In What are the key differences between the main Latin verbs meaning "to kill"? we saw a lot of verbs meaning "to kill" and the differences between them. The fun part of it is that I did not find the verb which originated the most common Spanish word with the same meaning: matar. This verb comes from Latin macto, āvi, ātum, which apparently means "to slaughter, sacrifice". So it seems that it was used for sacrifices, but I see that it also meant "to offer", "to present, reward, honor", "to glorify", "to give splendor" and finally "to kill, put to death".


  • What was the main usage of this verb among the different ages of the language?
  • Was it used then as a verb meaning "to kill" so as to be included in the list of the other question? Or did it mean something different, only used in sacrifices? Maybe it was more used as "to offer something to the gods"?
  • Was it a common verb? I mean, Italian uccidere with the same meaning of "to kill" comes from Latin "occīdo, cīdi, cīsum" which actually is in the "kill" list of the other question, I was just wondering how the Spanish language (and Portuguese, it seems) ended up using this verb, but I will probably ask this in the Spanish site.

1 Answer 1


Since no one has ventured an answer, I just wanted to offer up this extended quote from Cicero's Against Cataline:

etenim si mecum patria2, quae mihi vita mea multo est carior, si cuncta Italia, si omnis res publica loquatur3: 'M. Tulli, quid agis? tune eum quem esse hostem comperisti, quem ducem belli futurum vides, quem exspectari imperatorem in castris hostium sentis, auctorem sceleris, principem coniurationis, evocatorem servorum et civium perditorum, exire patiere, ut abs te non emissus ex urbe, sed immissus in urbem esse videatur? nonne4 hunc in vincla5 duci, non ad mortem rapi, non summo supplicio mactari imperabis? quid tandem te impedit? mosne maiorum? [28] at persaepe etiam privati in hac re publica perniciosos civis morte multarunt.

From what I can gather, summo supplicio mactari means some like "suffer the supreme punishment and be put to death." If the ultimate root of mactari is from an Indo-European root meaning "to enlarge/treat as great," I could speculate that this word would have been associated with sacrifice and judicial proceedings meant to "glorify" the gods. In many cultures, all killing of animals or people outside of combat or criminal activity is ritualized, and so it might have been natural to extend the meaning of mactari to all types of killing, at least in the Spanish-speaking area.

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