The English language has a handful of words starting with omni- to express all-:

  • omniscient all-knowing
  • omnipotent all-powerful
  • omnipresent present everywhere

How would one express all-forgiving using omni-?

(I am not sure which word to use for forgive, but please assume a theological context.)

I am aware that it is possible that no word with this precise meaning appears in any English dictionary under omni-. However, the earliest words of the form omni- were modified versions of Medieval Latin terms, brought into English at some point by a person with knowledge of Latin. My question is: if the scholar who brought the word omniscient into the English language, were to have imported a word with the prefix omni- into English with the meaning all-forgiving, what choice would he have made, if you were to speculate?

One reason I ask here is that there are a great many ways to say to forgive in Latin. Some of them look as though they also mean to dismiss, to send away. I would like to know which is most appropriate and least ambiguous, if that can be determined.

If this still seems like a question about English rather than Latin, then assume my question is: How would all-forgiving be expressed in Medieval Latin, in a theological context?

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    Welcome to Latin Language! By reading your question I see a couple of different ways to answer it. My first thought is it's about English language, and thus you may want to ask at English Language & Usage to get a better answer. As far as I know, there is no such word in English. A close miss may be omnibenevolent (i.e., all-good willing, 69k results in Google: not a too common word, but with some usage). Thelogical Latin for to forgive is dimitto, so if you want to make an English word up, it could be omnidimittent (although I'm not sure if there is any other word in English derived from that verb). – Rafael Oct 14 '16 at 12:41
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    If you want to know how to say it in Latin, with quotes to attested examples and links to dictionary entries, then this is the place. Please make us know. – Rafael Oct 14 '16 at 12:44
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    I have edited the question to explain a little better. – Andrew Woods Oct 14 '16 at 14:35
  • Thanks Andrew, this is helpful. It looks like you've created two accounts, however – I'd recommend merging them following these instructions, to more easily track your question. – Nathaniel is protesting Oct 14 '16 at 14:53
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    @AndrewWoods Although dimitto has different meanings in Classical Latin, it is the (overwhelmingly preferred) word both the Vulgate and Theologians use to mean to forgive. E.g. dimittuntur peccata tua (Mc 2,5), dimittuntur tibi peccata tua (Lc 5, 23), dimittite et dimittemini (Lc 6, 37). Remitto is also used. – Rafael Oct 14 '16 at 18:00

I found two examples (from 1667 and 1709) that uses the first portmanteau that came to my mind: omnimisericors.

...laudo, adoro, & revereor te, Domine DEUS, Omnipotens, Omnimisericors, qui aquarum fontes creasti, etc...

This is obviously not standard.

The much more common way of saying "most merciful" in liturgical Latin is clementissimus.

There is a reason why omni- is generally not paired with attributes like this: in the scholastic tradition, as exemplified for instance by Aquinas's Summa Contra Gentiles, the omni- attributes are derived in a specific logical order and for specific reasons. Omni- is used with perfections, whereas mercy is more properly a passion which is applied in a metaphorical way, of his attributes. From the Summa Contra Gentiles:

Sciendum tamen etiam alias affectiones, quae secundum speciem suam divinae perfectioni repugnant, in sacra Scriptura de Deo dici, non quidem proprie, ut probatum est, sed metaphorice, propter similitudinem vel effectuum, vel alicuius affectionis praecedentis.

Dico autem effectuum, quia interdum voluntas ex sapientiae ordine in illum effectum tendit in quem aliquis ex passione defectiva inclinatur: iudex enim ex iustitia punit, sicut et iratus ex ira. Dicitur igitur aliquando Deus iratus, inquantum ex ordine suae sapientiae aliquem vult punire: secundum illud Psalmi: cum exarserit in brevi ira eius. Misericors vero dicitur inquantum ex sua benevolentia miserias hominum tollit: sicut et nos propter misericordiae passionem facimus idem. Unde in Psalmo: miserator et misericors dominus, patiens et multum misericors. Poenitens etiam interdum dicitur, inquantum secundum aeternum et immutabilem providentiae suae ordinem facit quae prius destruxerat, vel destruit quae prius fecit: sicut et poenitentia moti facere inveniuntur. Unde Gen. 6-7: poenitet me fecisse hominem. Quod autem hoc proprie intelligi non possit, patet per hoc quod habetur I Reg. 15-29: triumphator in Israel non parcet, nec poenitudine flectetur. [54]

There is a subtle distinction between clemens and misericors which explains this statement: since misericordia appears to imply a certain compassion (literally "suffering with"), it is not seen as "properly" part of the divine attributes.

Words like clementissimus and summe misericors of course abound in more devotional contexts, but I suspect an omni- word is missing because that terminology is more properly philosophical/theological.

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