In English, and most modern European languages, we have one single word, "very," which is accepted as the regular way to make an adjective more extreme. Is there a common way to do this in Latin? Ways I can think of are just using the superlative, or using some adjective like nimis, multum or magnopere.

E.g. (something) is very cold: maybe est frigidissimus, est multum frigidus or est nimis frigidus?

But what I'm really interested in is whether there's a "regular" way of doing this. Perhaps different ways were idiomatic in different eras.

This is not the same sort of emphasis as moving the adjective to the start of the sentence — that emphasizes the importance of the word, whereas I want to change the meaning of it, make it more extreme.


1 Answer 1


Using nimis (or related words) before an adjective strengthens it, but in a specific direction: nimis frigidus is "too cold", not "very cold". You can also reach a similar tone with comparative: frigidior can mean "too cold".

I suggest four ways to emphasize an adjective in the order of my preference:

  1. Superlative: Frigidissimus is a very idiomatic way to say "too cold". The absolute superlative (superlative without a comparison to anything else) is common. The absolute comparative (see above) is less common.

  2. Prefix: Many adjectives can be emphasized with a prefix. A typical choice for emphasis is per-, and it can also be used for verbs. This prefix is so common that I would encourage using it productively. But for your example this is not needed, since perfrigidus is attested in ancient literature.

  3. Valde: Valde frigidus is one way to go. It should be noticed, though, that valde is a contraction from valide. This gives the word a tone1 different from the English "very". However, valde is a good translation of "very".

  4. Comparative: The comparative can also be used this way, much like the superlative; see e.g. A&G. In my experience it is rarer than the superlative.

Combining all three suggestions to valde perfrigidissimus would sound very overexaggerated.

I am unsure about multum. It sounds less idiomatic to me, but it may turn out to be valid.

1 Notice that val(i)de means also "strongly". The English "very" is not connected to an adjective like validus. Therefore "very" and valde are not exactly alike, but they are very close.


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