In Greek, it is very common to chain more than one prepositional prefix at the beginning of a verb, e.g.:

And many more.

In Latin, though, I cannot easily think of many examples of verbs beginning with two prepositions. The most obvious examples (such as condescendo) are only attested in Ecclesiastical Latin, and (at least in this case) this is just a direct translation of συγκαταβαίνω, the theological idea of "condescension" developed by the Greek fathers. It is telling that this verb only appears in an effort to translate a technical theological term, rather than the normal usage of the Greek verb.

Three related questions:

  1. Is this construction common in Latin? (Hey, I could just be totally overlooking something...)
  2. Assuming not, are there at least some classical examples of verbs formed in this way?
  3. Bonus: Do any Roman writers/grammarians remark on this difference between Greek and Latin?
  • 5
    A look at the dictionary reveals coimbibo, condecerno, condeclino, condeliquesco, indeclinatus, and indefessus, among others. (Not left as an answer because it's so brief.) Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 13:41
  • 3
    Great examples! As a minor quibble, the last two examples are privative -in, not prepositions.
    – brianpck
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 14:07
  • 2
    It must be said that condecerno and condeclino are only found in medieval authors, while the only attestation of coimbibo is on Arnob. nat. 5,30 (si aperte hoc facere confessis maledictionibus coinbibissetis)
    – qwertxyz
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 17:16
  • Hmm. So that would really leave only condeliquesco. The exception that proves the rule? (I'll admit I didn't make a thorough search.) Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 18:17

2 Answers 2


For what I know, the double prefixation beginning with per- is the most productive (I quote only a few examples):


[per+ in + certus] (Sall. hist. 4,1,2 [Gell. 18,4,4]: perincertum stolidior an vanior);


[per + in + dignus] (Suet. Tib. 50, 2: tulit etiam perindigne actum in senatu);


[per + in + commodus] (Liv. 37,41,2: eadem perincommoda regiis erant; Cic. epist. 1,17,2: sed accidit perincommode quod eum nusquam vidisti)


[per + sub + horresco] (Sisenna fr. 104 Peter [Non. 6,449 M.] subito mare persubhorrescere caecos que fluctus in se prouoluere leniter occepit)

The prefix dis- is even productive in that sense:


[dis + con+ venio] (e.g. Hor. epist. 1,1,99: vitae disconvenit ordine toto; 1,14,18 eo disconvenit inter meque et te; Vitr. 4,3,1 disconvenientes in his symmetriae; Frontin. grom. 4,4 Thulin: quidquid ex agro disconuenit)


[dis + con + duco] (Plaut. Trin. 930: sed nil disconducit huic rei)

Here are some examples for other prefixes:


[con + de + liquesco] (Cat. agr. 23,6 uti resina condeliquescat)


[circum + ob + ruo] (Plin. 19,83: alterna folia circumobruere)


[ante + prae + cursor] (Tert. Bapt. 6: Ioannes antepraecursor)


[con + de + sertor] (Tert. carn. 1: condesertor eius Valentinus)

To answer your questions:

(1) I woulds say that is rather uncommon, very rare in comparison to ancient Greek;

(2) There are however a good number of evidences in classical Latin;

(3) Difficult but interesting question: as far as I know I would say no, but I have to check some texts: I intend to answer later.

Other examples can be found in Dana Dinu, Prefix Derivation in Latin, "SCOL" 1-2, 2012, pp. 125-136.

  • 3
    +1. The latter ones definitely count, but per is a bit tricky, since in these cases it doesn't retain the meaning of the preposition, but rather it's used for emphasis. To me it seems of a different kind than συγκαταβαίνειν.
    – cmw
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 16:09
  • 1
    Great examples! I've never studied linguistics, as others here have, but am I correct in distinguishing prepositional prefixes from privative ones, like dis- and in-?
    – brianpck
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 16:23
  • 1
    @Alex B. Both terms are currently used in contemporary morphological research: books.google.it/…; books.google.it/…; books.google.it/…
    – qwertxyz
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 20:24
  • 1
    @brianpck I see. My bad. Privative means negative (semantics). As for prepositional prefixes, it is occasionally used - note how hard Alessio is trying to find rare examples. All prefixes are grammaticalized "former" standalone words, e.g. prepositions. Now, we may talk about privative or iterative or even diminutive prefixes - this classification is based on semantics. If you really must talk about prepositional prefixes, this is not semantics. In this case, you could juxtapose them with e.g. adverbial prefixes. This classification would be historical (based on origin).
    – Alex B.
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 1:06
  • 1
    I agree with @AlexB. These are not prepositions, but prefixes (or preverbs), a category that embraces negative prefixes.
    – fdb
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 12:54

If I am interpreting this question correctly, I do believe that there are a few examples of this. From Book I of Vergil's Aeneid:

586 Vix ea fatus erat, cum circumfusa repente

587 scindit se nubes et in aethera purgat apertum.

588 Restitit Aeneas claraque in luce refulsit,

589 os umerosque deo similis; namque ipsa decoram

590 caesariem nato genetrix lumenque iuventae

591 purpureum et laetos oculis adflarat honores:

592 quale manus addunt ebori decus, aut ubi flavo

593 argentum Pariusve lapis circumdatur auro.*

Here we see the words circumfusa, from circumfundo, circumfundere, circumfudi, circumfusus meaning "pour around" and circumdatur, from circumdo, circumdare, circumdedi, circumdatus meaning "surround" or "envelop".

The other example I can think of off the top of my head would be concresco, which was referenced in a question earlier this month.

There is a helpful list on the Tuft's website with many different compound verbs; examples of verbs with preposition prefixes are about halfway down the page.

  • 4
    Sorry, I didn't make it explicit in my original question, but I was referring to double prefix chaining. :)
    – brianpck
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 13:28
  • Couldn't "circumdatur auro" literally mean "gone round with gold" as in the gold goes around it? That's cool -- I've gotta use that one instead of "est circum..." Commented May 9, 2018 at 18:14

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