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

Numeral Adverbs

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

What is are numeral adverbs?

  • Like English numeral adverbs, Latin numeral adverbs answer the question ‘how many times was something done?’
  • How many times does Scylla engulf the strait each day? Thrice. [She does action x three times.]

[Side note: I first discovered the word ‘thrice’ while reading Homer in 6th grade. It’s probably the only moment of ‘word recognition’ that I can remember having. Does anyone else have stories about learning new words as a kid? I’d love to hear them in the comments.]
Here are the Latin adverbs (they answer quotiēns / quotiēs? How many times?).
1-10

  • once, semel
  • twice, bis
  • thrice, ter
  • four times, quater
  • five times, quīnuiēns (or quīnquiēs, and sic for all numeral adverbs in -ēns)
  • six times, sexiēns
  • seven times, septiēns
  • eight times, octiēns
  • nine times, noviēns
  • ten times, deciēns

11-19

  • eleven times, ūndeciēns
  • twelve times, duodeciēns
  • thirteen times, terdeciēns
  • fourteen times, quaterdeciēns
  • fifteen times, quīndeciēns
  • sixteen times, sēdeciēns
  • seventeen times, septiēnsdeciēns
  • eighteen times, duodēvīciēns
  • nineteen times, ūndēvīciēns

20-99

  • twenty times, vīciēns
  • twenty-one times, semel vīciēns or vīcīens et semel or vīciēns semel (and sic for all numbers 21-99)
  • twenty-two times, bis vīciēns
  • twenty-nine times, ūndētrīciēns
  • thirty times, trīciēns
  • forty times, quadrāgiēns
  • fifty times, quīnquāgiēns
  • sixty times, sexāgiēns
  • seventy times, septuāgiēns
  • eighty times, octōgiēns
  • ninety times, nōnāgiēns

100+

  • 100 times, centiēns
  • 200 times, ducentiēns
  • 300 times, trecentiēns
  • 400 times, quadringentiēns
  • 500 times, quīngentiēns
  • 600 times, sescentiēns
  • 700 times, septingentiēns
  • 800 times, octingentiēns
  • 900 times, nōngentiēns
  • 1000 times, mīliēns
  • 2000 times, bis mīliēns
  • 10,000 times, deciēns mīliēns