Synizesis is the rare phenomenon where two vowels within a word that normally do not form a diphthong are nevertheless pronounced as such, and hence count as a single syllable in the metre. Under which circumstances does this happen in Latin? Or is it unpredictable?

  • I wonder whether this should be considered a duplicate of latin.stackexchange.com/questions/51/… ? Obviously synizesis is a particular type of elision, so maybe the answer is "no." Feb 29, 2016 at 11:29
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    @JoelDerfner: I see your point in that there are similarities between elision and synizesis. However, they are considered two distinct phenomena. Elision happens by default and is hence very frequent. It happens between words. Synizesis does not normally happen and it is rare. It happens within words.
    – Cerberus
    Feb 29, 2016 at 16:46
  • Yes, I see. Perhaps what's wanting is a more thorough answer to the elision question. Feb 29, 2016 at 16:55
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    @JoelDerfner: I'd say they are distinct phenomena: what rule applies to elision will not apply to synizesis and vice versa, so...
    – Cerberus
    Feb 29, 2016 at 17:00
  • Answer: When the line doesn't scan!
    – cmw
    Mar 5, 2016 at 2:54

1 Answer 1


There's not much literature on this subject -- maybe because synizesis is so rare. Aside from the obvious answer of "whenever the meter requires it", I couldn't find any hard-and-fast rules, just hints.

However, from what I could find, it's particularly common in...

  • the initial ea- and -eo of eadem and eodem.

  • words ending in -ea and -eo

  • the eu, ei and ea in Greek proper names

stolen almost verbatim from A Guide to Latin Meter and Verse Composition by David J. Califf, p.20

The author of the source above gives a few examples as well; for example:

ipse deus vatum palla spectabilis aurea

(Ov. Am. 1.8.59)

among others. See the linked source for details.

Aside from that, though, there really isn't much. A lot of it is very, very technical stuff that I can't quite read, but from what I understand is basically saying the same thing as Califf's book. A lot of the rest is intuitive stuff.


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