What would be a good way to coin an English word for "to make hill-shaped", so it conforms to our traditions for drawing upon classical roots?

One possibility is "collify", with "collification" for the noun, from an imaginary Latin word collificare. I don't think "collify" suggests its meaning, though. Does the Latin word collis appear in any English words?

Another possibility is to draw upon tumulus, which echoes in English "tumescence" and "tumor". There is also an English word "tumulus", meaning a burial mound. Hmm, tumuli have exactly the shape I want to suggest. How, in Latin, would one make a verb for "to make tumulus-like"?

The intended context for this word is to describe modification of fitness landscapes in genetic/evolutionary algorithms to make them smoother and thus (mathematically, heuristically) easier to "climb". Fitness landscapes that are very un-hill-shaped are commonly called "rough", so another possible Latin root to draw upon is lēvis.

If no Latin root works, I may have to go with Greek or else the ugly hybrid "hillify".


The paper with the neologism has been published! Thanks to all for the suggestions.

Kovitz, B., Bender, D., & Poffald, M. (2019, July). Acclivation of Virtual Fitness Landscapes. In The 2019 Conference on Artificial Life: A Hybrid of the European Conference on Artificial Life (ECAL) and the International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems (ALIFE) (pp. 380-387).

  • 4
    Neither a neologism nor Latin, but the verb hill has pretty much this meaning (“to form into a hill or heap”). Apr 14, 2017 at 14:34

3 Answers 3


I suggest using clivus or mons for "hill". Especially the second one is easily recognized, and I believe many English speakers would understand the verb "montify" (< montificare) in context.

The word clivus might not be as easily recognized, but it might still work well and it leads to natural-sounding derivatives in English. Starting from clivus or a corresponding adjective acclivus, one can derive (ac)clivare which can be rendered in English as "(ac)clivate". It seems that "acclivated" already exists and has a similar meaning.

  • Say, is there any relation between clivus and clino (suggested at Wiktionary? The latter is echoed in English "inclination" and similar words. If that connection is real, pointing it out to my audience might help "acclivate" activate the "hill-shaped" or "sloping" concept in their minds.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Apr 14, 2017 at 20:24
  • @BenKovitz I don't know, but that would make an interesting etymological question.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Apr 14, 2017 at 20:27
  • Good idea.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Apr 14, 2017 at 20:37
  • I found a reasonably well-known English cognate: declivity. (I'm still not sure what is the difference between a downward slope and an upward slope. But the notion of "slope" is perfect for the concept I'm trying to name.)
    – Ben Kovitz
    Apr 14, 2017 at 20:40
  • @BenKovitz Perhaps "declivate" or "declinate" could work as well. But since you are not making an uphill or a downhill but a hill that goes both ways (this does not sound entirely sane, does it?), how about just "clivate" without the ac-? Perhaps "montify" would be clearer even if it focuses more on the mountain rather than the slopes at its sides.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Apr 14, 2017 at 20:46

Though this may not entirely appropriate, the first thing that came to my mind was the Vulgate's rendering of Isaiah 40:4,

omnis vallis exaltabitur et omnis mons et collis humiliabitur et erunt prava in directa et aspera in vias planas.

The KJV version (as used by Händel) translates as:

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.

These words mostly refer to removing height differences, not softening them. Here are some other possible words. I have included an English dictionary link and definition where available:

  • lenify / lenification: alleviate, assuage, mitigate, soften
  • levigate / levigation: to rub, grind, or reduce to a fine powder, as in a mortar, with or without the addition of a liquid. (From Latin levigo / levigatio: "to make smooth, to smooth")

However, unless I'm really misunderstanding your use case, I think such a neologism would be pointless, since we already have from statistics the concept of data set smoothing.

  • A reference to a famous Biblical passage would be a great way to explain a neologism at a scientific conference on evolution! And thanks for ''lenify'' and ''levigate'': possibilities with already existing English usage.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Apr 14, 2017 at 17:24
  • Re your last paragraph: I want to avoid bringing to mind smoothing a data set, since that's approximation, a subtly different idea. In this topic, "hill-shaped" has a very salient meaning: you'll find the peak by always crawling in the direction that locally appears "up". The concept I have in mind is imposing a new topology onto a rough landscape, sort of like corrective lenses, so it "looks" more hill-shaped—_is_ more hill-shaped for purposes of climbing it. IOW, not pretending data is smooth, but finding smooth paths through rough reality.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Apr 14, 2017 at 17:52
  • @BenKovitz I hope you are modifying topography, not topology. It sounds to me like you want to exaggerate some features so that the algorithm can see them. // Would something like "montify" or "(ac)clivate" sound good to you?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Apr 14, 2017 at 19:51
  • @JoonasIlmavirta I suppose one could say that an imposed topology makes the topography more hill-shaped. The idea is not to exaggerate features but to change the paths along which an algorithm searches for the peak—"jumping around" in the original topology but climbing along a smooth path in the imposed topology. "Montify" and "acclivate" both sound good! "Acclivate" is probably better. Post an answer!
    – Ben Kovitz
    Apr 14, 2017 at 19:58
  • @JoonasIlmavirta "Acclivate" appears to have established usage, even! en.wiktionary.org/wiki/acclivated
    – Ben Kovitz
    Apr 14, 2017 at 20:11

Mark Antony used "arrigare" for "tumesce" in his letter to Octavian. (As quoted in Suetonius's Life of Augustus "An refert, ubi et in qua tu arrigas?" at the conclusion of Antony's response to Octavian's accusation that he is having an affair with a foreign queen, he defends himself by saying that that woman is his wife and Octavian cheats on his wife all the time and that doesn't seem to matter. Yes, the interplay between politics and sexual morality hasn't changed a ton in 2000 years.)

It's an interesting verb, since it's not easy to translate into English with a single word (though "tumesce" would work literally). So maybe it could be the basis for coining an English word, though admittedly I initially misread the question, assuming that the asker was looking for a Latin word. Although as I think about it, maybe it's not even that good a lead since what makes it difficult to translate is that it's intransitive. English already has a cognate transitive verb, which is what the asker is looking for. But, if you need to coin an intransitive one, maybe look here for a loan word.

  • Interesting word. Could you elaborate on your suggestion a bit?
    – Cerberus
    Aug 14, 2019 at 3:47

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