The word homicida is attested in classical Latin, and the English "homicide" is an obvious loan. The word seems to come from homo and caedere. Why is the first part homi- instead of homini-? The stem of homo appears to be homin-, not hom-, and I'm not aware of any special role of ‑in-. Are there other similar examples that might help understand this by analogy?


Others more versed in historical linguistics may offer a more nuanced offer, but -cida, like a good many suffixes, are attached to the nominative and not formed from the root. The -i instead of -o is then due to weakening of an unaccented vowel. Cf. musculus, muscerdae, minusculus, or paterculus, all of which are formed from the nominative.

I'm not sure if this has been suggested (de Vaan is unhelpful), but I imagine forms like matricida were based on analogy with parricida, which despite its late meaning likely did not come from pater. de Vaan further notes (pp. 447-448):

The absence of syncope to *parkaida suggests parricida is a relatively recent compound. For a recent formation, par 'equal' is the most obvious candidate.

  • When you say that musculus and minusculus are formed from the nominative, do you mean just synchronically, or also diachronically? The words mus and minus do seem to have historically had /s/ in their stems, although by the time of Classical Latin this had been rhotacized to /r/. So it seems hard to me to tell if the s in the diminutive forms was originally from the nominative
    – Asteroides
    Sep 21 '17 at 17:37
  • 1
    @sumelic I am under the impression that it's historical. Paterculus would be a more solid example. I cannot speak to why it's Agricola or iunonicola, though, and I hope that others could fill in gaps there. Alas, my Sihler is packed away and out of reach.
    – cmw
    Sep 21 '17 at 18:13
  • With "agricola", I think it's related to what AlexB says in the following answer about "ager" originally having agr- in all forms (with the nominative form "agros") latin.stackexchange.com/a/382/9 while "pater" had a vowel between the "t" and "r" in at least some forms in PIE
    – Asteroides
    Sep 21 '17 at 18:29
  • @sumelic Ah, that does make sense. None of that would be helpful, though, without some sense of when these words formed. More research is needed.
    – cmw
    Sep 21 '17 at 19:09

I don't know of an accepted answer to this question, but I will offer two alternative possibilities:

1) It's merely a case of phonetic simplification, i.e., an earlier *hominicida was replaced by homicida simply because the latter was easier to say. This is known as haplology.

2) If the PIE ancestor of L. homo goes back to something like *(dh)ghemon, then one can possibly imagine a combining form *homi- derived from a zero-grade *gh(e/o)mn̥, but since the regular reflex of PIE is en, this would work only assuming an irregular dropping of the n in this word, which makes it a lot less likely than possibility (1).


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