I would like to understand the formation of Latin compound words through the example of the word "helicopter". This obviously has a Greek origin, and I would like redo the construction with two Latin words.

I would translate helix as vertex and pteron as ala. But how do I combine the two analogously to the Greek helico-pteron? I'm not sure what to do with the first word. Can I go with vertici-ala? Or is this a situation where natural compounds are impossible although Latin does allow compound words?

  • I won't try to write Greek letters on the phone. If someone dislikes Latinised Greek, feel free to edit.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jul 2, 2018 at 0:11
  • What's wrong with helicopterum?
    – luchonacho
    Jul 2, 2018 at 8:57
  • @luchonacho I wanted to study the formation of such words in Latin, not find a Latin translation for a helicopter per se.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jul 2, 2018 at 13:18

1 Answer 1


The essence of the 'helicopter' idea is a rotating wing. The only possible words for wing here are ala and aliger, and I can think of two possibilities for introducing the 'rotatory' part. The adjective versatilis suggests the idea of a turning motion, while the noun turbo is used for any violent circular motion.

Accepting that any wing must imply the necessary lifting through the air, and that versatilis has less indication of force than turbo, this all leads me to propose turbinaliger, 'bearer of a fast-spinning wing' — which describes a helicopter quite neatly.

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