To my surprise, the English Wikipedia article about the concept of homines novi is called Novus Homo, not homo novus as I would expect.

I have been taught that Latin order is almost always substantive – adjective (fenestra aperta) as opposed to English or German (open window, offenes Fenster). The original Latin texts I have read and remember all talk about homo novus, not novus homo.

Since when has novus homo been used as a substitute for homo novus, or vice versa, depending which one has been coined first?


1 Answer 1


While it's true that it's "standard" for the adjective to follow the noun, Latin word order is VERY flexible, and a noun following an adjective is not at all unusual. A quick search of the corpus at http://latin.packhum.org/search reveals that both appear more or less equally.

  • +1: Thanks a lot for your answer. Would you mind sharing the link of your search?
    – Narusan
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 20:07
  • I just added a link to the corpus I searched. Under "about" there are instructions on how to search in various ways. Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 20:13
  • 5
    @Narusan I see a Plautus reference to novi homines and a novi hominis in Terence Hecyra 439, several forms in Cicero, as well as novis rebus in Caesar and other instances where novus precedes the noun, all by page 6. You have to play around with the searches a little bit to see the full range. I don't know, though, when the internet decided the standard homo novus ought to be written novus homo, as you're right that the "term" is the former, even if technically the latter is grammatically correct.
    – cmw
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 20:33
  • 3
    @Narusan The English textbooks do, too. As did Colleen McCullough's novels. I really don't know when people started using it the other way around. Very interesting.
    – cmw
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 21:48
  • 2
    You can also search for all combinations and cases at once using #hom ~ #nov, but you will have to weed out a number of false positives. It also catches things like novi quidam homines (Cicero) since the two words don't have to be adjacent when you use ~. (@C.M.Weimer I corrected your typo.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 23:32

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