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In English, you can use a bare numeral as a substantive and refer to a group as something like "The Nine." You can then say something like, "The House of the Nine."

How would you express this in Latin? Since novem is indeclinable, would you use a noun or pronoun with it?

Domus Novem Istorum

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    Or as a substantive in general, for that matter. I'd never given this much thought before.
    – Draconis
    Commented Jan 2, 2023 at 4:03
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    It's not genitive, but the Wikipedia entry for The Seven Against Thebes uses Septem alone. I'm unsure of the origin of that translation or if this is the convention or something special to reflect the Greek.
    – Adam
    Commented Jan 2, 2023 at 5:17

3 Answers 3

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One way to express "the nine" is to use one of the number-based nouns borrowed from Greek:

  1. mŏnăs
  2. dy̆ăs
  3. trĭăs
  4. tĕtrăs
    (L&S marks the first vowel long, probably due to the long syllable, but judging by the Greek it is short)
  5. pĕntăs
  6. hĕxăs
  7. hĕptăs
  8. ŏctăs
  9. ĕnnĕăs
  10. dĕcăs
  11. hĕndĕcăs?
  12. dŭōdĕcăs

They are all feminines ending in -ăs, -ădĭs.

These words might be familiar from English words like "dyad" and "triad". For example, the Capitoline triad, Trias Capitolina, consists of the three gods Jupiter, Minerva, and Juno, who had a joint temple on the hill.

If you need to specify what the group consists of, consider using adjectives: trias canina, duodecas divina, et cetera. A plural genitive is also an option.

If you take this route, "the house of the nine" would be domus enneadis.

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    Unio unionis, binio binionis, trinio, quaternio, quinio, senio, septenio, octonio, novenio, denio, undenio, duodenio. Thirteen would be, hmmm, not sure. Terni-denio? Just a thought...
    – Figulus
    Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 22:44
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    Good idea! Can you please post that as a separate answer?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 2:44
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I think that cmw's novemviri is my favorite for nine people, but I also think that Joonas's abstract Greek nouns are the most thought provoking. But reading them I was reminded that Latin too has some nouns for numbers, unio for a one, binio for a two, trinio for a three, then quaternio, quinio and senio. These are all (apart from unio) formed from the distributive numeral with an -io suffixed to it.

One through six are the only nouns I've found attested. This is probably because higher numbers will not be found on dice (at least not in the days before Dungeons and Dragons).

But this raises the question, why not just use the distributive numerals themselves? After all, Gildersleeve and Lodge tell us that distributives can be found used in place of cardinals in poetry and later prose.

So my suggestion: Domus Novenorum, the House of the Nine.

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    Great points! I had completely forgotten about unio et co.
    – cmw
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 0:56
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    A tiny correction: The first one is not from the distributive singuli but from unus.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 7:28
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    Oh, nice! I like the flavor of the other answers and also like the straightforwardness of this option.
    – Adam
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 14:05
  • @Joonas Thanks! I have corrected this.
    – Figulus
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 23:09
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Joonas' answer is good, though if you wanted to stick more strictly with Latin, adding -viri to the number gives you another option.

Examples include a) the infamous triumviri, the two sets of three power brokers in ancient Rome (Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar, and then later Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus); b) the Decemviri, a group of ten who were elected to study Greek laws and enact better laws during the Struggle of the Orders; and c) duumviri, essentially two chief magistrates in towns and cities throughout Italy.

One issue with this in particular this formation for modern uses is that the -vir in the word is invariably masculine. But I think the issue is not so insurmountable, and that conceivably a group of five men and five woman could still be called decemviri, despite the -vir root.

The best evidence for this belief I've found is that we have an inscription where the wife of a duumvir is called a duumvira. It's not far-fetched at all to think that if two women had held the office of the duumviratus, then they might have been called duumvirae, too. So duumviri then could be the inclusive masculine, encompassing both sexes.

So I think something like the Domus Novemvirorum is a possibility.

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    The group has to consist of people, right? If it's three dogs or twelve gods or five cities, I don't think the -viri option works anymore. Does the group need to hold a shared public office, or would any group do? I took the question more generally, but I agree that for groups of people this is a good option to keep in mind.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jan 3, 2023 at 4:31
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    Yes, just people for this one, which is the sense I got from the opening question. I think most often we'd instead see domus deorum novem, etc.
    – cmw
    Commented Jan 3, 2023 at 4:39
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    It is people in my example, but I am curious either way in how it can be used to represent any kind of group.
    – Adam
    Commented Jan 3, 2023 at 15:44
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    I actually completely forgot about this construction, even though I'm making use of it in lore. Both are really great answers - thank you!
    – Adam
    Commented Jan 3, 2023 at 15:47

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