General Uses of Ūsus, -ūs

As a (fourth declension masculine) noun, ūsus can adopt a variety of closely-related but powerfully particular meanings:

1. Ūsus + genitive typically refers to the use, exercise or enjoyment of something.

  • ūsus ocūlōrum: eyesight
  • ūsus pectōrālis : push-ups
  • ūsus unguentis: the delights of cologne (I highly recommend getting this at TJ Maxx—half-price!)

2. On its own, ūsus can either refer to ‘exercise’ or ‘wear and tear’

  • Fidēs nōn ad ūsum tendit: the insurance does not cover wear and tear.
  • Musculōsa ūsū cotidiānō exstitit: she became very buff through daily exercise
  • (the more straightforward exercitātiō is more common, at least in my experience)

3. It can also reference a ‘habit’ or social ‘custom’

  • ūsum loquendī populō concessī; scientam mihi reservāvī: I have give up my habit of making speeches to the people, but I have retained my habit of learning (Cicero in old age)
  • populum auctōritāte suā ad ūsum frūgalitātis vocāvit: by his authority, he brought the people to a habit of moderation (Lycurgus)


The Latin superābilis, -e may be broadly defined as “possible to overcome,” and falls into two distinct uses within the extant literature:

Of military enemies encampments, regions and territories:

  • scīlicet ut nōn est per vim superābilis ūllī / clearly, he cannot be overcome by anyone through force (Ovid, Tristia 5.8.27)
  • murūs superābilies ad dextrā adoriēmur / we will attack the weakened wall at the right

Of diseases and calamities:

  • caecitās et calivitium opē hūmānā nōndum superābilēs sunt / blindness and baldness cannot yet be cured by human aid

The L&S entry—

Constructions with Abstineō

Abstaining from an object in Latin can leave you with one of three grammatical constructions, given here in the order of frequency:

  • abstinēre aliquid/sē + ablative of object
  • abstinēre aliquid/sē (absolute)
  • absintēre aliquid/sē + genitive of object (cf. Greek ἀπεχἐσθαι τινός)

Here some examples of how and from what the Romans refrained—

  • virgō nuptā abstinet — virgins abstain from marriage
  • vir sapit quī urbis rēbus abstineat — the wise man holds off from politics
  • mē ostreīs et muraenīs facile abstinēbam — I easily abstained from oysters and eels — Cicero, Ad Familiārēs 7.26 (they make him nauseated)
  • mihi abstinē invidere! — don’t bother pitying me!
  • animum coluit abstinentem pecūniae — she cherished a frugal mind

Chewing One’s Nails—In Latin

unguēs praerōdō — I chew my nails

or perhaps—

digitōs meōs praerōdō — I chew my nails (literally, ‘I gnaw at the tips of my fingers.’

This second one is conjecture. The phrase is sourced in Plautus, Pseudolus, where the image is of guests literally gnawing at their fingers because they are enjoying a feast so mindlessly that they lose track of where the ham ends and the hands begin. That said, ‘chewing the tips of one’s fingers’ could easily fit with the image of gnawing at one’s nails—don’t you think?

There’s nothing in the L&S entry for unguis to settle the case, but here’s the L&S entry for praerōdō—

The Latin Dual

Don’t worry—it’s extinct! However, it’s insightful to see that ambō the long ō ending that is characteristic of Greek duals and dual-related adverbs: ἄμφω, δύω, κτλ.

The Essential AG: p.59, ftn.

Some Latin Dry Measures: Visual Dictionary

I recently came across the modius and trimodius measures in Plautus, and became curious about what exactly I should imagine. They’re dry measures, typically of grain, but they are also roughly equivalent to a peck and a bushel (bzw.), so we can illustrate them with apple baskets, since it’s Fall—



photo credit: Wikimedia

Here’s a peck, a.k.a a modius.


photo credit:

Here’s a bushel, which is four pecks (a little more than a trimodius).

Imagine what this basket would look like after the slave helped himself to a few…. that’s a trimodius.

Whitaker’s WORDS for Macintosh Lion and Mountain Lion (OS X 10.7 and 10.8)

Hey All,

Here’s a quick link to Erik Mendoza’s Interpres, which works to bridge the gap between Whitaker’s WORDS and the latest editions of Macintosh OS X.

When I finally purchased a new laptop, I discovered that Whitaker’s WORDS was no longer compatible with Macintosh Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8). William Whitaker died recently so his version of the software remains static and incompatible with the latest versions of OS X. However, Erik Mendoza has been awesome enough to produce Interpres, which is a compatible (and I would argue more user-friendly) version of the WORDS program. Hopefully, Interpres will also jive well with Apple’s up-and-coming Mavericks (OS X 10.9), due out later this year.

If anyone wants to add a footnote about the latest version of WORDS for Windows 8, I’m sure it would be well received! For those of you suffering under the heel of Windows 8, I offer my sincere condolences.