Greek and Latin Comparatives

There is a certain kinship between Greek and Latin (a) comparative and (b) superlative forms, as well as between (c) a particular branch of Latin positive adjectives and Greek comparatives.

To recall your knowledge of positives, comparatives, and superlatives in each language, let’s view  a few examples:

  • Dark, darker, darkest
  • niger, nigrior, nigerrimus
  • μέλας, μελάντερος, μελάντατος
  • Big, bigger, biggest
  • magnus, maior, maximus
  • μέγας, μείζων, μεγίστος
  • Dear, dearer, dearest
  • cārus, cārior, cārissimus
  • φίλος, φιλότερος, φιλότατος
  • Sweet, sweeter, sweetest
  • suavis, suavior, suavissimus
  • ἡδύς, ἥδιος, ἥδιστος

I struggle here to explain the precise interrelations between the various forms above, because A&G are quite tight-lipped about the matter (everything in this post is drawn from two far-disparate footnotes). However, we see a certain kinship between:

  • the Latin comparative (n.) -ius [e.g. nigrior (m/f), nigrius (n)] and the Greek -ίων [e.g. μείων (smaller, less)]
  • the Latin superlative –issimus [suavissimus] and the Greek -ιστος [ἥδιστος]

(these ^^ are also both relative to the English superlative [e.g. sweetest])

  • the Latin positive –ter (ater, atra, atrum) and the Greek -τερος (φιλότερος)

I think that last one is a bit of a stretch, so don’t shoot the messenger (of AG 214bn), but shoot me a comment if you disagree either with their claim or with my reading of their claim, and explain why.

The Essential AG: 124n1, 214bn