Appendix:Latin first declension

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Latin words of the first declension have an invariable stem and are typically of feminine grammatical gender. The predominant letter in the endings of this declension is a. The nominative singular form consists of the stem and the suffix -a, and the genitive singular form is the stem plus -ae.

A minority of first-declension nouns are masculine, in exception to the usual rule. Masculine first-declension nouns generally fall in one of the following categories:

  • a few common nouns referring to occupations not especially associated with women, such as agricola, agricolae m (farmer), nauta, nautae m (sailor), aurīga, aurīgae m (charioteer), pīrāta, pīrātae m (pirate), scrība, scrībae m (writer).
  • incola, incolae m (inhabitant) and a number of similarly formed compounds derived from verbs: the endings -cola (-worshipper; -inhabitant), -gena (-born), -cīda (-killer; -cutter) in particular show some productivity in forming new compounds.
  • Proper names of male persons (since these are always grammatically masculine in Latin, regardless of their form), e.g. Seneca, Caligula, Galba. Sometimes river names, which were often (but not always) masculine in Latin.
  • Nouns of foreign origin, including various nouns taken from Greek (see below).

Compounds of the incola type are usually grammatically masculine (like other masculine nouns, they can have generic signification when used indefinitely), but there are examples of some of them being treated as grammatically feminine when used with specific reference to a female person. Thus, dictionaries often categorize them as 'common gender' forms. They are often used attributively with other nouns. Examples of this in Classical Latin can often be interpreted as showing apposition of two nouns (a common construction in Latin). However, the distinction between nouns and adjectives in Latin was somewhat permeable, and some words of this type eventually came to show increasingly similar behavior to adjectives (for example, by being used to modify neuter nouns), with the result that a number are described by modern grammars or dictionaries as adjectives of common gender.

The first declension also holds three types of Greek nouns, derived from Ancient Greek's first (alpha) declension. They are declined irregularly in the singular. Occasionally, these Greek nouns may be declined as if they were native Latin nouns, e.g. nominative athlēta may be used instead of the original athlētēs.


  • The older genitive singular termination is -ās. This is often used with familia as in pater familiās and māter familiās.
  • In poetry, the genitive singular -āī occurs. Aquāī for aquae.
  • The genitive plural ending can appear as -um instead of -ārum in certain circumstances. Caelicolum for caelicolārum.
  • Because first declension nouns and second declension nouns display an –īs in the dative and ablative plural, words like equus (horse) and equa (mare) will end up looking alike in these cases. However, if a distinction must be made, equīs for 'mares' would become equābus in the dative and ablative plural. For this reason, the ending -ābus was regularly used in the dative and ablative plurals of the nouns dea (goddess) and filia (daughter).

Declension paradigms[edit]

Case Singular Plural
nominative -a -ae
genitive -ae -ārum
dative -ae -īs
accusative -am -ās
ablative -īs
vocative -a -ae



Number Singular Plural
Case / Gender Masc./Fem Neuter Masc./Fem Neuter
nominative -a -ae -a (?)
genitive -ae -ārum
dative -ae -īs
accusative -am -a -ās -a (?)
ablative -īs
vocative -a -ae -a (?)
  • Adjectives of the first declension are of "common" gender, meaning the same forms are used for masculine and feminine. The use of these adjectives with neuter nouns is very rare and poorly attested in Classical Latin, but there are a handful of examples showing neuter genitive singular ("Tempore rūricolae patiēns fit taurus arātrī", Ovid Tristia 4.6.1) or neuter ablative singular forms ("vīnō aliēnigenā", Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae and "dē indigenā vīnō", Pliny, Naturalis Historia 14.72.3). Nevertheless, the form or even existence of the neuter is questionable in some cases.
    • Neuter forms presumably would match the masculine/feminine forms in cases other than the nominative/accusative/vocative. Latin neuter nouns and adjectives always share the same form among those three cases, and almost always end in -a in the plural. Based on these rules, we might infer the ending -a for the neuter nominative/accusative/vocative in both singular and plural, and some such neuter forms ending in -a are in fact attested in later authors. The grammarian Pompeius, who likely lived in the fifth century, considers the word advena to be common to all three genders, saying that it is possible to find the phrase "mancipium advena".[1] Tertullian used terrigena as a neuter plural in animālia terrigena (but this may be regarded as a nonclassical feature).[2]
    • However, a complicating factor is that many adjectives of this type eventually developed alternative forms declined as first/second declension adjectives in -us, -a, -um. This makes it ambiguous whether attested neuter plural forms ending in -a (nom/acc/voc) or -īs (dat/abl) are first-declension or second-declension forms. For example, Priscian cites "alienigena studia" from Valerius Maximus, but interprets alienigena as a second-declension plural form (corresponding to a singular alienigenum), arguing that there are no neuters in the first or fifth declension.[3] Gaffiot cites Seneca's "alienigena [...] sacra" (Ep. 108.22) and Lucretius's "ex alienigenis rebus" (DRN 1.865) as examples of alienigenus, alienigena, alienigenum,[4] even though unambiguously second-declension forms of this word do not appear in the works of Seneca or Lucretius.
    • The same ambiguity does not apply to genitive plural forms ending in -ārum, and there are some examples of these forms modifying neuter nouns in New Latin authors, such as animalium indigenarum/cornupetarum.


Greek nouns[edit]

Greek nouns
Case Singular Plural
-ē, -ēs f -ēs, -ae m -ās, -ae m
nominative -ēs -ās -ae
genitive -ēs -ae -ārum
dative -ae -īs
accusative -ēn -ān / -am -ās
ablative -īs
vocative -ae
locative -ae -īs


  • The plural and dative singular forms equal the forms of pure Latin words.



  1. ^ Friedrich Lindemann (1820) Pompeii Commentum Artis Donati..., page 155
  2. ^ Bassett, Samuel E. (1920) “Reviews: Musa Americana (Third Series): Latin Odes in Classic Metres, with English Text. By Anthony F. Geyser, S. J., A.M., Professor of Latin Literature, Campion College, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Chicago: Loyola University Press (1920). Pp. 71. 25 cents. Musa Americana (First Series). Second Edition (1920). 15 cents.”, in The Classical Weekly, volume 14, number 7, page 55
  3. ^ Heinrich Keil (1855) Grammatici Latini Ex recensione Henrici Keilii / Vol. 2 Prisciani Institutionum Grammaticarum Libri I-XII ex recensione Martini Hertzii, pages 195-196:
    Valerius autem Maximus in II memorabilium ponit 'alienigena studia', quod prima declinatio non habet: nullum enim neutrum nec primae nec quintae declinationis potest inveniri, nec idem esse singularis nominativus neutri generis in a desinens et nominativus pluralis. Sed antiquissimi hic alienigenus et haec alienigena et hoc alienigenum dicebant, ex quo potest hoc esse plurale. Nec non cetera similiter a genere composita proferebant, caprigenus, terrigenus, taurigenus, idque usus confirmat.
  4. ^ alienigenus in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré latin-français, Hachette.,

See also[edit]