I have the impression that the ending -m appears on neuter nouns (in the nominative/accusative form) only in the second declension, but I don't know whether there are any exceptions. Is there any example of a neuter noun ending in -m that belongs to a declension other than the second?

I know that Latin nouns sometimes had multiple declension patterns or multiple genders. For the purpose of this question, I'd accept a word that belongs to multiple declensions/genders, as long as it's clear that the neuter nominative/accusative form ending in -m isn't just part of a complete regular second-declension paradigm.

If no such words exist, I would be interested in knowing whether there is any etymological explanation.


3 Answers 3

  • Bethlehem, n., indecl. Though a borrowing, clearly does not belong to the second declension. Note that there is also the alternative Bethlehemum, -i, which does belong to the 2nd.

I suspect there are no native Latin words, but it's just a suspicion with no etymological explanation. I'm certain other users could help with that. We have a number of experts in PIE here)

  • If you're looking for the etymology, it's from Hebrew beith leħem, "house of bread".
    – Draconis
    Feb 27, 2019 at 21:03
  • 1
    Thanks! Even though the -m here clearly does not originate from the Indo-European -m suffix, there's the interesting mention of the adjective "Bethlaeus" where the "m" is removed, which suggests to me that Romans might not have necessarily felt a strong distinction between word-final -m here and in other words.
    – Asteroides
    Feb 27, 2019 at 21:03

The etymological explanation (which of course only takes the question a stage further back) is that in PIE, thematic inanimate nouns had the nom./acc. sg. ending *-om, while athematic inanimate nouns had a zero ending. The former became Latin second-declension neuters, the latter third-declension neuters.

This is only a partial explanation in that one might have expected some athematic inanimates with a stem ending in -m to have survived in the Latin third declension, but if there were any such nouns, none seem to have survived into Latin.


I hadn't noticed this when I posted the question, but it turned out that the Wiktionary list that I mentioned in the original question contained at least one genuine word of interest. The word jūgerum/iūgerum is a second-declension form, but it seems that in the plural oblique cases we almost always see third-declension forms (jūgerum and jūgeribus; with jūgerīs as an alternative ablative form attested in Varro's Res Rusticae). This is confirmed by the Lewis and Short entry.

Wiktionary says that there is no attested third-declension singular nominative/accusative form.

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