What would be an idiomatic way to say "idiom" and "idiomatic" in classical Latin? One could perhaps use the Greek loan word idiōma (neuter), but I feel there should be a more Latin way of putting it. I did not find classical attestations of this loan word. It is perfectly acceptable to use several Latin words if necessary, but a subordinate clause would feel like too heavy structure for such a thing.

You can either coin something new and explain why it is good classical style, or provide a classical use example.

  • My "back-of-the-envelope" thought is that Latin proprius might be good for Greek idios, giving something like propriamen, but that feels artificial.
    – Draconis
    Nov 20, 2016 at 0:01
  • In French, gallicisme means an idiomatic French form, I don't know if there is an equivalent for Latin.
    – Luc
    Nov 21, 2016 at 10:42

1 Answer 1


I've found some examples of classical use of ĭdĭōma and ĭdĭōtismus by some Latin grammarians (both are Greek loan words):

  • ĭdĭōma, ătis, n. ( ἰδίωμα )
  • Grammatici Latini, Flavius Sosipater Charisius, liber V, “de idiomatibus” (found via the Gaffiot dictionary)
    idiomata quae sunt nostri sermonis innumerabilia |quidem debent esse. etc.
  • Commentum in Horati Epodos, Pomponius Porphyrio 2.39.6, 2.47.4 (found via PHI) Potest autem utique accidere idioma.
    Hoc quoque autem ad idioma rusticae simplicitatis pertinet, hornum uinum bibere.
  • ĭdĭōtismus ou -os, ī, m. ( ἰδιωτισμός )
  • Controversiæ, L. Annæus Seneca Major, liber II, 21 (found via the Gaffiot dictionary and PHI)
    HISPO ROMANIVS bello idiotismo usus est: dixerunt, inquit, amici: 'eamus ad raptae patrem, hoc curemus; illud domi est.'
    Idiotismos est inter oratorias virtutes res quae raro procedit
  • Marcus Fabius Quintilianus, Institutio Oratoria (found via PHI)
    Unde interim grati idiotismi †de quo†, qualis est ille apud M. Tullium: 'pusio qui cum maiore sorore cubitabat' et 'Flauius qui cornicum oculos confixit', et pro Milone illud 'heus tu Rufio', et 'Erucius Antoniaster'.
  • You can also see the 4th volume of Keil’s grammars: archive.org/stream/grammaticilatini04keil#page/602/mode/2up
    – Luc
    Nov 21, 2016 at 0:02
  • Thanks! The second word you suggest makes me think more of idiotic than idiomatic use of language, but perhaps the ancients would not have thought so. (I wrote this comment yesterday but forgot to send it. Oh, well...)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Nov 22, 2016 at 11:43
  • idiotikon is a technical term in (Belgian) Dutch, used specifically for dictionaries of regional idiom. I can imagine there are similar words for similar concepts in other Western languages.
    – blagae
    Sep 5, 2017 at 13:15
  • Our word "idiot" derives from a Greek word meaning roughly, vulgar, unskilled, ignorant. I guess "yokel" would be a good translation. So "ĭdĭōtismus" would presumably have meant the kind of language used by such a person: yokel-speak. Dec 24, 2020 at 20:12

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