§49. Other Noun-forming Suffixes (-IA, -MONIUM)

In the three previous sections, you have seen the most important ways of deriving Latin nouns from Latin adjectives. Later in the course you will meet other noun-forming suffixes that are added to verb bases. There are two morphemes which Latin uses mainly to turn concrete nouns into abstract nouns, but does occasionally attach to adjective bases. One is the suffix -IA, joined to noun bases in milit-ia (< miles, milit-is, “soldier”), custod-ia (< custos, custod-is, “guard”; English custody), and in-somn-ia (< somnus, “sleep”). This morpheme is added to adjective bases in memor-ia (< memor, “mindful”) and inert-ia (< iners, inert-is, “sluggish”). Another suffix that has affected English is MONIUM, which Latin usually adds (by means of a connecting vowel) to nouns: English matrimony and patrimony come from matr-i-monium and patr-i-monium; testimony from test-i-monium (< test-is, “witness”); and acrimony from acr-i-monium (< acer, acr-is, an adjective meaning “sharp”). Alimony and parsimony go back to Latin verb bases that mean “nurture” and “scrimp,” respectively. From the not-so-private life of actor Lee Marvin, English acquired the amusing BLEND[1] palimony. Needless to say, Latin had no “palimonium.”[2]

  1. A BLEND, known also as a PORTMANTEAU word, runs two other words into a single combined form—here, pal + alimony; cf. smoke + fog = smog. It was Lewis Carroll, a master of the art, who coined the term “portmanteau” in Through the Looking-Glass (where Humpty Dumpty is explaining to Alice the strange words in “Jabberwocky.”)
  2. Don’t try to force pandemonium into the -monium category. Its Miltonic source is a Greek compound noun that will be seen later. (And it doesn’t mean “a place for pandas”!)


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Greek and Latin Roots: Part I - Latin Copyright © 2016 by Peter Smith (Estate) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book