In the offertory of the requiem mass there occurs the phrase "tu suscipe pro animabus illis quarum hodie memoriam facimus". I understand that *animabus is used instead of animis, because the latter could be a form of animus just as well as of anima, and the ambiguity in meaning was felt to be unacceptable in a place such as this.

Are there any other places where the form *animabus occurs? Can one point to an earliest such occurrence, and an "inventor" of this grammatical innovation?

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    FWIW there's also filiabus for filiis to make feminine explicit. The same for deabus and equabus. I think it posts ecclesiastical Latin
    – Rafael
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 15:27
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    Filiabus, at least, seems to be preclassical perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/…
    – Rafael
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 15:34
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    Animabus, per L&S, is ecclesiastical: perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/… probably by analogy to filiabus. I can recall a number of prayers using animabus, like the optional prayer for parents in the responsum: miserere clementer animabus parentum nostrorum, etc.
    – Rafael
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 15:35

1 Answer 1


The ...abus dative/ablative plural is a rare feature of the first declension that can in exceptional cases be traced back at least to classical Latin. For example, you will find Cicero saying (Pro C. Rabirio perduellionis reo):

ab Iove Optimo Maximo ceterisque dis deabusque immortalibus [...] pacem ac veniam peto

Clearly in this case Cicero uses the form to explicitly call upon goddesses and could not very well have said dis disque. (He could have said dis utrius sexus or something to that effect, but how does that sound?)

So medieval Christian authors arguably did not invent this form out of thin air, but they took a rare form and applied it to many new words. Other forms were famulabus (for example in the Oratio pro his, qui in coemeterio requiescunt) and monachabus. While these make sense to explicitly mention women (Who would have thought medieval Christians were pioneers of gender-inclusive language?), the same cannot be said of ecclesiabus, villabus and other forms, which are also found.

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    Animabus is actually fairly common before the medieval period: it's all over the place in the Vulgate, Augustine, and even Servius Honoratus.
    – brianpck
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 20:13

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