In Latin it is possible to create sentences from two identical words (homonym or homogram), or two minimal pairs.

Puro puro, I ritually purify with a bonfire.
Ēquus ĕquus, The horse is steady (aequus, even, steady, becomes medieval ēquus)

The only classical quote known to me that approaches this is Cicero's

O fortunatam natam me consule Romam.

"O fortunate state for my natal date and Consulate"...and he was assassinated soon after. Jingle and rhyme doesn't become acceptable until 400.

So, does anyone know of a collection of these two-word sentences.
If any more individual examples are known to you, I would be very happy to hear of them.

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    Perhaps not exactly what you asked for, but these two verses from Ennius might be interesting: "At tuba terribili sonitu taratantara dixit" and "O Tite tute Tati tibi tanta tyranne tulisti". Are these close to what you are looking for? – Joonas Ilmavirta Jul 7 '16 at 10:23
  • Many thanks @Joonas Ilmavirta, Good for the changing aesthetic; really good. But in the end I'm hoping for some Carolingian courtier or Knight Templar who has collected jingles, the way the Exeter Book collects riddles. – Hugh Jul 7 '16 at 13:05
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    There's malo malo malo malo (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_mnemonics#Examples_and_analysis), though I don't know its origin and it's probably post-Classical. – TKR Jul 7 '16 at 16:28
  • @TKR - that citation led indirectly to 500 images on Google for the minimal pair from Tacitus Amantes amentes (=Lovers are insane). Very useful: loads of thanks. – Hugh Jul 8 '16 at 6:28
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    I've never heard of such a thing, but here's an anecdote about what the jurist Bulgarus said after he denied that Frederick Barbarossa was dominus mundi 'quantum ad proprietatem'. Another jurist, Martinus, said that he was, and was awarded a horse. Bulgarus (reportedly) declaimed: 'Amisi equum, quia dixi equum, quod non fuit equum.' If the above link rots, see F. Güterbock, ed., Das Geschichtswerk des Otto Morena und seiner Fortsetzer über... (SS rer. Germ.; Berlin 1930), 59. – jon Jul 10 '16 at 20:03

As TKR pointed out, malo malo works. I think you might have a difficult time finding them, because they're actually abundant. Getting several to stack is where the fun is.

As an example about how easy this is:

amor amor | I, Love, am loved.

Servas servas | You keep the slave women safe.

Servo servo | I protect from the slave.

Eo eo | I am going there.

Rege rege | Rule by means of a king

Laudes laudes | You should praise the praises.

Now, the real challenge is getting more than two.

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    unde unde? Where are these waves coming from? oleo oleo, I smell of olive oil. – cnread Mar 16 '17 at 0:41
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    @cnread oleo oleo surely, but I think unde unde is disqualified by not actually being a complete sentence (even if it's perfectly acceptable in Latin, true). Hugh's fine with Medieval ae -> e, but I could never get over it! – C. M. Weimer Mar 16 '17 at 0:49
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    Wonderful. I had regulo regulo 'I rule by principle;and abeo ab eo which fits Quintilian's criteria, but not the OP. – Hugh Mar 16 '17 at 0:57
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    Laude doesn't work: it's first conjugation – brianpck Mar 18 '17 at 12:22
  • @cnread servio means “to serve”, but servo, as, āvi, ātum, āre means “to preserve”. Servo servo means “I save for the servant.” – Dario Mar 20 '17 at 7:15

The only such sentence that is used “in the wild”, according to my knowledge, is soli soli soli. It consists of the two datives of solus and sol followed by the genitive of solum. The meaning (a bit stretched) is “to the only Sun of the Earth.” You can read it on several sundials in Italy, France and possibly other countries.

This is in Nanteuil, France (you’ll also notice the Roman numerals I to XII and MM for the year when it was built.) I got the photo from

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find attestations earlier than the 19th century. I suspect the motto is more ancient. Several sources I have seen (including on paper) link it to Napoleon, who with his usual modesty would have thought of himself as the “only Sun”, but I couldn’t isolate a single, reliable reference.

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  • Magnificent. Would it be churlish to suggest that your source should have written "Au Soleil de la seule Terre"? perhaps even, 'la Terre isolée' in reference to our lonely planet. – Hugh Mar 19 '17 at 17:34

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