When meeting an adjective in a dictionary, there are some suffixes. What are they referring to?

For example:

  • extremus, a, um = extreme
  • amplus, a, um = important
  • iratus, a, um = triggered
  • Does this answer your question?
    – cmw
    Commented Apr 4 at 20:52
  • 1
    Most dictionaries have a section at the front or back explaining how to read their entries. Have you checked there? Commented Apr 5 at 9:52

2 Answers 2


When you see an English word in the dictionary, you can make a good guess as to how its other forms will look: the plural of spoon is almost certainly spoons, the dictionary doesn't have to list this explicitly.

But for Latin words, it's not so straightforward. When you see a noun ending in -us, that doesn't always tell you how to make the plural: amīcus "friend" becomes amīcī, tempus "time" becomes tempora, and acus "needle" becomes acūs.

So a good Latin dictionary needs to give you enough forms to predict all the rest. Amplus follows the most common pattern for adjectives, becoming ampla in the feminine and amplum in the neuter (the masculine is always given first for historical reasons). So the dictionary notes this as amplus, -a, -um. This is a concise way of telling you that it follows the common pattern, instead of a rarer pattern like vetus "old" (which is vetus for all three genders, a so-called "one-termination adjective").

  • Ok Ty. Does each adjective have its own declenchement table? Or should we refer to the declenchement table of the noun?
    – mle
    Commented Apr 6 at 10:48

Depending upon which type of adjective there will be different endings. For example, from Smith's smaller Latin dictionary.

For your specific question the -us, -a, -um endings for 1st and 2nd declension are respectively the masculine, feminine and neuter nominative endings of the adjective, and taking these off will form the stem of the adjective from which the other cases can usually be derived from other standard suffixes.

So extremus, a, um is a shorthand for extremus, extrema, extremum for the masculine, feminine and neuter nominative forms respectively.

The third declension adjectives listings in a dictionary will have different endings to those above in the 1st and 2nd declension.

gravis, e adj. indicates that gravis is both the masculine and feminine singular nominative form, and that grave (gravis less the is plus the e) is the neuter nominative form of this adjective. A shorthand way of writing gravis (masculine, feminine), grave (neuter).

ferox, ocis adj. indicates that ferox is the masculine, feminine and neuter singular forms of the nominative, and ferocis (fer plus ocis) is the genitive form from which other cases of the adjective can be derived. A shorthand way of writing ferox (masculine, feminine, neuter), ferocis (genitive). That is the stem of the other forms is feroc (the genitive form less the is). The other cases endings for the adjectives are usually derivable from the stem of the genitive. Similarly ingens, tis shorthand for ingens (masculine, feminine, neuter), ingentis (genitive) as the genitive is mostly derivable from the nominative.

vetus, veteris is a shorthand way of writing vetus (masculine, feminine, neuter), veteris (genitive). The genitive written in full, as it isn't straightforward to derive this from the nominative.

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