Chapter 10: Turning Latin Verbs into Latin Nouns

§74. Other Noun-forming suffixes

If we were resolved to master all the noun-forming suffixes used with Latin verb stems, we would have to learn perhaps ten more types. The three that we have seen in §71, §72, and §73 are the most important. Five more are given here, for REFERENCE PURPOSES only:

  • Present-infinitive base + -or (§18): terrēre > terror; torpēre > torpor; horrēre > horror; candēre > candor; fervēre > fervor; languēre > languor. This is an entirely different -or suffix from the agent type of §73. Notice that all these verbs belong to the second conjugation.
  • Present-infinitive base + –men. A number of these nouns have come into English without change: acumen (< acuere, “sharpen”[1]), stamen (< stare, “stand”), semen (< serere, “sow”), specimen (< specere, “look at”), regimen (< regere, “rule”). Regimen has two English doublets, regime and realm.
  • Present-infinitive base + -mentum. A document (L documentum) was originally a device for teaching (docēre). An ornament is a thing used for decorating (ornare). A mere sampling of this type might include argument (< arguere, “prove”), augment (< augēre, “increase”), complement and supplement (< plēre, “fill”), figment (< fingere, “invent”), pigment (< pingere, “paint”), and sediment (< sedēre, “sit”). E movement and momentum are doublets, both derived from L movimentum (< movēre, “move”).
  • Present-infinitive base + -bula, -bulum, or -culum. These nouns appear in English as -ble, or -cle; they were mentioned at the very end of Chapter 7 (§56) as a group of words that can be quite easily confused with Latin diminutives. Their force is very concrete: a stable (L stabulum < stare) is a “stand-place”; and a vehicle (L vehiculum < vehere, “carry,” “convey”) is a “carry-thing.” Fable (L fa-bula < fari, “speak”) is directly related to fame (L fa-ma) and fate (L fa-tum). A few other examples are curriculum (< currere, “run”), spectacle (< spectare, “watch”), and miracle (< mirari, “marvel”). A tentacle is a “try-thing” (< temptare). Closely akin to this group are words with slightly different suffixes—the doublets spectrum and spectre (L spectrum, “look-at-thing,” “image” < specere[2]), fulcrum (L fulcrum, “prop-thing” < fulcire), and sepulchre (L sepulcrum, “bury-place,” < sepelire, sepultus).
  • Present-infinitive base + -ium. Second-declension neuter nouns can be formed from verbs by the addition of this simple suffix, examples of which we met in §12. Some of these have entered English with the suffix unchanged: odium (“hatred”), tedium (“boredom,”) [L taedium, “disgust”], and delirium (“raving”). A compendium (“something weighed together”) has come to mean an abridgement or a shortcut. As we saw back in §14, words like this may take other forms in English: L studium > E study, L refugium > E refuge, L sacrificium > E sacrifice, L solstitium > E solstice.



  1. Cf. E acute (“sharpened”), from the Latin perfect participle acutus. Its antonym, obtuse (“blunted”), is from obtundere, obtusus.
  2. We saw another “look-at-thing” in specimen, from specere. Latin also had a noun specula (“watch-place,” “tower,”) which lies behind our verb speculate, and yet another noun speculum (“mirror”).


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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.

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