Chapter 16: The Greek Noun (Declensions 1 and 2)

§103. An Overview of the 1st and 2nd Declensions

At the start of Chapter 15 (§97), it was mentioned that Greek morphology (word formation) is often closely parallel to Latin. If you recall the patterns of the 1st and 2nd noun declensions in Latin—or if you are prepared to review them now—you will find the transition to Greek relatively easy. For historical reasons, we must be aware of these linguistic correspondences, since they explain the form that many Greek nouns assumed after they had been Latinized in the Roman alphabet.

Here is a table that summarizes the 1st and 2nd declension noun endings in Latin and Greek. The Greek 2nd declension, as you can see, is precise and straightforward in its correspondence with its Latin counterpart. The 1st declension is rather more complicated, and its various endings will not make much sense until we have looked at a few examples.

1st Declension 2nd Declension
Gender Feminine Masculine Masculine Neuter
LATIN a (-a) -us -um
GREEK or -α -ης -ος -ον

Except to help remember declension categories, you needn’t worry very much about NOUN GENDER. However, you will recall that almost all native Latin 1st declension nouns in -a are feminine. In Greek, we’ll see that the -η and -α types are always feminine, but that there are quite a few nouns in -ης, a masculine word-ending. These were sometimes Latinized as 1st declension masculine loan-words in –a. The grammatical gender of the 2nd declension is parallel in both languages: most nouns in -us (Latin) or -ος (Greek) are masculine, and all nouns in -um (Latin) or -ον (Greek) are neuter.

In both the 1st and 2nd declensions, a noun BASE is identified by removing its characteristic ending. In this respect, Greek is exactly analogous to Latin.

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§103. An Overview of the 1st and 2nd Declensions by Peter Smith (Estate) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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