Chapter 6: Turning Latin Adjectives into Latin Nouns

§48. The Latin suffix -ITIA (> E -ice)

This very small category of abstract nouns contains words formed by attaching the suffix -itia to Latin adjectives. Whenever the English derivative has evolved in a normal and regular fashion, it will have an ending in -ice. However, there are perhaps as many exceptions to that rule as there are regular examples. Here are three that run true to form:

L malus (“bad”) > malitia (“badness”) > E malice
justus (“righteous”) > justitia (“righteousness”) > justice
avarus (“greedy”) > avaritia (“greediness”) > avarice

The historical reason for the -ice spelling is to be found in the confusion of -itia and -icia during the late Latin period (cf. §12 and see §14.3.b). Within the French language, Latin nouns that had ended in -itia could also evolve into forms in -esse. Accordingly, English has largess(e) < largitia < largus (“abundant,” “bountiful”) and caress < *caritia < carus (“dear). The word caress is closely related in form, if not in meaning, to charity (§45), since the hypothetical *caritia must have been a late Latin variant for caritas. But we have entered an exotic realm of historical morphology, and you certainly shouldn’t worry about remembering these unusual forms.


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