestīvus, tempestīvior, — : timely
  • teres, teretior, — : rounded, smooth
  • vīcīnus, vīcīnior, — : neighboring

Iuvenis and Senex

The comparatives of these adjectives are either iūnior and senior, or minor nātū and maior nātū

  • Iūnior and senior are more regular, but, with the superlative, minimus nātū and maximus nātū are more regular
  • Here, nātū is ablative of specification

Famous Phrase: falsus in unō, falsus in omnibus [false in one, false in all]

  • A Roman legal principle, suggesting that a witness who falsifies one piece of information will inevitably falsify many pieces of information

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