Latin Grammar I, Lesson 25. Nouns Irregular in Declension
by William C. Michael
In the previous lessons, we introduced the study of irregular nouns in Latin and looked at nouns which are irregular in Number (23) and Gender (24). As said before, this is not intended to be an exhaustive study of irregular nouns because that would not be a good use of time. Our goal is to simply become aware of irregular nouns so that when you see them, you are not confused. In this lesson, we will study irregular nouns which are irregular with regard to declension.
To complete the objectives of this lesson, complete the following tasks:
- Study the lesson for mastery.
- Complete the lesson assessment.
The content of this lesson is taken from chapter 25 of Alvarez’s Latin Grammar.
l. Anomalum inprimis est sanctissimum nomen JESUS, quod declinatur genitivo JESU, dativo JESU, accusativo JESUM, vocativo JESU, ablativo JESU.
Translation: Of irregular (nouns) in the first place is the most holy name JESUS, which is declined in the genitive (case) JESU, in the dative (JESU), in the accusative JESUM, in the vocative JESU, in the ablative JESU.
II. Vas, vasis singulari numero est tertiae declinationis, plurali secundae, ut vasa, vasorum, vasis; olim enim vasum, vasi dicebatur. “Aut aliquod vasum argenteum aut vasum alienum aliquod.” (Plautus), et Cato “Neque mihi, inquit, aedificatio neque vasum…neque ancilla est.” Contra jugerum, jugeri numero singulari secundae est declinationis, plurali tertiae jugera, jugerum, jugeribus: interdum et jugera ablativo legitur.
Translation: The noun vas, vasis (vessel) in the singular number is of the third declension, but in the plural number is of the second declension (neuter), as vasa, vasorum, vasis; for at one time vasum, vasi was said. “Either some silver vessel or some brass vessel.” (Plautus), and Cato, “Neither for me, he said, a building nor a vessel nor a servant is there”. On the contrary, jugerum, jugeri in the singular number is of the second declension, in the plural number it is of the third declension, jugera, jugerum, jugeribus: sometimes also jugera in the ablative case is read.
In this rule, Alvarez simply shows us that the declensions are irregular for nouns like vas, vasis and jugerum, jugeri. The former follows third declension nouns in the singuar, and second declension nouns in the plural; the latter the other way around.
III. Anomalum item est nomen domus, quod sic declinatur:
Translation: Also irregular is the noun domus (house), which is thus declined:
IV. Genitivo domus ferme utimur, cum aedificium significat, ut: “Seu fundi sive domus sit emptor.” (Horace), tamen, “Hic homo commeminit domi.” (Plautus); Domi autem, cum significatur locus, in quo quis habitat, ut: “Quid ais, bone vir? Est frater domi?” (Terence)
Translation: In the genitive domus in speech commonly is used, when a building it signifies, as: “Whether of land or of a house you may be the buyer.” (Horace), nevertheless, “This man is reminded of home.” (Plautus); domi however, when a place is signified, in which someone lives, as: “What do you say, good man? Is (my) brother at home?” (Terence).
This rule teaches us that there appears to be a reason for the varied forms of the genitive case: one is used when “house” signifies the house itself, whereas the other is used when the place one lives is referred to.
V. Dativo domo raro admodum. “Ponendaeque domo quaerenda est area primum.” (Horace).
Translation: In the dative (case) domo rarely at most. “And for the setting for the house to be sought is the area first”. (Horace)
This rule shows simply that the use of domo to express the dative case is found in the masters rather than domui as the chart shows.
VI. Ablativus domu nonnumquam legitur. “Ait se se Athenas fugere cupere ex hac domu.” (Plautus).
Translation: The ablative domu sometimes is read. “She said herself to Athens to flee to desire from this house.” (Plautus)
This rule simply points out that we may find examples in the writing of the masters where domu is used for the Ablative case rather than domo.
VII. Harum domuum et has domus raro reperies. “Viscera magnarum domuum dominique futuri.” (Juvenal). “Tot domus locupletissimas domus istius una capiet?” (Cicero).
Translation: “Of these houses” and “these houses” rarely you shall find. “The sons of great houses and lords to become.” (Juvenal). “So many most rich houses shall contain the one house of that man?” (Cicero)
In this rule, we see that in the genitive plural, domuum can be joined to first declension adjectives like “harum”; and, that the accusative domus can be joined to first declension adjectives like “has”.
As in the previous lesson, this lesson simply introduces us to irregular nouns that are irregular in declension.
If you’d like to dig deeper into irregular nouns, study the chapter on Heteroclite nouns in Lily’s Latin Grammar.