Not all words have had a single spelling across all eras and contexts. For example, the past participle of the English word "cleave" can be written as "cleft", "cleaved", or "cloven". Rare misspellings do not count; I am interested in intentional spellings. In some cases the spelling variations extend through all inflection, sometimes they are restricted to few individual forms. Either kind is fine.

Which Latin word has the most spelling variants? The spellings can be from different eras.

The main reasons for spelling variations (that I can think of) are hypercorrection (e.g. c > ch) and changes in pronunciation (e.g. -os > -us or ae > e). But it is not obvious which word has the most attested variants just by looking at the general possible patterns.


The best word I know in this sense is lacrima with six variants. I have seen these spellings in dictionaries and elsewhere:

  • lacrima
  • lacruma
  • lachryma
  • lacryma
  • dacrima
  • dacruma

These variations are due to the sound change d > l and the typical hypercorrections c > ch and i > y.

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  • @sumelic By "regular" I meant "not restricted to this specific instance", but in retrospect it was a bad choice of words. I removed "regular". There are indeed many instances of d still in Latin. Actually, studying the d~l variation would make a nice new question. – Joonas Ilmavirta Jun 21 '18 at 7:46
  • Yes, I just had the same thought. I will try to find out if the idea that /l/ here came from *dl- is supported by other sources. – Asteroides Jun 21 '18 at 7:48

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