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Latin Superlative Adjectives

How to form the superlative of adjectives in Latin

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Using a superlative form of an adjective takes the basic sense of the adjective to the extreme, so the superlative of "basic" would be "most basic."

Identifying Superlatives

Latin superlative adjectives are usually easy to identify. Most contain -issim- (e.g., suavissimus, -a, -um 'most charming'). If they don't have -issim-, they will likely have -llim- (difficillimus, -a, -u 'most difficult') or -rrim- (celerrimus, -a, -um 'swiftest') in them. This double consonant + -im- precedes the case ending.

Translation of Superlatives

Superlatives are usually translated into English with -est or "most". They can also be translated with "very" or "extremely". Difficillimus means most difficult or very difficult. Celerrimus means fastest or very fast.

Declension of Superlatives

Superlative adjectives are declined like first and second declension nouns. Superlatives are adjectives and as such must agree with the nouns they modify in gender, number, and case. The endings are added to the base of the adjective. These endings are not new or different, but they're here for convenience:

Singular
case M. F. N.

nom. -us -a -um
gen. -i -ae -i
dat. -o -ae -o
acc. -um -am -um
abl. -o -a -o

Plural
case M. F. N.

nom. -i -ae -a
gen. -orum -arum -orum
dat. -is -is -is
acc. -os -as -a
abl. -is -is -is

Example: Clarus - Clarissimus -a -um
                Clear - Clearest

Singular

case        M                 F              N
nom. clarissimus clarissima clarissimum gen. clarissimi clarissimae clarissimi dat. clarissimo clarissimae clarissimo acc. clarissimum clarissimam clarissimum abl. clarissimo clarissima clarissimo

Plural

case        M                 F              N
nom. clarissimi clarissimae clarissima gen. clarissimorum clarissimarum clarissimorum dat. clarissimis clarissimis clarissimis acc. clarissimos clarissimas clarissima abl. clarissimis clarissimis clarissimis

Unusual Superlatives

If an adjective ends in -er for its masculine singular nominative in what is called the "positive" (e.g., for the Latin adjective pulcher 'beautiful,' pulcher is the positive form), its superlative form will end in -errimus, -a, -um. If the masculine singular nominative form of the adjective ends in -ilis (e.g., facilis 'easy'), the superlative form will be -illimus, -a, -um.

Singular

case        M                 F              N
nom. pulcherrimus pulcherrima pulcherrimum gen. pulcherrimi pulcherrimae pulcherrimi dat. pulcherrimo pulcherrimae pulcherrimo acc. pulcherrimum pulcherrimam pulcherrimum abl. pulcherrimo pulcherrima pulcherrimo

Plural

case        M                 F              N
nom. pulcherrimi pulcherrimae pulcherrima gen. pulcherrimorum pulcherrimarum pulcherrimorum dat. pulcherrimis pulcherrimis pulcherrimis acc. pulcherrimos pulcherrimas pulcherrima abl. pulcherrimis pulcherrimis pulcherrimis

Irregular Superlatives

Here are some of the common adjectives that have irregular forms. The positive is the basic form. For the adjective celer, the positive form would be translated "fast". The comparative would be translated "faster". The superlative would be "fastest". It is worth noting that some of these irregular adjectives are also irregular in English. Thus for the positive bonus, which means "good", the comparative is "better" and the superlative is "best".

(Translation) Positive -- Comparative -- Superlative

  • (Big, Bigger, Biggest) magnus, -a, -um -- maior, maius -- maximus, -a, -um
  • (Small, Smaller, Smallest) parvus, -a, -um -- minor, minus -- minimus, -a, -um
  • (Good, Better, Best) bonus, -a, -um -- melior, melius -- optimus, -a, -um
  • (Bad, Worse, Worst) malus, -a, -um -- peior, peius -- pessimus, -a, -um

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