Uses of Diēs

Lewis and Short have a different take on the masculine/feminine division of diēs. They claim that diēs is properly masculine, but appears in poetry (metrī gratiā) as a feminine noun to mean ‘day’ in prose to mean ‘time’ or ‘date.’

They pull a number of examples from Ennius, Ovid, Horace and Vergil to support this, but then also lay bare that Julius Caesar (feminine) and Sallust (masculine) use the two genders of diēs for the same phrases. What are your thoughts on this?

Caesar actually uses a variety of diēs phrases:

postridiē eius diē : after that day

diem ex diē dūcere : to lead (troops) day by day

The phrase in diēs is generally translated ‘every day.’ Cf. cotidiē and in diem, which mean roughly the same.

The feminine uses of diēs in prose are generally of a piece: dictā, edictā, cōnstitūtā, praestitūtā, pacta, statā, annuā… you get the idea.

A few more phrases:

  • dicere diem alicuī : to bring a charge against someone (by specifying a court day)
  • diēs natālis : birthday
  • in diem vīvere : to live day-to-day (paycheck-to-paycheck, so to speak—hopefully few of my readers!)

A Reader’s Diēgest

Here are a few notes on the Latin for day—diēs.

1. Diēs is a fifth-declension noun.

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 4.34.41 PM(photo credit: Wiktionary)

2. Diēs is typically masculine (like most fifth declension nouns), but is occasionally feminine, especially in fixed phrases and general reference to time or dates.

  • cōnstitūtā diē : on a fixed day
  • longa diēs intervēnit : a long time had passed

3. Diēs is one of only two nouns in the fifth declension that is entirely declined. Rēs is  the other such noun—all other fifth declension nouns are wanting in the plural (or at least the plural genitive, dative and ablative) in extant Latin literature.

The Essential AG: 96, 97, 98a

Comparison of Adjectives

There are a variety of ways to hide the stem of a adjective in its nominative form.

  • baburrus, -a, -um (stem barburo-) silly
  • levis, -e (stem levi-) fickle
  • fēlīx (stem fēlīc-) blessed
  • hebes (stem hebet-) dull

However, the majority of adjectives of all stem formations become comparatives and superlatives in the same way: with the addition of -ior (m/f) / ius (n) for comparatives, and the addition of -issimus, -a, -um for superlatives.

  • baburrus, -a, -um / baburrior, -ius / barburrissimus, -a, -um
  • levis, -e / levior, -ius / levissimus, -a, -um
  • fēlīx / fēlīcior, -ius / fēlīcissimus, -a, -um
  • hebes / hebetior, -ius / hebetissimus, -a, -um

There are a few things to note here. If an adjective is compared regularly,

  • It’s case ending will always have two options (m/f or n) for the comparative and three options (m or f or n) for the superlative, regardless of how many it had for the positive.
  • Stress accents will always appear on the penultimate vowel (for comparatives) or the ultimate vowel (for superlatives) of the stem.

babúrrior, baburríssimus / lévior, levísssimus / fēlícior, fēlīcíssimus / hebétior, hebetíssimus

Of course, it can always shift further forward, but never further back. The comparatives declines like so:

Screen Shot 2013-06-07 at 7.42.56 AM(photo credit, Wiktionary)

The superlatives decline like a regular first/second declension adjectives, regardless of how their positives decline:

Screen Shot 2013-06-07 at 7.49.18 AM(photo credit, Wiktionary)

The Essential AG: 120, 123-4


I-Stems: Summary [8/8]

Like A&G, I would like to conclude my series on i-stems with a short assessment of the basic rules and variations associated with the i-stem class.

A&G paint a picture of cultural amnesia regarding Roman relations with the i-stem. As I have shown in previous posts, in all but the genitive plural (ium), and the neuter accusative/nominative plural (ia), the unique i-stem endings are rare or optional. (cf. the status of English ‘who/m’).

  • The nominative singular could be -is (sitis, is) but also ēs/-s/x, etc.
  • The accusative singular could be -im but also -em.
  • The ablative singular could be or it could be -e.
  • The accusative masc/fem plural might be -īs but it’s usually -ēs.

