I am not familiar with any mentions of bullying in Roman literature, so I would like to ask for good words for the phenomenon in classical Latin. I would like something that is suitable for bullying in a school, but other similar contexts are also fine. I have found some words that might be suitable, but I can't quite judge which ones would be most appropriate or if I have missed something.

I could identify four important word types related to bullying. Since I assume them to be related — probably three others derived from one of the words — I chose to ask about four words in one. Here are the words with my suggestions:

  1. The verb "to bully": molestare, cavillari, vexare, angere
  2. The noun "bullying" for the phenomenon: vexatio, molestatio, cavillatio, molestia, incommodum, fastidium
  3. The noun "bully" for the person bullying: vexator, tortor, diabolus
  4. A noun for the person being bullied: vexatus, tortus, molestatus

What quadruplet of words would you suggest and why?

(In Finnish the four words would be "kiusata", "kiusaaminen", "kiusaaja", and "kiusattu", all derived from the verb "kiusata". These are all frequent words in related discussions, so I would prefer to have Latin counterparts to be able to discuss the matter in Latin.)

  • Could you tell me what texts you used? I am a Latin teacher from Belgium and i am supposed to introduce the theme (school) bullying in Latin texts but it's hard to find appropriate material. Greetings david Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 10:47
  • @DavidJanssens For this question I didn't use any texts, really. I tried searching online to little avail, and then I looked up possible words in some online Latin dictionary. If you want to find Latin texts on a specific topic, I recommend asking a new question. Just click the "ask question" button and ask away!
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 4:06

1 Answer 1


I would suggest using a quadruplet of words that is obviously etymologically related. This underlines that the four words refer to the same phenomenon. Of course other options could be used in a longer text for variation, but too much variation can be confusing.

This seems to lead to two main options (with some derivatives of molestare not listed in the OP):

  1. molestare/molestatio/molestator/molestatus
  2. vexare/vexatio/vexator/vexatus

Based on the dictionaries I looked at, molestare seems to be milder. It is closer to "annoying" than "bullying", and using it can downplay the effect bullying has. Therefore I would go with vexare and its derivatives.

  • I have marked this as accepted, but I will be happy to accept a new answer if someone has more thoughts on the matter.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 10:41

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