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The English verb "fall", when the subject is a human, has two main kinds of literal1 meaning as far as I can tell:

  1. A change of position: Moving suddenly from higher elevation to lower. (The whole body moves down.)

  2. A change of posture: Changing suddenly from standing up to lying on the ground. (Feet stay on the ground, the rest of the body comes to the same level.)

Both movements are quick and involuntary. My dictionary between Finnish and Latin indicates that both are best captured in Latin by cadere and decidere. (Finnish has two unrelated verbs for these movements, so the distinction is clear.) How do I make the distinction of these two types of person falling in Latin?

If Tullia was flying above the ground (case 1) and Iulia was standing on it (case 2) and they both fell to the ground, how do I best capture the different kinds of fall in Latin?

If the choice of words depends on what caused the two kinds of fall, I would be happy to get some pointers. For the second case, causes could include fainting, walking on ice, being punched, or stumbling. It may well be that my dividing falling in just these two categories is influence by Finnish and I should include more detail.


1 I am not looking for less literal meanings of "fall" but only the concrete movements of a human body here.

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  • Out of curiosity, what are the verbs in Finnish? – TKR Jan 24 at 20:42
  • To be even more precise, what action led to the change in position for the second example? – C. M. Weimer Jan 24 at 20:49
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    @TKR They are 'pudota' and 'kaatua'. – Joonas Ilmavirta Jan 24 at 21:24
  • @C.M.Weimer I added a paragraph in the end. There are many situations where I would be interested in this. Feel free to pick one or two. They key idea is that it is quick and involuntary, so deciding to get some sleep and any sporty maneuvers are excluded. – Joonas Ilmavirta Jan 24 at 21:31
  • Labor, lapsus might work, perhaps as a participle describing the one who falls. – Hugh Jan 25 at 2:26
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Cadere works for both meanings just fine (and a range of other metaphorical uses). There is no hard distinction as there is in Finnish. For the full range, see Smith's entry on FALL.

However, the reason I asked about the context is that "collapse" (i.e. "fall down") might work as a good synonym in English for certain types of falling. In Latin, you could specify concidere ("to fall in on itself"), which can be used for buildings and bodies alike. Although it does cover a range of metaphorical meanings (much like "collapse" does in English), it does not seem to extend to falling from a height.

Another word that fits meaning 1 would be decidere, but unlike concidere excluding meaning 1, this word does not necessarily exclude meaning 2.

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