I can't understand what ūnō means in this sentence, or what grammatical role it provides:

uxor quae bona est ūnō uirō est contenta.

The sentence is from page 70 of A Latin Grammar by James Morwood, Oxford University Press, 1999. The specific chapter deals with relative clauses.

I believe that uirō est contenta (a/the man is content) is the main clause and that uxor quae bona est (a/the wife that is good) is a subordinate clause. But that's as far as I can get.

Given these two clauses, I can't come up with an English translation that makes any sense. It seems to me that ūnō must mean more than simply "one" here. Is ūnō being used as a relative pronoun?


2 Answers 2


The adjective contentus (satisfied, content) can be modified with ablative. For example, viro contentus means "satisfied with a/the man". In your case the attribute has two words: unus vir (uno viro in ablative).

Therefore I would translate like this:

Uxor, quae bona est, uno viro est contenta.
A wife, who is good, is satisfied with one man.

I added commas to make the relative clause clearer in both languages. If you drop the relative clause altogether, you can see more clearly how contenta works together with uxor and the ablative attribute.

Let me also comment on your attempted translation.

  • If you want to say "a man is satisfied", you should write vir est contentus. Notice that vir is the subject and therefore in nominative, and contentus follows the gender of vir. Therefore translating viro est content as "man is satisfied" fails for two reasons.
  • The relative pronoun is quae and the relative clause is quae bona est. A relative clause can well be inside the main clause. The main clause is Uxor uno viro est contenta.
  • The numeral uno can be thought of as an adjective attribute of of viro. It just emphasizes that a wife should be satisfied with one man.

Added note: One could read the sentence as Uxor, quae bona est uno viro, est contenta ("A wife, who is good to one man, is content"). This feels unlikely to me, but it is grammatically a valid interpretation.

  • This answer is correct, apart from the fact that in ENGLISH we do not use commas around restrictive relative clauses. It should read "A wife who is good..." In German, and I suspect in Finnish, it works differently.
    – fdb
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 18:44
  • @fdb, I know. I added the commas for clarity to emphasize the limits of the relative clause and make it easier to compare the structures in the two languages.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 18:58

I suspect one of the things that's throwing you off is the word order: it would have been much easier if the sentence had been

uxor quae bona est contenta est ūnō uirō.

However, that order feels sort of strange. The thing to remember is that Latin word order is very flexible (though not infinitely flexible), and often words that appear right next to each other don't go together grammatically. This is one of the things that can make Latin very difficult, so even in short sentences it's a good idea to keep track of the endings of all the words. As @JoonasIlmavirta says, "the man is content" would be something like vir est contentus. But virō tells you that "the man" is singular, masculine, and in the dative or ablative case, and contenta tells you that "content" is singular, feminine, and in the nominative case (alternatively it could be plural, neuter, and in the nominative or accusative case, but there's nothing neuter in the sentence for it to go with). Even if you could put "the man" and "content" together in English, in Latin the endings show they can't go together, so that's ruled out.

  • I agree the sentence might have been easier to parse with the word order you propose, but it does feel less natural to me. It also occurs to me now that one could read the original as Uxor, quae bona est uno viro, est contenta "A wife, who is good to one man, is content". The word order restricts what can be included in the subordinate clause.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 14:51
  • Oh, yes, the order I suggested is very unnatural and un-Latin. I'll add that to my answer. Commented May 7, 2016 at 14:52

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