Salvete Omnes,

While answering this question on a motto related to computers, I was going to question the authority of Vicipaedia's use of words derived from programma, particularly action nouns from programmare. I noticed that I sincerely don't have any true idea if three hypothetical action nouns—programmatio, programmatura, programmatus—would be any different from each other semantically.

To begin, this post discusses the differences between -tus and -tio, or -us and -io, depending on how morphemes are parsed. @Joel Derfner provides answers given in several texts. His pretty accurate summary is:

I take this collection of explanations to mean, "Nobody really knows, and we can come up with explanations but they're all sort of lame."

One that he lists, however, does cause me to think, and that is the idea in Latinæ Grammaticæ Curriculum. It says that -us shows things that have happened, and -io things that are happening. I think that perhaps -us and -ura might have been seen as related to the perfect and future participles, respectively, and therefore could have been the action that was done and the action's result. This idea, however, I cannot find much ground for.

Now for some things I suspect:

To start, -ura was not mentioned in the post, but has a unique meaning compared to the other two suffixes: showing result. Some examples are pictura, from pingo, a verb meaning "paint", fissura from findo, meaning "split, cleave", and punctura, from pungo meaning "puncture, pierce". From these, we get English picture, fissure, and puncture, all of which are relatively concrete nouns (especially if puncture is seen as referring to the wound or hole).

From what I can see, -tus seems to sometimes act more like a concrete noun than an action alone, at least compared to -tio. Compare visus to visio, or concursus and concursio. That being said, the Oxford Latin Dictionary lists their definitions exactly the same.

So, I am considering the following as possible:

  1. -tio denotes action very well as an action, perhaps with an imperfective aspect. Like visio, the act of seeing, as opposed to visus, a vision or apparition.
  2. -tus denotes the action, but sometimes more concretely or with a more perfective aspect. Like "pulsus", a pulse, as opposed to "pulsio", a pulsing.
  3. -ura denotes the resultant noun, or sees the action through the lens of result as opposed to the action itself.

Lastly, I could only find one time when all three suffixes are used on the same verb, and that is pungo, giving us punctus, punctio, punctura.

Any thoughts are very much appreciated!

  • Thanks for the suggestions—I will definitely get on that.
    – NanoEta
    Jul 22, 2021 at 18:25
  • Excellent! The question has now been reopened and I look forward to reading answers.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jul 22, 2021 at 19:39
  • Fruyt 2011, pp. 158-160 onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9781444343397.ch11
    – Alex B.
    Jul 22, 2021 at 22:10
  • e.g. just one quote from Fruyt 2011 "Words in -tūra are often in parallel with words in -tiō or -tor built on the same bases: the action is expressed by -tiō , the agent by -tor, and the concrete result of the action by -tūra" (p. 160)
    – Alex B.
    Jul 22, 2021 at 22:12
  • 1
    He also discusses -tio vs -tus on p. 159, e.g. auditus 'sense of hearing' vs. auditio 'fact of hearing' (a process noun). Perhaps someone else could summarize it in a post.
    – Alex B.
    Jul 22, 2021 at 22:20


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