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

I-Stems: Mixed I-Stems [5/8]

In my opinion, A&G make too big a fuss over mixed i-stems, which are essentially a broad class of nouns that usually feature a genitive plural in -ium and might feature an accusative plural in -īs, but are otherwise regular third declension nouns.

Here are five of their six morphological classes, along with all the examples they offer. (I’m excluding 71.4 because it’s ridiculous that they’ve placed it there at all):

1. Nouns in (n.) -ēs, (g.) -is.

  • acīnacēs, -is (m.) scimitar
  • aedēs, -is (f.) temple
  • aciēs, -is (f.) point, battle line
  • caedēs, -is (f.) slaughter
  • cautēs, -is (f.) crag
  • clādēs, -is (f.) destruction
  • compāgēs, -is (f.) structure
  • contāgēs, -is (f.) sense of touch
  • famēs, -is (f.) hunger
  • fēlēs, -is (f.) cat
  • fidēs, -is (f.) faith, trust, loyalty, reputation, etc.
  • indolēs, indolis (f.) inborn quality
  • lābēs, labis (f.) fall, destruction
  • luēs, luis (f.) liquid water
  • mēlēs, mēlis (m/f.) marten, badger
  • mōlēs, mōlis (f.) mass, bulk
  • nūbēs, nūbis (m/f.) cloud
  • palumbēs, palumbis (m/f.) dove
  • prōlēs, prōlis (f.) shoot, offspring, descendants
  • prōpāgēs, prōpāgis (f.) shoot, offspring, descendants
  • pūbēs, pūbis (f.) young man
  • sēdēs, sēdis (f.) seat, office
  • saepēs, saepis (f.) hedge, fence
  • sordēs, sordis (f.) filth
  • strāges, strāgis (f.) overthrow, destruction
  • struēs, struis (f.) pile
  • subolēs, subolis (f.) shoot, offspring, descendants
  • tābēs, tabis (f.) decline, decay
  • torquēs, torquis (f.) necklace
  • tudēs, tudis (m.) hammer
  • vātēs, vātis (m/f.) prophet
  • vehēs, vehis (f.) cart-load (quantity)
  • veprēs, vepris  (m.) bramble-bush
  • verrēs, verris (m.) boar
  • vulpēs, vulpis (f.) fox

2. All monosyllable nominatives in -s or -x preceded by a consonant.

  • ars, artis (f.) skill, art, technique
  • pōns, pontis (m.) bridge
  • arx, arcis (f.) fortress

3. On the following monosyllable nominatives in -s or –x preceded by a vowel.

  • dōs, dōtis (f.) dowry
  • fraus, fraudis (f.) deceit, fraud
  • glīs, glīris (m.) dormouse
  • līs, lītis (f.) case, quarrel
  • mās, māris (m.) male
  • mūs, mūris (m/f.) mouse
  • nix, nivis (f.) snow
  • nox, noctis (f.) night
  • strix, strigis (f.) channel, furrow
  • vīs, vis (f.) force

4. Polysyllable nominatives in -ns or -rs.

  • cliēns, -entis (m.) client, follower
  • cohors, -ortis (m.) companion

This does not apply to all present active participles!

5. Patrials (nouns denoting birth, class, abode) in -ās and -īs.

  • Arpīnās (Arpīnātēs)… Aprīnātium
  • Optimās (Optimātēs)… Optimātium
  • Penās (Penātēs)… Penātium
  • Quirīs (Quiṝitēs)… Quiritium

The (very much non-)Essential AG: 71-2

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