I have one question about the translation of the superlatives.

For some reason in Cambridge Latin Course they always give the following translation for the superlatives:

laetissimus — very happy
iratissimus — very angry

I thought there were two ways to express the superlative in English happiest and most happy.

Does very happy also express the meaning of the superlative? Wouldn't very happy be valde laetus in Latin?

1 Answer 1


It is pretty common for superlatives in Latin to be absolute in the sense that there is no comparison. The superlative just indicates great extent. Indeed, laetissimus seems to be a more idiomatic choice than valde laetus for "very happy".

The Latin relative superlative laetissimus can also mean "happiest" in the familiar sense of comparison. If there is nothing to compare to and "happiest" doesn't make sense, then laetissimus is very likely to mean "very happy".

The Latin superlative does not correspond exactly to the English superlative. Absolute superlatives are a feature that might take some getting used to. The familiar relative superlative that indicates comparison is not all Latin has to offer.

You may also want to check this question about different ways to emphasize adjectives and what Allen and Greenough have to say about using comparatives and superlatives.

  • Thanks, can you suggest some Latin grammar workbook where I can read about the absolute superlatives? Jan 8, 2021 at 21:34
  • 1
    @DachiPachulia Unfortunately I'm not familiar with such grammar workbooks, but perhaps someone else can suggest something. I edited my question to add a link to an online grammar if you want to read some more.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jan 8, 2021 at 21:46

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