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See also: Linum, línum, and línům



From Proto-Italic *līnom, likely from Proto-Indo-European *līnom.

Cognates include Old English līne (line, rope, cord), Gothic 𐌻𐌴𐌹𐌽 (lein) and other derivatives of Proto-Germanic *līną, although Pokorny proposed it is a borrowing from Latin.

Although Greek λίνον (línon), Lithuanian linas, Russian лён (ljon) are sometimes listed as cognates, they actually derive from *lino- with a short /i/.

Celtic and Albanian words for linen probably derive from Latin, although Celtic languages retained possibly related cloth terms with a short /i/ (see *linnā).

Considering also the existence of a Latin root with a short /i/ and a /t/ (linteum), reconstruction of a common PIE protoform is impossible, and no similarly sounding terms are attested outside of Europe.

If such roots were borrowed from one or several non-IE languages, as proposed by Machek, locating the source is impossible because cultivation of linen was ubiquitous in the region since the Neolithic.

Alternatively, Fick proposed derivation as a passive past participle from Proto-Indo-European *lei- (to flow, pour) because flax is soaked in water during its retting.



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līnum n (genitive līnī); second declension

  1. flax
  2. linen cloth; garment made of linen
  3. rope, line, string, thread, cord, cable
    • 8 CE, Ovid, Fasti 6.239–240:
      fēsta diēs illīs, quī līna madentia dūcunt,
      quīque tegunt parvīs aera recurva cibīs
      The day [is] a festival for those who pull [their] dripping lines, and who hide [their] hooked bronze in little bits [of] food.
      (In other words, a holiday for fishermen, whose hooks are drawn with dripping lines. Although fishermen also use dripping nets, in that case rētia madentia would seem more likely word choices.)
  4. net for hunting or fishing
  5. wick of a lamp
  6. sail


Second-declension noun (neuter).

Case Singular Plural
Nominative līnum līna
Genitive līnī līnōrum
Dative līnō līnīs
Accusative līnum līna
Ablative līnō līnīs
Vocative līnum līna


Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]



  • linum”, in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • linum”, in Charlton T. Lewis (1891) An Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • linum in Charles du Fresne du Cange’s Glossarium Mediæ et Infimæ Latinitatis (augmented edition with additions by D. P. Carpenterius, Adelungius and others, edited by Léopold Favre, 1883–1887)
  • linum in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré latin-français, Hachette.
  • Carl Meißner, Henry William Auden (1894) Latin Phrase-Book[1], London: Macmillan and Co.
    • to open a letter: epistulam solvere, aperire, resignare (of Romans also linum incīdere)
  • linum”, in Harry Thurston Peck, editor (1898), Harper's Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • De Vaan, Michiel (2008) “līnum”, in Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages (Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series; 7), Leiden, Boston: Brill, →ISBN, page 344




linum (nominative plural linums)

  1. flax