AG: 76


I-Stems: Ablative -ī [6/8]

We see that -im and tend to be common in the same words. That is, where -im is of frequency, so too is .

  • For more on where the -im ending shows up, see this post.
  • Beyond the contents of that post, the -ī ablative ending also appears:


1. with secūrī
2. with the adjectives (nominative -is) where these are used as nouns:

  • aequālī (a contemporary)
  • annālī (annals)
  • aquālī (washbasin)
  • cōnsulārī (former consul, member of the consular rank)
  • gentīlī (relative)
  • molārī (millstone)
  • prīmpīlārī (chief centurion)
  • tribūlī (fellow tribesman)

(As adjectives proper, they would be aequāle, annāle, etc. in the ablative.)

3. in the ablative of i-stem neuters (animālī, baccārī, etc.)


1. With the following nouns: avis, clāvis, febris, fīnis, īgnis, imber, lūx, nāvis, ovis, pelvis, puppis, sēmentis, strigilis, turris (definitions)

2. With the following adjectives (nominative -is or -ens) where they are used as substantives:

  • affīnī (son-in-law)
  • bipennī (battle-ax)
  • canālī (pipe)
  • familiārī (immediate family member)
  • nātālī (birthday, anniversary)
  • rīvālī (rival, competitor)
  • sapientī (wise man)
  • tridentī  (trident)
  • trirēmī (trireme)
  • vōcālī (vowel, vocalist (pl.))

(As adjectives, they would be affīne, bipenne, etc.)

Apparent Exceptions—

  1. The ablative of famēs (hunger) is always famē (not famī nor fame)
  2. The case defective māne (morning) is sometimes mānī (the word is found only in the ablative).
  3. Canis (dog) and iuvenis (youth) always take the ablative -e, never . (contrast with avisclāvis, etc.)

I-Stems: Masculine and Feminine Declension(s) [1/8]

As A&G note, “The i-stem was confused by even the Romans themselves.” There are a variety of variations with this stem present in all three grammatical genders, making it incredibly difficult to organize the data except in broad patterns and rote memorization. To that effective, I’m going to design a series of posts on the i-stem declension.

In this section, we’ll introduce the i-stem as a morphological class, and discuss the declension of ‘regular’ masculine and feminine i-stem nouns.

First off, all i-stems are either pure or mixed.

Most pure i-stems are immediately identifiable by their lexical entry, because they feature parisyllabic  (having the same number of syllables) nominative and genitive forms. This is true of masculine, feminine and neuter i-stem nouns. However, most masculine and feminine nouns also have nominative and genitive forms that are completely identical. Let’s take a look:

sitis, sitis (f.) thirst (declined only in the singular, for sensible reasons)

Picture 1

ignis, ignis (m.) fire

Picture 2

A few unique features to note:

  • nominative singular -is (except in four cases, see below)
  • accusative singular –im (though not always)
  • ablative singular (though not always)
  • genitive plural -ium (strictly)

As you can see, there aren’t many markers (just one) that guarantee any given noun is an i-stem noun. In fact, it would be possible to decline ignis in a way such that only it’s nominative singular and genitive plural gave any hint of the i-stem status.

With four nouns in particular (imber, rain; linter, skiff; ūter, wineskin; venter, belly) this problem is even more evidence because here even the nominative is lost as a distinctive feature. The only morphological form that demonstrates imber‘s i-stem status is its genitive plural imbrium.

So to review masculine and feminine i-stem declension: difficult, difficult, difficult. As we’ll see, the neuter declension isn’t much easier…

The essential AG: 66-7.


How to Decline Pater Familiās?

What’s the genitive of pater familiās? Is it pater familiātis? patris familiātis?

Actually, it’s patris familiās.

The second word, familiās is an archaic partitive genitive, so it’s not declined.

  • pater/patris/patrī/patrem/patre/patrēs,etc. familiās.

However, if we’re discussing the father of many families…

  • pater/patris,etc. familiārum

The Essential AG: 43b