I working on a literary piece and trying to find the first known use in Latin of of "pulcher" (feminine pulchra, neuter pulchrum, comparative pulchrior, superlative pulcherrimus), e.g., "first known use found in Virgil's . . . ".

I do not know Latin, nor am I at all acquainted with linguistics. If there are resources that would be accessible for a person like me (retired lawyer, in other words, I am not without reasoning capacity), I'd appreciate learning whatever you might suggest in this regard.

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    Which stage of Latin are you interested in? The word is understood to have come from Proto Indoeuropean. Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 12:02
  • @Wilson. de Vaan says it has "no etymology".
    – fdb
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 14:14
  • @fdb That's true. I can't say I agree with him though. Walde-Hoffman and Pokorny link it to a PIE word meaning variegated which seems legit to me. Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 14:17
  • Walde and Hoffman actually say "Et. unsicher; auch die Gbd. ist nicht sicher zu ermitteln." Re: the link to PIE *perk they say "Lautlich unkontrollierbar."
    – Alex B.
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 14:12
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    Thank you for those who responded to my request for assistance with finding the first known use in Latin of what became the English word "pulchritude." Your help is much appreciated. If anyone thinks of anything else which might be shared on this topic, feel free to do so, as I will continue to monitor this site. Best wishes to all. Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 14:57

1 Answer 1


According to De Vaan, its earliest known occurrence is in the works of Livius Andronicus:

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So its etymology is uncertain, but conexions with a Proto-Indo-European root have been suggested.

I could only find a single occurrence in Lucius Livius Andronicus, Tragoediae 40, mid-late 3rd century BC (text from the HP corpus):

dusmo ín loco

Puerárum manibus cónfectum pulcérrime

Quinquértiones praéco in medium próuocat.

  • What's up with the orthography in your quote? Does acute accent denote long vowel or stress? Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 14:18
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    @Wilson: I don't know what conventions the HP corpus uses (an explanation was not immediately accessible on the website), but those look like ictus, so having to do with stress or metre. Most probably unrelated to apices.
    – Cerberus
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 14:30
  • @ Cerberus It's definitely ictus.
    – Alex B.
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 1:31
  • The idea is that early Roman poetry was accentual, not quantitative.
    – fdb
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 10:30

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