I seem to remember reading that iuvenis referred to someone roughly between 15 and 30. However, my Collins Latin Dictionary states it refers to someone between 30 and 45. Since a man could serve as praetor or consul at around the 40 year old mark, this seems highly unlikely. Even today, I doubt if a 44-year-old would be considered "young", except perhaps by an octogenarian! Have Collins got it wrong? Sorry if this is a bit basic, so is my Latin at present.

  • 2
    Reminds me of the song Gaudeamus igitur
    – spex
    Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 2:36
  • 1
    There is an overlap of social use and literal use: e.g. infans in law means under 18; infans in daily use means younger than puer. Hence a king with a white beard is "Iuvenis" in the spandrel of MS Arundel 83 126v; juxtaposed with iuvenis in sequence between adolescens and vir quasi rex (circa 1310)
    – Hugh
    Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 14:57

3 Answers 3


Others pointed out the dictionary definition of iuvenis, but it would help to have a solid example. In Livy book 21.50, Ti. Sempronius met with Hiero at Syracuse.

statum deinde insulae et Carthaginiensium conata exposuit pollicitusque est, quo animo priore bello populum Romanum iuvenis adiuvisset, eo senem adiuturum; frumentum vestimentaque sese legionibus consulis sociisque navalibus gratis praeliturum; grande periculum Lilybaeo maritimisque civitatibus esse, et quibusdam volentibus novas res fore.

He then described conditions in the island and the attempts made by the Carthaginians, and promised that with the same spirit with which, in his youth, he had helped the Roman People in the former war he would help them now, as an old man, and would furnish corn and clothing gratis to the legions of the consul and the naval allies.

We don't know exactly when Hiero was born, but it was at least 307. The war in which he was talking about was in 264, when, according to Dio Cassius (fr. Vat. 57) and Zonarius (8.6), he helped the Romans to the chagrin of the Carthaginians during the First Punic War. This would have made him a forty-three year old iuvenis.

Livy (24.4) also knew how old he was, as he said he was 90 when he died in 215. Even if he was off a few years, that still puts him in or near the 40s as a iuvenis.

  • 2
    Excellent! This addresses the point that is actually contentious.
    – brianpck
    Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 14:27
  • 1
    Good find! One thing to consider is that Livy wrote several centuries after Hero's birth. Did he know how old Hiero was exactly at the time in question?
    – Cerberus
    Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 17:18
  • 1
    @TheHonRose There's also the adjective iuvenis, which really does mean "youth," but from what I understand the noun had become codified as a particular age set.
    – cmw
    Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 18:17
  • 1
    @Cerberus Good point! He does, and I added a paragraph to address that.
    – cmw
    Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 20:02
  • 2
    @brianpck Undoubtedly more sources are needed, and I can keep gathering sources when I have more time, but were it simply the case of contrast, I suspect we would have seen iunior. Note that in Polybius, Hiero in his thirties is called neon.
    – cmw
    Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 20:55

From Lewis and Short:

Subst.: jŭvĕnis, is, comm., one who is in the flower of his or her age (mostly of persons older than adolescentes and younger than seniores, i.e. between twenty and forty years)

Lewis' Elementary Latin Dictionary says the same:

As subst m. and f one in the flower of age, a young person, youth (i.e. between twenty and forty years)

These are the only two I've found which mention specific ages, but other dictionaries imply an age closer to 20 than 40 as well.

  • 4
    I'm glad to hear I'm still in my youth. I was starting to think otherwise.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 23:05
  • 1
    Well, I'm definitely senex, but 'prime of life', as I read L&S flower seems more reasonable!
    – TheHonRose
    Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 3:40

A iuvenis was probably between the ages of the earliest adulthood and early forties, although the word could also be used more casually for anyone who was "youngish".

The Oxford Latin Dictionary (1968) has the following:

A young man, youth (technically, any adult male up to the age of 45)

I'm not entirely sure what they mean by technically, but presumably the Romans made a distinction between casual use (any youngish man) and more precise or even legal use. Unfortunately, no source is mentioned, nor is one obvious from the quotations.

Lewis & Short say this:

one who is in the flower of his or her age (mostly of persons older than adolescentes and younger than seniores, i. e. between twenty and forty years), a young person, a young man, a young woman

They do not mention any source either, but they seem less positive about the specific limits than the Oxford does. In addition, I think a iuvenis is normally a man; women are probably far less frequently so called.

  • 1
    I think it would be really helpful to find a classical usage of iuvenis for someone on the higher end of that spectrum.
    – brianpck
    Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 4:36
  • 2
    @brianpck Done.
    – cmw
    Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 5:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.