I've been reading that the word silvanus comes from Latin silva (“forest”) +‎ -ānus (“from, of the”). So, "silvanus" literally means something like "who comes from the forest" or something similar.

I thought that it would be interested to construct a similar word, but with a meaning like "who comes from nothing". So I made some research.

The Latin word for "nothing" is nihil/nihilum (or nil, which is a contraction), according to their respective entries in Wiktionary here and here. To clarify a bit, I looked a bit more into it and I found this post in Latin StackExhange, saying that nihil is more similar to pure sense nothing while nihilum is more like nothingness. (You can read the post for more clarification, it's short but I don't want to make this post longer).

Then I looked at the entry for -anus in Wiktionary for Latin says that it indicates a relationship of position, possession, or origin. And there are also another examples:

  • mōns (“mountain”) → montānus (“montane, of the mountains”)
  • pāgus (“village”) → pāgānus (“rustic, of a village”)
  • Rōma (“Rome”) → rōmānus (“Roman”)
  • Christus (“Christ”) → christiānus (“christian”)

But in this post in Latin StackExhange, they're discussing about the proper suffixes to use to show origin, and someone redirects to this section of the Bennett's New Latin Grammar, talking about examples on how to construct adjectives from nouns.

For this case, I think that I should consider the part a) (From Common Nouns), in particular for the suffixes which signify belonging to, connected with. But there are too many: -ius, -icus, -īlis, -ālis, -āris, -ārius, -nus, -ānus, -īnus, -īvus, -ēnsis.

I suppose the one I have to use depends on the word (nihilum, for example), but I'm not sure if nihilumanus is correct or if I should use another suffix. Also, I'm still not 100% certain if I should usu "nihilum" or go for nil/nihil instead. Does somebody have some experience with Latin or conlanging in general that could give me a better guess?

tl;dr: Is the word "nihilumanus" (from Latin "nihilum" meaning "nothing/nothingness" and the suffix "-anus" meaning origin) proper constructed?


Nihilānus is more correct: all of these words are formed using the stem, not the full word for the first half, so you get mont-ānus (stem mont-) rather than *mons-ānus. And the stem for both nihil and nihilum is just plain nihil.

However, this word feels a little weird to me. Nihil is a strange beast in Latin: it's only commonly seen in a few cases, and is missing most of its others. It also doesn't tend to form compounds very well, and when it does, they're usually contractions of longer phrases. Nihilum fills in some of these missing forms, especially in later Latin, but it never quite becomes a regular noun.

So it depends what you're using the word for. If you're looking for a name or title to use in a fantasy book, for example, go for it! But if you're looking for a term to use in a short essay written in Latin, or something like that, I would use a longer but clearer workaround like ex nihilō.

  • Thanks for your answer! What you said make lots of sense. I was actually thinking, in the same idea behind silvanus (something or someone who comes from the forest, or lives in the forest or roams around the forest) but with "nothing" or similar. Like, if there are spirits/beings coming from chaos, darkness, light, etc., thinking in ones that either come from or now belong to nothing, or to an empty space or similar. But I understand that the idea may be very foreign for the people who actually spoke Latin, so I wasn't sure how to come out with a term for it. Thanks again! – G. Cuticchia Feb 13 '20 at 21:20
  • In some frameworks, the stem of nihilum is nihilo-. According to those accounts, combining nihilo- and -ānus results in nihilānus because of some rule that deletes or elides A and O at the end of stems before a vowel-initial suffix. – Asteroides Feb 13 '20 at 23:53

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