I am guessing jens since j was the most common heading alphabet for replacing i as a first letter.

Addendum for clarity: One of New Latin's nominations was the adjustment to spelling of certain words, and the negation of conventional orthography. This was done with the wholesome intent of smoothing the loan into an established and standardised Middle English (the latter word being unascribable to Old English).

One of these dictates was that i ought to be relinquished and replaced with letters that could be better pointers to pronunciation. This was mostly in words that commenced with i, but was sometimes expanded to compounds. By my knowledge, the letter j was used as the replacer in the vast majority of cases (with g being second). There may be other letters used for this caste's replacement that I am unaware of.

Since eo had heavy employment in Latin (and so must have featured dominantly in its medieval revival), the word must have been remorphed during this period by the set laws (of which I do not profess complete knowledge of). So I would like to know either what the word's spelling was transformed to, or what would have been the most likely transformation in heed of New Latin's scholarly workings/methodology?

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    This might be my being slow, but I don't quite understand the question. Can you elaborate on what you mean by a new Latin adaption and give some other examples? I'm not sure if you are asking about spelling, pronunciation, or something else.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    May 7, 2021 at 18:20
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    @JoonasIlmavirta Just edited the question for sake of clarity. Should have done it in advance. Thank you. May 7, 2021 at 18:40
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    Welcome to the site! Are you essentially asking if jens and iens are the same word, with the former just using the spelling recommendations from New Latin?
    – Adam
    May 7, 2021 at 18:58
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    This question would most handsomly profit from a simplification. It looks to me like it could be condensed into two single sentences: 1) your assumption and 2) the part of assumption that you'd like clarified. May 7, 2021 at 19:08
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    Sampark: I think you intended "how was the word iens written in New Latin", and with "adaption" you seem to be saying "alteration, change", so you believe the spelling of the word changed in NL. May 7, 2021 at 22:37

2 Answers 2


If the letter J is used in Latin at all, it is generally to distinguish the consonant I (spelled as J) from the vovel I (spelled as I). So you have spellings like Ionius and Julius and so on.

Since the first letter of iens is undoubtedly a vowel, the spelling jens would be incorrect.

Edit: The Unbrutal Russian remarks not without justification that one can find texts that use J at the beginning of words, regardless of pronunciation, with more or less consistency. (Sometimes also at the end, so you have things like vtj or testes jnterfuerunt uocatj et rogatj, giving the thing an Esperanto feel. Note that the linked texts are late-nineteenth century reproductions of medieval documents.) But that is definitely not the usual rule in Neo-Latin literature.

  • Are you saying that New Latin did not blanketly discourage the use of i as a first letter, and that it was only done in instances where misreckoning or misreading was a possibility? May 7, 2021 at 19:35
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    @SamparkSharma I don't think New Latin did anything blanketly. It never was a centralized movement but only an era in the history of Latin. The spelling conventions of all eras had variations. It is quite common that J only stands for the consonant sound, and under that convention jens would indeed be incorrect as Sebastian writes. But if J is a more general valid variant of I, then it is fine. There is unfortunately no universal truth to Latin spelling.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    May 7, 2021 at 20:15
  • @SamparkSharma There was no such blanket discouragement. For example, here is an edition of Erasmus' Colloquia familiaria from 1536 (the year of his death) that uses both I and J and lots of words starting with I. (And here an edition published during his lifetime that does not use J at all.) But J was also used where no misreading needed be feared, like jubeo. May 7, 2021 at 20:18
  • @JoonasIlmavirta Thank you. I am not an advanced student of Latin but I was under the impression that when Latin was revived in the Middle Ages, there was a scholarly consensus about it having been received with a 'conventional orthography' (a phrase I welded to my question). There was also, at least in England, a coterie of scholars who arbitrated Continental disputes and can, for the most part, be said to have persevered towards a united end. But on the former point, I have weak footing and you're probably right about New Latin never having been a mound of congenial sympathies. May 7, 2021 at 20:29
  • @SebastianKoppehel Thanks! I will go through the text tomorrow morning torched by your indicators. Would you say that there were circumstances where the prevalence of a replaced front-letter impacted the commended pronounciation ('commended' because its relevancy and approval was only within academic circles)? That is to say, would the vocal expulsion of a single word led by j, g or the standard i be indistinguishiable? Or would they be positioned as having different phonetic identities? May 7, 2021 at 20:42

Assuming I've managed to grasp the gist of the question correctly:

  • I~i and J~j, U~u and V~v have been, and to some extent continue to be variant forms of the same Latin letter, like there are many ways to write the letter G, or like there are different fonts for most scripts in general.
  • In some fonts or hands they look more like one or the other, but they remain the same letter with absolutely no difference in use. Any one of them can stand for a vowel or a consonant. All of these letter-forms existed as a continuum from the earliest times (some are easier to carve, others to write by hand).
  • Writing consecutive occurrences of these letters with two different letter-forms has been a common, even standard practice since the Renaissance (New Latin), where you find spellings ij and vu, unless followed/preceded by another one: iij, vuu.
    • I don't remember coming across the opposite sequence (ji, uv).
  • Another convention, particularly common after the Enlightenment, was to always spell i and u when lowercase, and J and V when uppercase, and this is continued even today in certain publications.
  • Often you will find these two conventions employed together: J/V when uppercase + i/u when lowercase, unless following itself, in which case j/v.
  • Yet another option is writing j/v when initial: jllius, vltimi, judicii, Vrbs. It seems that this was far more common for v~V: here's one example.
  • The first person to propose the modern use of J~j for the consonant /j/ as opposed to the vowel /i(:)/, spelled as I/i, is said to have been Gian Giorgio Trissino in a letter from 1524. This convention has been usual in modern European languages, but didn't gain adoption with Latin till about the 19th century (rough personal estimate), specifically in works on linguistics, because science, yay. There's a name for these two letters/that convention that I can't seem to be able to find for some reason D:
    • Part of the reason it didn't gain favour with Latin is because it's not always possible to tell when it's a vowel or a consonant, and there are (many) cases where it can be treated/pronounced as either depending on personal preference.
    • Amusingly enough, modern Italian uses I~i for /j/, but Italian regional languages/dialects normally use J~j, and it's not uncommon in 18-19th century standard Italian.
  • As a result of the coexistence of all these competing or even complementary conventions, this whole issue today often shows a glaring lack of consistency or logic, since many who distinguish V~v from U~u on the basis of the sound they represent don't do so with J~j and I~i (wiktionary is one example), and the Oxford Latin Dictionary even takes this mess a step further by only employing the letter-forms i, u, I and V.

  • So to answer your question as far as I understand it, jens and iens had been equivalent spellings up to about the 16th century, at which point some people started coming up with conventions to restrict where to write them, but for most people they remained equivalent spellings up to about the 19th century; and abstractly speaking, they remain the same letter even today, because Latin has no single, standard or official orthography, and people continue to employ different conventions for different letter-forms. So jens is the "wrong" spelling only from the point of view of some of these conventions, but in the abstract it's fully equivalent to the spelling iens.
  • If your question is instead mainly about English orthography, it was not until the 17th century that English adopted the modern use of J~j and V~v, while before that they were used exactly like in Latin, whatever convention (of the ones described above) the writer/printer adopted. The word iens has never been borrowed into English as far as I know; if it had, it would have probably been pronounced as "eyens" and spelt as iens. In short, there's no connection between that word and recent developments in English orthography.

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