Plūrālia Tantum

I’ve discussed this phenomenon in parts in places, but I have never full described the phenomenon of plūrālia tantum—Latin words that appear categorically as plural nouns.

The plūrālia include—

  • names of cities: Athēnae, Thūriī, Philippī, Veiī
  • names of festivals: Olympia, Bacchānālia, Quīnquārtrūs, lūdī Rōmānī
  • names of social classes: optimātēs, maiōres (ancestors), liberī, penātēs, Quirītēs (citizens)
  • words that are plural in nature, like the English ‘jeans, scissor, contents, etc.’: arma, artūs (joints)dīvitiae, scālae (stairs), valvae (folding doors), forēs, angustiae, moenia, dēliciae (beloved), faucēs (throat), īnsidiae (ambush), cervīcēs (neck), viscera (flesh).
  • words that are popular plural poetical tropes: sceptra (for sceptrum), ora (for ōs), silentia (for silentium).

Where these appear in the singular, they often have meanings slightly distinct from their plural forms:

  • Optimās, optimātis: aristocrat
  • Foris, foris: gate

The Essential A & G: 101-2

Cardinal Numerals, 1-10

There are four central aspects to the Latin numeral:

  • The cardinal: ūnus, duo, trēs, quattuor
  • The ordinal: prīmus, secundus, tertius, quārtus
  • The distributive: singulī, bīnī, ternī, quaternī
  • The adverb: semel, bis, ter, quater

From 1-10, only cardinals 1, 2, and 3 decline.

A few things to consider:

  • ūnus will often mean ‘only’ (cf. sōlus) and occasionally ‘the same’ (cf. idem)
  • where ūnus means ‘only,’ it may initiate a subjunctive clause of characteristic (the only man who may: ūnus cuī liceat.)
  • the compound ūnus quisque = every single one
  • the compound ūnus + superlative = the one most (the one most learned man, ūnus doctissiumus)
  • duo may also have the plural genitive duum
  • the word ambō (both, which retains the long ō of the lost Latin dual) declines like duo
  • the compound ūnus + superlative = the one most (ūnus doctissiumus, the one most learned man)

Here’s a chart I found showing the descendents of the Latin cardinals:

(courtesy N.S. Gill; http://tiny.cc/eoiqmw)(For those of you who are curious, there are between 30 and 40 standing Romance languages, but we’ll get to numbers above 10 next post…)

The Essential AG: 133-4

Nouns Wanting in the Singular

Recall that ‘wanting in’ is AGspeak for ‘lacking in common use.’


Place Names

Athēnae (Athens), Thūriī (id.), Philippī (id.), Velī (id.)

Festivals

Olympia (n. pl. the Olympic Games), Bacchānālia (feasts of Bacchus), Quīnguātrūs (festival of Minerva), lūdī Rōmānī (the Roman Games)

Groups and Classes

optimātēs (the upper classes), maiōrēs (ancestors), līberī (children), Diī penātēs (household gods), Quiritēs (citizens), patrēs conscriptī (fathers conscript)

Other Words

arma (arms), artūs (limbs), dīvitiae (riches), scālae (stairs), forēs (double-doors), angustiae (narrow pass), moenia (city walls)
A few of these words are made singular in English…

dēliciae (darling), faucēs (throat), īnsidiae (ambush), cervīcēs (neck), viscera (flesh)

Exceptions

After this list, AG has a note more or less dismissing their classification, and admitting it’s more of a tendency. Indeed, optimās may be far more rare than optimātēs, but that doesn’t make the word ‘wanting in’. Likewise with artūs; there’s nothing odd about artus. Finally, they mention that scāla is a rare word for ladder—in case you’re curious.


The Essential AG: 101