Adjectives with Irregular Comparatives and Superlatives

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Regular comparative and superlative forms aren’t a big issue for most Latin students, with the “-ior, -ius” endings creating the comparative and the “-issimus, -a, -um” endings creating the superlative. Issues do start to pop up though when they see adjectives that have irregular comparatives or superlatives. These words just need to be memorized which can be done in a relatively short period of time as there are not many (fifteen) totals to learn.

Evolution of Irregular Comparative and Superlative Forms

One of the most difficult aspects for students learning Latin is conjugating verbs. However, if one closely examines how irregular forms are formed from regular comparative and superlative adjectives, it becomes much easier to remember them as they evolved. For example, “magnus,” which means great or large in English has a comparative form of “maior” meaning greater than something else while its superlative form is “maximus” meaning biggest or largest; clearly these words came by altering an earlier word such as magnius that was perhaps used originally with less frequency until later adding more syllables to create their end result.

More Unusual Comparatives and Superlatives

Some comparative and superlative forms, though, are so different from the positive form, that the student must fall back on straight memorization, like the adjective “malus, -a, -um”, which has the comparative “peior, peius” and the superlative “pessimus, -a, -um”. For these adjectives the positive, comparative, and superlative forms may have evolved from different source words. See below for a full list of adjectives with irregular comparatives and/or superlatives.

List of Latin Adjectives with Irregular Comparatives and Superlatives

PositiveComparativeSuperlative
bonus, -a, -um (good)melior, melius (better)optimus, -a, -um (best)
malus, -a, -um (bad)peior, peius (worse)pessimus, -a, -um (worst)
māgnus, -a, -um (big/great)maior, maius (bigger/greater)maximus, -a, -um (biggest/greatest)
parvus, -a, -um (small)minor, minus (smaller)minimus, -a, -um (smallest)
multus, -a, -um (much)—-, plus (more)plūrimus, -a, -um (very much)
multī, -ae, -a (many)plūrēs, plura (more)plūrimī, -ae, -a (most/very many)
īnferus, -a, -um (below)īnferior, īnferius (lower)īnfimus, -a, -um (īmus, -a, -um) (lowest)
superus, -a, -um (above)superior, superius (higher)summus, -a, -um (highest/furthest) suprēmus, -a, -um (highest/last)
inter [prep.] (between/amid)interior, interius (inner/interior)intimus, -a, -um (innermost)
exterus, -a, -um (foreign)exterior, exterius (outer)extrēmus, -a, -um (outermost)
pro/prae [prep.] (before/in front of)prior, prius (former/previous)prīmus, -a, -um (first)
prope [prep.] (near)propior, propius (nearer)proximus, -a, -um (nearest)
ultra [prep.] (beyond/on other side of)ulterior, ulterius (farther/beyond)ultimus, -a, -um (farthest/most distant)
senex, senis (old/aged)senior, senius (older)senissimus, -a, -um (oldest)
iuvenis, iuvenis (young)iunior, iunius (younger)iuvenissimus, -a, -um (youngest)

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