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Both "meridiem" and "mediam diem" seem to have carried both the meaning "midday" and "(the) south" in Latin, if their Romance descendants are any indication.

From "meridiem", we get apparently Italian "meriggio" and Portuguese "meridio" (and English "meridian").

From "mediam diem", we get apparently Italian "mezzodi" and Portuguese "meio-dia".

Were there any differences in usage between "meridiem" and "mediam diem"? Was one more formal and one less? How did they come to be in competition?

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I wouldn't say that any of these is 'in competition'. There are differences, as you suspect, but it's not too difficult to understand them.

meridies is used in the same way as English 'noon', or French 'midi', i.e. the single point in time.

Less precisely, an interval of time at the middle of the day is meridianum tempus.

ad mediam diem means 'towards the middle of the day' — by which the approach of either of the two previous alternatives is indicated.

  • so would your suggestion be that in classical Latin, mediam diem appeared as part of phrases like ad mediam diem, and only in later Latin became lexicalized and conflated in meaning to meridiem? – Colin Jan 23 at 15:46
  • @Colin I can't really speak about later Latin, but meridies is certainly classical, and supposedly is conflated from merus (pure) rather than medius/-a and dies. – Tom Cotton Jan 23 at 16:54
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    I think meridies is a dissimilation of medidies (at least that's what wiktionary says). – Colin Jan 23 at 18:38
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    tempus is neuter. – fdb Jan 24 at 12:47
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    @Colin Yes, I agree that a derivation from merus is probably nonsense (I did say supposedly!). – Tom Cotton Jan 24 at 17:12

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