§27. Latin Adjectives: 3rd Declension Type

Although the great majority of Latin adjectives are of the 1st and 2nd declension type, there is a substantial number that belong to the 3rd declension. (You can rest assured that all Latin adjectives are of one type or the other; the 4th and 5th declensions consist only of nouns.) Like 3rd declension nouns, 3rd declension adjectives lack a predictable, easily recognized ending. However, since their vocabulary forms never end in –us, –a, or –um, they aren’t likely to get confused with the 1st and 2nd declension type. Most of the examples that we’re going to meet share a common masculine and feminine –is ending, like brevis, “short” (> E brief). This particular subtype has a neuter singular form that ends in –e (here, breve); because that fact is not really essential for our purposes, only one form will be given in our word-lists for adjectives like brevis or fortis. As in the case of the noun finis, their BASE may be found very easily by taking off the final -is. If you ever see a 3rd declension adjective listed in this book with two forms, like audax, audacis, you can assume that the second form is the genitive, and that the base is the part of the word that precedes the final -is.

brevis short, brief grandis great, large
levis light gravis heavy, grave
fortis strong, brave similis like

This straightforward list shouldn’t cause much trouble. Notice the adjective grandis (> E grand), which is roughly synonymous with the 1st and 2nd declension magnus. Throughout antiquity, magnus was always the standard word for “big,” occurring far more often in Latin literature than grandis. In “vulgar” or popular Latin, however, grandis became the word of choice, gaining such currency that eventually it squeezed magnus out of common use. For this reason, it was grandis that supplied the everyday words for “big” in the Romance languages.


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