More Gentile Suffixes

In my last post, I introduced what Allen and Greenough refer to as ‘gentile’ adjectival suffixes—these relate the idea of ‘relating to’ or ‘pertaining to’ or ‘belonging to’. -ānus performs this function, but so do a host of similar suffixes:

-ēnus, -īnus, -ās, ēnsis, -cus, -acus, -ācus, -icus, -eus, -ëius, -icius

Let’s look at a few examples of these adjectives in action—

  • Nox serēna mentem quiēvit: a calm night calms the mind. (sērus, -a, -um, late)
  • Officium cīvicum fācite: do your civic duty! (cīvis, -is, citizen)
  • Navis Siciliēnsis in portū visa est: A Sicilian  ship was seen in the port.

Like the suffix -anus, the rest of these can also pan out into nouns as well as adjectives.

  • laniēna, -ae, a butcher’s stall (lanius, -ī, butcher)
  • inquilīnus, -ī, a lodger (incola, -ae, an inhabitant)
  • ruīna, -ae, a collapse (ruō, fall)
  • doctrīna, -ae, learning (doctor, -ōris, teacher)

The Essential AG: 249.1, 249.2, 249.2a


-ānus, or Relating to Old Women

A number of adjectival endings denote what Allen and Greenough refer to as a ‘gentile’ relationship—demonstrating ‘relation to’ or ‘belonging to’ the corresponding class of nouns. One of these is -ānus, -a, -um.

  • montānus, -a, -um, of mountains (mōns, montis, mountain)
  • veterānus, -a, -um, of veterans (vetus, veteris (adj), old)
  • antelūcānus, -a, -um, before daylight (ante lūcem, before light)
  • Rōmānus, -a, -um, Roman (Rōma, -ae, Rome)
  • Sullānī, -ōrum, of Sulla’s veterans (Sulla, -ae, Sulla)

Some of these derived adjectives have furthermore been transformed to new nouns.

  • Silvānus, -ī, Silvanus, a woodlands deity (silva, -ae, the wood)
  • membrāna, -ae, the skin (membrum, -ī, limb)

The Essential AG: 249.1, 249.2, 249.2a

Are We Us? — Adjectives

The adjectival suffixes -ārius, -tōrius, and -sōrius denote belonging to a group qualified by the implied content of the correspond root. Effectively, these adjectives are formed by the addition to -ius to the adjectival root -āris or the nominal root -or. Let’s build a few examples.

  • bellum (war) —> bellātor (warrior) —> bellātōrius, -a, -um (of warriors)
  • pecūlium (property) —> pecūliāris, -e (one’s own) —> pecūliārius, -a,- um (of private property)
  • meritō (to earn) —> meritus (earned) —> [meritor] (earner) —> meritōrius, -a, -um (profitable, esp. related to prostitution)
  • extrā (outside) —> [extrāris, e] (foreign) —> extrārius, -a, -um (of foreigners)

A few things to notice about this pattern: (i) the original base of the adjective can be just about anything—noun, adjective, verb, adverb—but the penultimate word is always a noun or an adjective. That said, (ii) the penultimate noun or adjective is not always extant in Latin; note the [brackets]. Finally, note that (iii) this set of adjectives is often theoretical—rēs bellatōriae (matters of warriors)and rēs extrāriae (matters of foreigners) probably cover half the total appearances of those two adjectives.

Genitive of Friendship

Yeah, I made that genitive up, but only to describe a real phenomenon in Latin! Some adjectives of likeness, nearness, and belonging that normally take the dative will occasionally take a possessive genitive. This transition is especially common where the adjective approaches the force of a noun.

  • Fuit hōc quondam proprium populī Rōmānī: this was once peculiar to the Roman people. (~a peculiar trait of)
  • Fuit semper amīcus Cicerōnis: he was always friendly with Cicero. (~a friend of)
  • Adeō patris similis es: you’re just like your master. (~a chip off the old block)

Here’s the full list of adjectives that perform this function—

  • aequālis,  aequāle: of the same age (~a contemporary of)
  • affīnis, affīne: related to by marriage (~kinsman of)
  • aliēnus, -a, -um: belonging to another (~a stranger to)
  • cōgnātus, -a, -um: fellow-born (~kinsman of)
  • commūnis, commūne: common to (~kinsman of)
  • cōnsanguineus, -a, -um: sharing a bloodline (~kinsman of)
  • contrārius, -a, -um: opposite (~the opposite of)
  • dispār: unlike (dispar suī, in philosophical diction)
  • familiāris, familiāre: of close relation (~intimate of)
  • fīnitimus, -a, -um: adjoining (~neighbor of)
  • inimīcus, -a, -um: hostile to (~enemy of)
  • necessārius, -a, -um: connected with (~component of)
  • pār: equal to (~a match)
  • pecūliāris, pecūliāre: personal (~peculiar trait of)
  • propinquus, -a, -um: neighboring (~neighbor of)
  • proprius, -a, -um: personal (~peculiar trait of)
  • sacer, sacra, sacrum: holy (~holy with respect to some deity)
  • similis, simile: alike to (~spitting image of)
  • superstes: surviving (~survivor of)
  • vīcīnus, -a, -um: neighboring (~neighbor of)

Note that this genitive construction is actually more common for proprius, -a, -um than the dative construction.

Similis with the genitive is especially common with personal pronouns (meī, tuī, suī) and within the fixed phrase vērī similis (probable).