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There seems to be a large number of verbs derived from plere, all meaning "to fill" to some extent: plere, supplere, complere, implere, explere, opplere. I understand that replere means "to refill" and deplere "to empty", but the the ones I listed seem to mean pretty much the same thing. Is there a rule of thumb for the differences between (some of) these verbs? Are there major differences that I should be aware of?

It doesn't have to be very precise; I am looking for a short overview of differences in context, nuance, or other. If two or more of these seem to be (almost) synonymous, I have nothing against it. Even if they are all effectively synonyms, so be it; lack of important differences would be useful knowledge. For a more fine-grained analysis, it is certainly better to compare less words at a time, but I hope my list of verbs is not unfeasibly long.

For definiteness, let me restrict this question to uses in classical Latin.

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This, from Dumesnil/Gossett, gives us most of them.

screenshot from a book

Here is a transliteration of the key content:

Implere is to fill what is quite empty.
Explere, to complete the filling up, or number. (Also to empty.)
Complere, to fill up to the top, or with many things.
Replere, to fill up again.
Opplere, to fill a surface all over.

It leaves out supplēre; from Jentzen's 1853 Liber Differentiārum Linguæ Latīnæ in Ūsū Juventūtis Literās Studiōsæ we get

Supplemus id, quod addimus, cum deerat.

which, in conjunction with the word "supplement," I take to comprise the idea of a needful or enhancing addition.

  • 2
    Thanks, this is great! I transliterated some of the image so as to make it searchable and accessible. – Joonas Ilmavirta Dec 9 '17 at 23:00

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