Is there a Latin adjective which means "vegetarian" or "plant-based" and can be applied to food? In this context, I don't need to make a distinction between vegetarian and vegan, for example; I just want something to indicate that food is based on plants. I want to apply the adjective to a meal or a food item, not a person or a diet. There is a separate question for diets.

I don't know how to derive "plant-based" in Latin. A new coinage is fine, as long as it is based on attested ideas of derivation or borrowing. Perhaps it would be easier to derive within Greek and then borrow to Latin? I pose no era restrictions here. I just want a way to say "today's dinner is entirely plant-based" and other similar phrases.

  • 1
    Why not say sine aliqua carne?
    – cmw
    Commented Dec 26, 2017 at 23:33
  • @C.M.Weimer Hmm... That's a possibility, but I'd still like to know if there's an adjective. A prepositional phrase and an adjective are not identical to use.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 6:56
  • herba, ae = plant; cibus, i = food
    – aquarius
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 22:34
  • 4
    I wonder whether holitorius could be used for this? Otherwise, I'd just say hodie holus tantum cenamus, 'today we dine only on vegatables' (on the model of Horace, Epistles 2.2.168).
    – cnread
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 23:02
  • @cnread Sounds promising. Do you want to post that as an answer? It's the best idea so far, I think.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Dec 28, 2017 at 19:13

3 Answers 3


I had thought that the adjective (h)olitorius, from the noun (h)olus, might work, since the meaning is 'of or concerned with vegetables.' But after looking at the attestations in the dictionaries and going through the search results on PHI, it doesn't appear that it was ever (at least in the extant literature, of course) used to describe food. It's mostly used as part of the name of the Forum Holitorium.

My new suggestion is hortulanus, 'of or belonging to a garden.' This is most commonly used, in its masculine forms, as a word for 'gardener'; but it also shows up in the name of a dish in Apicius (De re coquinaria 8.7.14):

Porcellum hortulanum: porcellus hortulanus exossatur per gulam in modum utris. mittitur in eo pullus isiciatus particulatim concisus, turdi, ficetulae, isicia de pulpa sua, lucanicae, dactili exossati, fabriles bulbi, cochleae exemptae, malvae, betae, porri, apium, cauliculi elixi, coriandrum, piper integrum, nuclei, ova XV superinfunduntur, liquamen piperatum [ova mittantur tria]. et consuitur et praeduratur. in furno assatur. deinde a dorso scinditur, et iure hoc perfunditur. piper teritur, ruta, liquamen, passum, mel, oleum modicum. cum bullierit, amulum mittitur.

Pig à la Jardinière

The pig is boned through the throat and filled with quenelles of chicken forcemeat, finely cut roast thrushes, fig-peckers, little sausage cakes, made of the pig's meat, Lucanian sausage, stoned dates, edible bulbs [glazed onions] snails taken out of the shell and poached mallows, leeks, beets, celery, cooked sprouts, coriander, whole pepper, nuts, 15 eggs poured over, broth, which is spiced with pepper, and diluted with 3 eggs; thereupon sew it tight, stiffen, and roast in the oven. When done, open the back of the pig and pour over the following sauce: crushed pepper, rue, broth, raisin wine, honey and a little oil, which when boiling is tied with roux.

(Translation from LacusCurtius)

Obviously, this dish is hardly vegetarian; however, in modern Italian cookery, dishes that are, if not totally vegetarian, at least very decidedly vegetable-based are sometimes referred to by using the descendent of this word – e.g., penne ortolano or rigatoni all'ortolana.


herbidus, a, um, adj. = grassy;

herbifer, era, erum, adj. = full of herbs

'hodie cena nostra est herbosa'= today our dinner is herbaceous.

  • 2
    Again, welcome to the site! Could you expand on this answer, perhaps including a quote or two where these adjectives are used if they are from actual sources?
    – Sam K
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 23:10
  • I placed a sentence in my answer. I don't have a Roman text to quote where herbifer is used, if that is what you mean by 'actual source'. I am only a student of Latin, not an authority, but I did check my work with hard copy texts. Pls correct where needed.
    – aquarius
    Commented Dec 28, 2017 at 2:01
  • 1
    It appears that your sentence would actually mean something more like 'our dinner today is covered with grass,' since the adj. herbifer is used to describe hills, mountains, and river banks in the extant classical literature (as is herbidus). However, there's a similar adj, herbosus, meaning 'full of greenstuff, herbs, etc.,' and there's ancient precedent for using it to talk about a dish. Ovid, Fasti 4.367–8 has '"non pudet herbosum" dixi "posuisse moretum / in dominae mensis..."' That's still not quite the same as 'vegetarian,' but it's a bit closer.
    – cnread
    Commented Dec 28, 2017 at 4:36
  • well, we probably would not want to say 'our dinner today is covered with grass', unless we were feeding livestock. My dictionary has herbidous and herbosus both=grassy. Herbifer = full of grass or herbs, bearing magical or medicinal plants. However, it does not say whether it is referring to a hillside or a salad. I will defer, especially since you have a reference. Please translate the quote, I got as far as 'he is not ashamed .....' I said, ' ...../ in the master's meal.'
    – aquarius
    Commented Dec 28, 2017 at 13:23
  • @aquarius The quote says, "'one does not feel ashamed,' I said, 'to have placed a grassy dish on the mistress' tables ...'" :)
    – Penelope
    Commented Dec 29, 2017 at 6:10

For actual vegetarian comestibles, I'd use something like oleredenda (olus, -eris + edo). It contains the essential ideas of 'vegetables' and (through the gerundive form) 'fitness to be eaten', which seem to me the very essence of vegetarianism.

For the adjective that you are actually trying to find, surely oleredendus would fill the bill?

[I realize that you aren't looking for a word for a person or a diet, but for completeness I suggest, if the need should arise, oleredarius.]

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