In Spanish we have two suffixes -al and -ar with the same meaning: "after a noun it indicates an abundance of the original word". So from naranjo ('orange tree') we have naranjal ('a group of orange trees'), and from melón ('melon') we have melonar ('a melon plantation').

Both suffixes come respectively from Latin -ālis and -āris. So what I want to know is:

  • Did both suffixes have the same meaning in the Classical Latin language as it happens in Spanish?
  • If so, was the meaning the one of "abundance" stated above? And was there a rule to know when to use the -ālis sufix and when to use the -āris suffix?
  • It seems plausible to me that some of the -ar come from -arium. Consider donarium, aerarium, herbarium, librarium, panarium, vivarium, violarium, rosarium, seminarium, spoliarium, which are places where something is stored or otherwise abundant. This is quite different from -aris. At least melonar sounds like -arium instead of -aris to me. Do you want to include -arium in the question or leave it out?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 10:39
  • 3
    @JoonasIlmavirta the -arium suffix seems different, and derived into the Spanish suffix -ario as in erario, herbario, rosario, seminario and others. It seems to be "place (or building) where the original noun is stored" more than just "an abundance of the original noun".
    – Charlie
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 10:50

1 Answer 1


They not only had the same meaning in Latin, they were the same suffix.

In Latin, the suffix -āli- (the -s at the end is the nominative ending, so not part of the suffix) formed adjectives from nouns. But when there was an l in the stem of the noun it was attached to, the suffix became -āri- by dissimilation: e.g. familia - familiāris. This is why Spanish melonar has -r rather than -l.

The meaning was more general than "abundant with [noun]" (as I believe is still the case in Spanish); these adjectives could mean "having to do with / associated with [noun]", "having [noun]", etc. Some examples (from Weiss 2009:518-9):

  • mors "death" - mortālis "mortal"
  • annus "year" - annālis "yearly"
  • anima "soul" - animālis "animate"
  • mīles "soldier" - mīlitāris "military"

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