(This is more of a reference request than a question, since I'm looking for a more detailed discussion than is normal for an SE answer.)
The Greek adjectives for "good" and "bad" each have several irregular comparative and superlative forms from different stems:
- "better": ἀμείνων, βελτίων, κρείττων, λῴων
- "best": ἄριστος, βέλτιστος, κράτιστος, λῷστος
- "worse": κακίων, χείρων, ἥττων
- "worst": κάκιστος, χείριστος
(This isn't a complete list — there are some rarer forms I'm omitting.)
Smyth (319) has a short discussion of the semantic differences:
ἀμείνων, ἄριστος express aptitude, capacity or worth (able, brave, excellent); βελτίων, βέλτιστος, a moral idea (virtuous); κρείττων, κράτιστος, force and superiority (strong) (ἥττων is the opposite of κρείττων); λῴων means more desirable, more agreeable (ὦ λῷστε my good friend); κακίων, κάκιστος express moral perversity, cowardice; χείρων, χείριστος, insufficiency, lack of a quality (less good) (worthless, good for nothing is φαῦλος).
This is useful as far as it goes — but that's not very far. It's very terse and doesn't give examples, and it doesn't discuss the meanings of these forms when describing different kinds of referents (e.g. how does the meaning of βελτίων differ when applied to a person than to a thing?) Also, it says nothing of genre or period, but the usage of e.g. Homer and Plato are presumably different. So I'm looking for a fuller examination of some or all of these forms, with examples of their usage in Greek authors. Does anyone know of such a discussion?