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From Proto-Italic *dulkwis (sweet), most likely akin to Ancient Greek γλυκύς (glukús, sweet), both traditionally derived from a tentative Proto-Indo-European *dl̥kús (sweet),[1][2][3][4][5][6] although the fall of -u- in the Latin form would be left unexplained,[n 1] and the Greek form is problematic as well.[3][5] Given that Latin and Greek are linguistically quite distant while being very close geographically, it is likely the word does not go back PIE[4] as it may be borrowed from a common unknown source, possibly related to lac (milk).[6]



dulcis (neuter dulce, comparative dulcior, superlative dulcissimus, adverb dulcē or dulciter); third-declension two-termination adjective

  1. (of taste) sweet
    • 234 BCE – 149 BCE, Cato the Elder, De Agri Cultura 157.1:
      omnia ad salutem temperat conmutatque sese semper cum calore arida simul et umida et dulcis et amara et acris
      It has all the virtues necessary for health, and constantly changes its nature along with the heat, being moist and dry, sweet, bitter, and acid.
  2. sweet-smelling, sweet-scented, fragrant
    • 8 CE – 12 CE, Ovid, Sorrows 5.13.22:
      cāna prius gelidō dēsint absinthia Pontō
      et careat dulcī Trīnacris Hybla thymō
      Sooner would pale wormwood be missing from icy Pontus or Sicilian Hybla lack its sweet-scented thyme
  3. sweet-sounding, melodic, melodious, tuneful
    • 46 BCE, Cicero, Brutus 57:
      dicit plorare etiam Demosthenes istum quem saepe dicat voce dulci et clara fuisse
      Demosthenes, however, says most upon this head, and often speaks of his accuser as having a sweet-sounding and clear pronunciation.
  4. (figuratively) agreeable, delightful, pleasant, soft, sweet
    • 23 BCE – 13 BCE, Horace, Odes 3.2.13:
      Dulce et decōrum est prō patriā morī.
      Sweet and fitting it is to die for one's fatherland.
    • c. 37 BCE – 30 BCE, Virgil, Georgics 1.342:
      tum pinguēs agnī et tum mollissima vīna
      tum somnī dulcēs dēnsaeque in montibus umbrae
      Then lambs are fat, and wines are mellowest then; then sleep is sweet, and dark the shadows fall upon the mountains.
    • c. 15 BCEc. 50 CE, Phaedrus, Fabulae 7.1:
      Quam dulcis sit lībertās breviter prōloquar.
      Let me declare briefly how sweet freedom is.
  5. (figuratively, of persons) friendly, charming, kind, dear, pleasant, agreeable
    • c. 37 BCE – 30 BCE, Virgil, Georgics 4.465:
      tē, dulcis coniūnx, tē sōlō in lītore secum []
      You, his dear wife, on the lone shore alone, []


Third-declension two-termination adjective.

Number Singular Plural
Case / Gender Masc./Fem. Neuter Masc./Fem. Neuter
Nominative dulcis dulce dulcēs dulcia
Genitive dulcis dulcium
Dative dulcī dulcibus
Accusative dulcem dulce dulcēs
Ablative dulcī dulcibus
Vocative dulcis dulce dulcēs dulcia



  • (antonym(s) of sweet): amārus

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


  • Balkan Romance:
    • Aromanian: dultsi
    • Istro-Romanian: duľțe
    • Megleno-Romanian: dulți
    • Romanian: dulce
  • Dalmatian:
  • Italo-Romance:
  • Insular Romance:
  • North Italian:
  • Gallo-Romance:
    • Catalan: dolç
    • Franco-Provençal: dox
    • Old French: douz (see there for further descendants)
    • Occitan: doç
  • Vulgar Latin:
  • Ibero-Romance:


  1. ^ The expected outcome would have been **dulquis, with the u-stem regularly extended into an i- one, as in brevis, tenuis, etc.[6]


  1. ^ Walde, Alois, Hofmann, Johann Baptist (1938) “dulcis”, in Lateinisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (in German), 3rd edition, volume 1, Heidelberg: Carl Winter, page 379f.
  2. ^ Pokorny, Julius (1959) “dl̥ku- (?)”, in Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch [Indo-European Etymological Dictionary] (in German), volume 1, Bern, München: Francke Verlag, page 222
  3. 3.0 3.1 Frisk, Hjalmar (1960) “γλυκύς”, in Griechisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (in German), volume 1, Heidelberg: Carl Winter, page 314f.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Mallory, J. P., Adams, D. Q., editors (1997), “?*dl̥kus ~ *glukus”, in Encyclopedia of Indo-European culture, London, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, page 560b
  5. 5.0 5.1 Beekes, Robert S. P. (2010) “γλυκύς”, in Etymological Dictionary of Greek (Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series; 10), with the assistance of Lucien van Beek, Leiden, Boston: Brill, →ISBN, page 277f.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 De Vaan, Michiel (2008) “dulcis”, in Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages (Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series; 7), Leiden, Boston: Brill, →ISBN, page 182

Further reading[edit]

  • dulcis”, in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • dulcis”, in Charlton T. Lewis (1891) An Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • dulcis in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré latin-français, Hachette.