So I'm experimenting with some character concepts for a story dealing with Platonic Forms.

So far I have Forma Spatii (the Form of Space) and Forma Tempii (the Form of Time) as characters, as well as Forma Formarum (the Form of Forms).

And I've had this idea of a Form of Formlessness, but I'm not sure how to translate it. Note that Formlessness should be in singular genitive.

Any help will be appreciated.

  • 1
    What word is "Tempii"? As far as I know, the genitive of "tempus" is "temporis"
    – Asteroides
    Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 22:43
  • It's a variant, I think. Click on "tempus" in the following link. glosbe.com/en/la/time
    – M. Astner
    Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 22:47
  • Thanks. But at the moment I'm more interested in a translation for formlessness.
    – M. Astner
    Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 23:00
  • Plato's "form" is not "forma", but "idea".
    – fdb
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 10:49
  • @fdb, forma (rerum) is used as the Latin translation of ἰδέα by both Cicero (Orator 10: has rerum formas appellat ἰδέας ... Plato) and Apuleius (De Platone et eius dogmate 1.5: initia rerum esse tria arbitratur Plato: deum et materiam inabsolutam, informem ... rerumque formas, quas ἰδέας idem uocat).
    – cnread
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 17:12

1 Answer 1


According to the Oxford Latin Dictionary, the third-declension adjective informis means:

1 Having no definite or regular shape, formless, featureless, or sim. b (of an abstract idea, institution, or sim.) not having a material form. c bodiless, disembodied.

Although no related noun is attested in Classical Latin, it's simple enough to derive one on the model of, e.g., brevis > brevitas. So, if you're open to using a neologism, the noun informitas (genitive singular informitatis) would be one possibility.

Also, note that Forma Tempii doesn't mean 'the Form of Time'; the phrase should be Forma Temporis, because tempus is a third-declension noun.

Update: As sumelic has noted, informitas actually is attested, though in Late Latin, and means 'unshapeliness, ugliness, deformity' (according to Lewis & Short, which I should have checked in addition to OLD to begin with). So, yes, my suggestion of Forma Informitatis might be misleading.

For alternatives, perhaps one can glean something from, e.g., book 1, lines 5–9 of Ovid's Metamorphoses, since that passage describes pre-creation formlessness:

ante mare et terras et quod tegit omnia caelum
unus erat toto naturae vultus in orbe,
quem dixere chaos: rudis indigestaque moles
nec quicquam nisi pondus iners congestaque eodem
non bene iunctarum discordia semina rerum.

Line 6–7 say that nature had one appearance in the whole world, and that this was called 'chaos.' L&S gives as definition II of chaos 'The confused, formless, primitive mass out of which the universe was made,' and OLD gives 'The formless state of primordial matter or the period of this state.' So maybe Forma Chai would work. The problem there is that it could be taken as chaos in the modern sense of the word. Maybe something can be done with the phrase rudis indigestaque moles instead.

Or, there's bound to be something in Lucretius.

Update 2: I note that Apuleius (De Platone et eius dogmate 1.5) uses the adjective informis specifically in the context of Plato's forms:

initia rerum esse tria arbitratur Plato: deum et materiam inabsolutam, informem, nulla specie nec qualitatis significatione distinctam, rerumque formas, quas ἰδέας idem uocat.

So, if one goes by classical meanings, I still think there's some justification for the noun informitas.

  • 2
    "informitas" does seem to be attested (or at least listed in some dictionaries), but it apparently has been used at times to mean "unshapeliness", i.e. "having an unpleasing physical form" rather than "lacking any physical form". It seems it can have the latter meaning, but it might be ambiguous
    – Asteroides
    Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 23:48
  • @sumelic. Thanks for alerting me to the late existence/usage of the noun informitas. Given the proliferation of such abstract nouns in late Latin, I should have known to check Lewis & Short and/or a medieval lexicon in addition to OLD. I've updated my answer.
    – cnread
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 1:30
  • Since chaos comes from Greek you could also use the Greek form of the genitive. Sounds a bit unnatural to me but I know straight-up Greek declension is attested in Latin.
    – Draconis
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 3:11
  • I think the idea is similar to how "lack of beauty" in English means "ugly." While forma can mean "shape," formosus indicates physical beauty.
    – cmw
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 18:33

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